RFPs: 3 Lessons for Organizations Issuing Them

Posted on March 8, 2011 Under Management
Sign posted on a fence

By Flickr user supertobor

We’re outsourcing more work these days, so we’re putting more thought into how to best match vendors with projects. Recent RFPs include the full range of big and small — from a complete re-thinking of our web site (still in progress) to a fast-turnaround WordPress theme.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far about issuing successful RFPs. Stay tuned for the next post, which will be about my requests for the firms and contractors who respond. [Updated to add link.] (more…)


Highlights: Nielsen Norman Usability Study of Non-Profit Sites

Nielsen Norman Group just released the second edition of its study on how potential donors use nonprofit web sites. EDF’s site was once again included in the study, and I thought I’d share my reactions to it. (more…)


Link: Why Most Facebook Marketing Doesn’t Work

This post on ReadWriteWeb was written from a for-profit perspective, but it applies to the nonprofit context, too. My key takeaways:

  • “Photo and video contests rarely work.” We haven’t seen this on Facebook, in fact we had nice response to our latest profile picture contest. But we’ve learned to be very cautious about photo and video contests in general for all the reasons mentioned in the post.
  • “Like blocks rarely work.” This is when you require someone to like your page before they get something from you. This was a surprise to me. I wonder if people react against the framing of it — you’re setting up a trade of information for a benefit (a market transaction) rather than being generous and counting on reciprocity (using social dynamics). I know I’ve felt grudging about giving away my “like” for a download, and the “like” didn’t last.
  • Consistent, lightweight engagement works. This make perfect sense, since this is what most people’s experience of Facebook is like.

I’d love to hear other thoughts on the original post.


Two examples: Remote user testing in action

I’ve been wanting to write about the challenges of remote user testing since UXMag reviewed the book Remote Research last spring. I’ve long talked about the advantages of remote research as part of a testing plan, especially a low-budget plan.

The book is full of excellent guidance, and I recommend it. But I have a couple of cautions about the authors’ advice, which I’ll address as I share a examples of testing we’ve done. (more…)


9/11 Online: Trends and Tools, Then Versus Now

Jennifer Darrouzet at Connection Cafe wrote a thought-provoking post after she visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City. She imagined how that week might have been different with all the social communication tools we have today. For example, we might have checked Facebook and Twitter obsessively to makes sure loved ones were accounted for.

Nine years ago, Jennifer was visiting Los Angeles. With flights grounded indefinitely, she hopped in a car to get back home to Texas. She recounts how she stayed in touch with her family:

I still hadn’t been able to talk to my husband, but my mother-in-law had gotten word to him that we were headed East on I-10, and he was able to track my progress via our online, real-time credit card statement. Now we are friends on Google Maps, and I can see his dot throughout his evening commute.

This concrete re-visiting of those intense days really got me.

It also made me think of a tool I did have access to then: online search. I was managing editor of search at AOL at the time. Our trend data wasn’t visible to the public, as so much search data is now. But as insiders at America’s number one Internet service, we had a direct view into the American mind that day. (more…)


Fire and Guns: The Local Blogs Win Me Over

Posted on August 13, 2010 Under Social Media

My first full-time job was on the online Metro desk at the Washington Post, so I’ll always have a soft spot for it. Let us mark today, though, as the day my allegiance for local news shifted to the local blogs.

This afternoon, a fire broke out under my office building. (Here’s my obligatory cell-phone photo of billowing smoke.) (more…)


Getting Results With Video: Bryan Weaver for Ward One

Posted on August 5, 2010 Under Video

About this series: I’m looking for videos that had clear goals and knocked them out of the park. We hope these examples help EDF staff refine our sense of what it takes to make wildly effective videos.

Context: Produced as part of a campaign for DC City Council. Bryan Weaver is a challenger taking on a well-funded incumbent.

Goal(s): According to the candidate, “We wanted to to talk about my candidacy and issues that surround the Ward in a ‘unique’ way that for a first introduction would not be too preachy or too heavy handed. We wanted it to be fun, but wanted to make some serious points. Something memorable that would get people more interested. Send more people to the campaign website.”

Results: More love from local blogs and media than anyone could have asked for. The local NBC affliliate blog is a great indicator of the notice it got among local political commentators, and it got superlative mentions on DCist and Wonkette. In less than a week, it had 8,000 views, who were presumably mostly among its target audience of local voters.

Weaver said, “The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive and truthfully it’s gotten more hits than I think we anticipated. Only time will tell if it spurs the ultimate actions we want—votes on election day—but it has met our goal of generating a buzz (overwhelmingly positive) about my campaign.”

And that was before it got picked up on reddit.com and went international, racking up tens of thousands more views.

Why it works: Some viewers will recognize the concept from an early Paul Wellstone ad. (Weaver worked for Wellstone and credits him with inspiring his politics as well as this ad.)

This format let Weaver tell a simple but comprehensive  story about his ties to and aspirations for the community. All the local scenes kept people who live here engaged in game of, “I know that place!”  But it never got too obscure to lose meaning for those who didn’t get every reference — it’s a solid balance of accessibility and insider-ness.

Thanks, Lauren Guite,  for sending me the link!


Getting Results With Video: Courage Campaign

Posted on August 5, 2010 Under Video

About this series: I’m looking for videos that had clear goals and knocked them out of the park. We hope these examples help EDF staff refine our sense of what it takes to make wildly effective videos.

Context: Produced during Proposition 8 fight in California, asking voters in the state, “Don’t divorce us!”

Goal(s): From the metrics reported on the campaign page, it looks like they were going for both visibility for their position and signatures on the letter. Presumably they wanted to leverage both into a victory on Election Day.

Results: A million views is great, 371K signatures from that is nothing short of stunning. In fact, it’s so stunning that my money says they sought signatures through other channels, too. But even so, word on the street is that the video was a powerful source of recruits to the cause.

The ballot measure, however, did not turn out as they wanted.

Why it works: It evokes powerful emotions and channels them directly into the action you can take. It’s not often that you have such a concrete, direct narrative of  “Ouch this hurts, make it stop! Ah, this will help.” There’s no super-fancy technical stuff here, just an idea framed to expose the heart of the issue, and the hearts of viewers.

That said, there would have been lots of bad ways to make this video, too, and what we see here is the result of smart choices. I love how it starts with couples, then moves outward to people talking about their friends and family members.  Good choice of music, too. I wish we could track “tears per viewer” on videos like this.

Many thanks to Jessica Bosanko of M+R for pointing me towards this video.

I’d love to hear more from anyone who worked on it!


Link: Great Advice on Video Strategy

Posted on August 3, 2010 Under Links, Video

Farra Trompeter over at Big Duck has a nice overview of a video strategy session that I’m glad I came across.

It featured Michael Hoffman of See3 Communications (whose advice I’ve shared before) and Sara Fusco of Refugees International. Farra’s notes emphasize the importance of what a video accomplishes for your mission, rather than how many views it gets.

Thanks for sharing, Farra!


Thursday Panel: How Can Your Organization Embrace Social Media?

Posted on August 2, 2010 Under Social Media

Gloria Pan and Suzanne Turner over at Turner Strategies kindly invited EDF to join another conversation about the big picture of changing communications.  Please join us Thursday at noon, if you’re here in DC. [Update: Video from the session is posted.]

This is a great chance for me to use the Way Back Machine and pull out some favorite slides — I was on a similar panel in 2008 at my first NTEN conference, and shared lessons from EDF’s earliest social media forays.

Here’s how I showed some of EDF staff’s early desire to blog:

And our first attempts to edit and approve blog posts:

Two and a half years was a long time ago! We’ve got many happy stories to share now. Here’s how Gloria describes the session:

For advocacy/nonprof orgs, one of the toughest barriers to effective use of social media is how to get key decision makers and other internal stakeholders on board because many are used to a world when all communications was taken care of by the comms department. There’s going to be a discussion about this very problem on Aug. 5 at noon at the Center for Nonprofit Advancement, organized by Turner Strategies.

Among other things,

  • The chief strategist from the American Association of University Women will talk about resource distribution and staff management from the executive leadership perspective;
  • Environmental Defense Fund [<– That’s me and my boss, Dave!] will look at training and other processes to educate and win over staff and other stakeholders;
  • and the Service Employees Union International will talk about the necessity of making the social media case over and over again, especially when there’s been a major change in leadership.

This is an important conversation for any communications/social media person still struggling with how to get buy-in to get your work done. Please join us.