[Warning: the title of this blog post is entirely facetious.]
One of my favorite charities in West Michigan, Kids Food Basket, may just have won a much-needed delivery truck to replace the one from their meager delivery fleet that died (the results aren’t in yet, but they were leading the vote count all day). Many thanks go to Toyota which created the “100 Cars for Good” contest to not only give a bunch of highly-deserving nonprofits a chance to win a vehicle, but also raise their profile both locally and nationally.
Kudos to Toyota for putting together a first-rate publicity package for the entrants. As most in the public relations world are aware, nonprofits are often at a significant disadvantage when it comes to promoting themselves because they’re not only challenged with resources, but staff time as well.
- A Great Product: it’s no accident that Kids Food Basket has exploded in popularity in West Michigan in the past few years – it’s a great organization with a great staff and noble aims. The great outreach the organization has done to grow itself to the point where it now serves 5,000 students per day when school is in session is the single most important factor that made the promotional campaign for the “100 cars for good” campaign successful.
- A Great Community: I’m certainly not the first person to remark on the generosity that exists in West Michigan from the Kalamazoo Promise up to the gleaming buildings on Health Hill in downtown Grand Rapids. Social media serves only as a convenient conduit to people who would drop what they’re doing to help virtually any good cause if asked even if it wasn’t via a Tweet.
- Great People: Like so many nonprofits, the staff of Kids Food Basket is packed with exemplary human beings who commit themselves totally to the cause. They work long hours for meager pay because they love what they do and who they serve. People like that are the best any institution can hope for, because they’re the kind of people who have deep and durable networks in the community which are exactly what you need to leverage for communications efforts like this. Here’s why these people are so critical:
- They give enough regularly to be able to ask: You can’t ask for anything via social media unless you’ve given something to the people you’re asking. In fact, the standard level of distrust means you have to give a whole lot to earn the right to ask.
- They’re established (and thusly believable): You can’t post this many requests for anything unless you’re well-established online as someone who is credible. You’ll quickly be labeled a spammer. Surprisingly, it’s pretty easy and fast to detect and ignore the fakers – remember, even computer algorithms can detect them.
- They’re willing to do the work (which also builds credibility): what this essentially means is that they use as few shortcuts as possible to get things done. That means making as many individual, personalized messages as humanly-possible. As we all know, people are far more likely to take action when asked to do so one-on-one. Social media just lets you engage in that tried-and-true activity more quickly and without geographic barriers.
All of those pieces have to be in place for any social media campaign to work. Those are the facts. Anyone who promises you success regardless of your people and your product is lying to you. No viral video, no search engine optimization, no iPad app, and no amount of bought followers can shine a turd.
Unfortunately there are plenty of Fauxcial Media experts ready and willing to do that – so caveat emptor.
If you want to know the details of precisely what plan we followed – I’ll detail those in a subsequent blog post. As with any practical exercise in public relations, I gained a lot of valuable insights.