Being Communication Minded in a Nonprofit World

Hello Communication Minded friends, it time for another guest blogger! This month we bring to you Cortney Aherron. Cortney is a 2013 Communication Studies graduate of UNCW. As an undergraduate Cortney served as co-coordinator for the UNCW Communication Studies annual breast cancer fundraiser, Rock For A Cure. She was also the events intern for New Hanover Regional Medical Center Foundation, working on projects such as the Coastal Classic Golf Tournament and the Pink Ribbon Project Luncheon & Cocktail Party. Her undergrad efforts won her the Fall 2013 Communication Studies Outstanding Leadership Award. Since graduating, she has obtained a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University and works as Public Relations Coordinator for the Danville Family YMCA.

Being Communication Minded in a Nonprofit World

I never purposefully geared my career towards the nonprofit world or even saw myself taking that route in life. Not because of a lack of interest, but more so due to lack of awareness about the inner workings of a nonprofit business.

However, internships, directed individual studies, and group projects in college continually pointed me in the direction of nonprofits. The more I worked with different organizations, the more I learned, and the more I knew that was the direction I wanted my career to go. I am currently working at the YMCA in my hometown (Danville, VA) as Public Relations Coordinator.

With the experiences I have had thus far in the nonprofit world, I want to share a few lessons I have learned and why it is crucial for nonprofits to improve and practice good communication.

Know your target audience. Success of an organization often  depends on others,  but even more so in the nonprofit world. Most of the time a donor is not getting anything in return, so partnerships have to be carefully developed and maintained. You are not only dealing with sponsors or donors, but also board members, volunteers, and other community organizations. All of these audiences make or break a successful nonprofit organization

Every move must be strategic. In the nonprofit world, people just jump to instantly wanting to save the world— however, small strides often make biggest impact. Completely evaluate a situation to see if someone else is already taking care of a certain need, or if partnership would be the best way to fulfill a need. Is the population of people around your area supportive of a certain need in particular? Every communication piece must be the most effective message for your audience. There isn’t a huge budget for marketing in the nonprofit world, so you have to make the most impact without huge expense.

Just because you are a non-profit doesn’t mean that some of the activity can’t make profit that is funneled back into the cause. This is called a social enterprise, and some incredible people are doing amazing things with this concept all around the world. I hadn’t heard much about this until my nonprofit management course, and it was one of my favorite sessions. I would encourage doing your own research, as I’m still learning more myself on this great way to be successful, but for instance, the YMCA members pay a monthly fee to be members. However, a very large percent of our members are scholarship recipients and come to the facility for little or no cost and are able to be apart of the club when they would otherwise not typically be able to. This scholarship program is one thing that classifies the “Y” as a nonprofit organization and not just a health club. The experience the YMCA has as a nonprofit organization makes it a great place to get involved with if you are interested in working in this field.

Creativity is key. Think outside the box, be different, be “the first”, etc. Being creative is always worth the risk. There is always a way to do something cheaper, better, and with bigger impact for the cause. And of course, always, always, always take detailed notes to improve the second time around!

Cortney Aherron

Cortney Aherron


Socially working on THE social network

Much like clothing, over the years, social media has also gone through fads. Remember AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)? Screen names, buddy lists, buddy profiles – it was great! And then came along Myspace – top 8’s, comments, pictures – even better!  And after that, Facebook – our current reigning king of social media. After a while people have grown accustomed to moving on to the next big thing. Which leads to the question, what will come after Facebook? When Twitter first emerged, some wondered whether or not it would make the leap. And recently Instagram has been making growing strides. Yet in terms of users, Facebook is still far superior. So how is it staying on top?

It’s a social network that is keeping up with our social needs. As both our time on social sites and the platforms themselves have grown, it has evolved that we use social networking in part for socializing, but also in part for specific functions. Our social media accounts allow us to connect with news sources, look up businesses for hours of operations and directions, create and plan events, research topics, find articles, and do a myriad of other things. In lieu of these various capabilities that have become so integrated into our social media experience, Facebook is capitalizing on how users use its platform to get work done by creating a platform specifically for work,  “Facebook at Work.”

According to an anonymous source from Facebook, the company is working to put the social network in the office. While the company itself has refused to comment officially, Ron Miller reports on what he knows about the project via this anonymous source. According to the source, a Facebook enterprise collaboration tool has been tested inside Facebook for the last six months, and is now being piloted by a small group of companies.

In regards to the companies own internal use of the program, the source says, “It’s an incredibly powerful system to spread knowledge.” The new enterprise collaboration tool would be hosted separately from your personal page, but in appearance would be very similar – including a Newsfeed, Messenger, and Groups.

This familiarity could be key for the success of the platform. Miller theorizes that the lack of success for enterprise collaboration tools in the past is that that other tools have forced users to learn a new way of working in spite of that moniker. The difference here is that everyone uses Facebook and is familiar with its functionality, and by transferring that same interface to work, employees would be comfortable using it and it would catch on in a big way.

If the rumors prove to be true, this could be a smart move for Zuckerberg and his team. Group involvement in the workplace is not a potential, but an expectation. Project management requires employees to work via groups, and often requires a multitude of different groups to perform together. Collaboration tools are vital infrastructure to connect with co-workers and even customers.

So while we wait to see what exactly Facebook has up its sleeve. Here is a list of platforms and tools that are great for collaborative sharing and/or editing for projects that involve groups or overview of various people.

Google Drive – Docs, Sheets & Slides

Launched in 2007, Google Docs solved the problem of electronic single editing. No longer do you have to wait for that email with an attached file to start writing and reading. Anyone in a shared document can add, rewrite, and/or comment to one another instantly. We actually use this service every week to write our post.


Dropbox is one of the most popular file sharing and cloud service. With over 300 million users Dropbox allows every user 2 GBs of free storage and then upgradeable individual or team monthly plans.


We Transfer is a file transfer platform that allows you to send 2GB for free per transaction. This is a great and free option for those who run into the “file is too big to send in email” problem. Your documents are temporarily hosted on their server and a link to the document is sent to the recipient. The recipient can then download the file via the link. This solves the problem of email and the problem of having to share folders on Dropbox for a one time transaction.

Facebook Groups Feature

This feature allows for you to build smaller groups within your Facebook friends. In these groups you can privately share content and converse. The feature visually looks similar to a separate page with its own feed. Both of us have used the group feature and find it particularly useful when we are working with more than three or four individuals. This is also a feature we hope will be seen in Facebook Work.

Now, if you are a big organization or company these small scale sharing platforms might not work for your needs. This is when you can turn to project management and collaboration platforms like Asana and Huddle. They make it easier for larger and smaller groups of people to interact. Check out the Asana and Huddle promo videos to learn more.

In review of what resources are currently available, it seems that Facebook may hit it big if it can successfully combine the tools of syncing, sharing, and editing, with the functionality and popularity of its social network. Even if it is just speculation at this point, the “At Work” platform leaves us with some serious questions. While we understand that its intent is to be used internally, it is unclear how well suited the platform is for acting as public networking account as well. If such capabilities are present will LinkedIn have met it’s match? Currently LinkedIn hold the reigns as the business oriented social network but will it be able to hold it’s professional dominance if competing with Facebook? Facebook at Work is offering a social account + collaboration and editing tools + the benefits of having a superior user base. With such an equation it’s hard to imagine the launch could end up a flop, but user traction will be the ultimate determinant.

Do you currently use any electronic collaboration tools in your job position? How well do they work for your group needs? How would you feel about using “Facebook at Work”? Would you choose a “Facebook at Work” account or a LinkedIn account over one or the other? Why?

-Savannah Valade and Caroline Robinson

Mix Media to Multiply Results

As an student of communication studies you focus on how the three separate disciplines of public relations, integrated marketing communication, and advertising, work together to form strong campaigns. When you enter the job market you quickly realize that even though the practices work together, there is a clear division in specific job roles, departments, and specialty agencies. So many in fact, that it can become overwhelming for us newbies. And if it can be overwhelming for those of us who have a degree in the field, imagine how users of our services may sometimes feel.

Something I have run into with my current marketing endeavors is that smaller businesses and non-marketers don’t understand that productive tactics take both time and use of a variety of channels. You will not build a brand or product by only using “insert blank type of marketing avenue here”, and you will not build one using every type of marketing out there.

As a specialist, it is important to inform your clients about this. Tell them upfront why some strategies work and some don’t, but importantly why your’s will. As Tim Yandel writes in his article on sales, “if you aren’t helping educate your prospects throughout the buying process, they will go somewhere else for the information needed to make a decision”. Educate your clients on why no matter what their desired goal is, reaching so relies on how appropriate marketing efforts are, and how well they are being received. More specifically, educate and emphasize how the best tactics will be the ones that fill the role of of reinforcing existing propensities.

The goal of marketing communication messages is that they work to reinforce the brand idea. However, the marketing sphere is so cluttered by so many different messages by so many different brands that only using one or two channels to reach your target audience simply will not work. People are much more likely to remember your brand if they see the messages in a variety of places at different times – surfing the web, riding the metro, and watching their favorite television show. This is what is known as “multi-channel marketing”.


On their website, SAS, explains why this tactic is key to a successful campaign, “Multi-channel marketing is important for the simple reason that you must be where your customers are. And they are everywhere.”

If you are looking to switch to a multi-channel approach, you will need to start by evaluating two things: First, your current marketing plan: Is it mostly interactive or passive? Is it in the digital sphere or in print? Is it reaching consumers face-to-face or only through the TV? And secondly, your audience and the communication channels they prefer: What channels do they interact with most? What is their favored social media site? How important are traditional mediums compared to digital? Am I targeting an age range, a specific user group, or a profession? This allows one to see mediums and opportunities that are not being used or mediums that are but could have more potential. A great example of this, is broadcast television incorporating social media elements like hashtags overlays on TV shows. Some shows even have segments in which they read their audiences tweets. This tactic allows brands to reach and interact with consumers that’s both traditional and digital and encourages audience behavior to engage with both.

To be competitive, brands must diversify their efforts and reach out in different directions. Doing so allows your services to not only be seen at a larger breadth but allows you to reach audiences that are more relevant and more attentive to your efforts. What brands do you think have done a great job at reaching you across platforms or channels? Can you think of a channel that brands haven’t used to reach you but should?

– Caroline Robinson and Savannah Valade


How to “Sprout” new brand and product names

When you meet someone for the first time, you introduce yourself with a handshake – brands introduce themselves with their name. The way the text reads, the way it sounds when you say it, and the connotation the name evokes, are the first interactions you have with a brand. And if first impressions really are everything – brands know they better make a lasting one.

Some companies have cemented their names with us – Kleenex, Apple, Q-tips, Google. Then there are some with the ever so creative A-1 (insert almost any service here) titles. And while a name is not solely responsible for the success of a company, successful companies do understand the weight a name bears. Often times, just one or two words become responsible for conveying, establishing, or promoting, the brand’s entire personality.

When it comes to pairing product name with brand personality, we think HP’s newest endeavor is one that is going to blossom.

Last week HP released “Sprout”. Equipped with a touch mat that doubles as a second interactive screen and a projection system that scans 3D images, this computer is allowing an immersive and 3D experience to reach a general public audience.

The technology is cool, but as marketers concur, a great new product needs an even better brand; this starts with a product name. Choosing the correct name for any product or service is extremely important since it will communicate a connotation about the product. Let’s take the new Sprout for example. Most computers running Microsoft Windows as their operating system aren’t seen as “creative stations”. With this new 3D immersive technology, HP is able to target the creativity industries, such as advertising, photography, graphic design, engineering, etc., you know all the people who swear by Macs. To enter this market HP needed a word (or phrase) that would convey the technology and stimulate the imagination. Sprout does just that.

A lot is at stake when choosing a name.  The last thing you want to do is invest serious time, money and effort into signage, advertising, and packaging, only to find consumers don’t like, believe, or understand it. To avoid this situation, consider a couple points mentioned below.

Whether it’s the company name or a product, the goal is the same – to make it memorable. In their own article on product naming, Matt Gordon and Nick Foley, are spot on when they discuss the importance of memorability. You don’t need to worry about your place in the phone book, they say, you need to worry about your rank on search engines. Having a name that is too similar to others can yield thousands of search results, instead of isolating your brand as uniquely identifiable and easily accessible. As such, this point goes hand in hand with another one the article makes – stand out in a crowd. Gordon and Foley note how you should look at your company/product category and the direction it is headed and ask yourself, what are customers expecting and how can you signal that you are different?

However, signaling that you are different, means breaking through both clutter and competitors. For whatever market you are attempting to break into, think seriously about what names are currently being used in the marketplace. First, make a list of competitors names, even tag-lines. Using too similar of jargon can lead to consumers associating you with another brand, overlooking you, and easily forgetting you – all of which fails you in establishing your mark as independent, and most importantly, different. Secondly, when it comes to serious brainstorming, remember, “The first hundred names you think of are likely to be the same ones your competitors tossed around.”

Whether you hire a branding agency, call in naming consultants, or do it yourself, all these approaches have one very important factor in common – brainstorming.

As we mentioned, your brand name should reflect your brand personality. Therefore, you’re first starting point should be to create a launch pad of words that describe your company/product/service. Use these words as jumping off points but don’t confine yourself to like-minded terms. Consciously look for words that stand out to you – inspiration can come in many forms – a restaurant menu, a flyer on the street, tv commercials, an article you read, etc.

In addition, keep in mind other resources you have at your disposable such as a dictionary, thesaurus, latin dictionary, or a rhyming dictionary. And just as we mentioned how you should avoid confining yourself to like-minded jargon, the same applies for your brainstorming team. Pull in people from different departments and levels to get a range of different perspectives and ideas.


Having a range of input in your brainstorming sessions is pivotal for ensuring a broad list of words. This is important for two reasons: the first being it ensures the potential for creativity and originality. Secondly, there are more than 200,000 annual trademark filings in the US – this means that great name you came up with, might not even be available for use. However, because you generated such a broad list of words, if this happens to be an issue, it might be challenge that can easily be overcome.

After you spend your time building up your word list, the next step is to narrow down. Eliminate words that are cliche, difficult to say, and too generic. According to Christoph Moller, you should disregard any words that are apart of these seven name deal breakers:

  1. Copycat — similar to competitor’s names
  2. Random — disconnected from the brand
  3. Annoying — hidden meaning, forced
  4. Tame — flat, uninspired, boring
  5. Curse of Knowledge — only insiders get it
  6. Hard-to-pronounce
  7. Spelling-challenged

When you have narrowed down your lists to a tangible number of either words or names, make a list for each one that describes the pros, cons, definition, and connotations associated. Strive to pick words that have a meaning behind them, that you can directly relate back to your brand personality or mission. While arbitrary words are often the ones that are most fun and quirky, it can often be hard to package the association between product name and product service.

After picking your final favorites, (we would say between three to five options) Mikael Cho, states that you should ask yourself these four things: What domain could we get? Could we get a trademark? What Twitter handle could we get? What do the Google search results look like if someone searched the name using keywords?

The answers to these questions may solidify that you made the right choice, or they may send you back to the drawing board. And while all of these things can help when it comes to deciding, don’t let logistics dictate. If you love a name, don’t bypass it just because you can’t get the exact domain name or twitter handle. Don’t forget to use your gut too, go with a name you love and are going to love to market.

For example, for our own blog, “Communication Minded” was the pairing we obviously came to love. And in reaching our final decision, we can attest to the helpfulness of the brainstorming strategies above, because we used almost all of them ourselves. We picked Communication Minded because the words illustrated something we, as co-creators, had in common, and what we would have in common with our readers. It alluded to the idea of expressing our opinions and sharing ideas, as well as, encompassed the communication-focused professions we write on.

So what brands or products do you think have good names? Tell us why in a comment below.

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson