Using The POST Method to Guide Nonprofit Marketing Communications

Every morning I spend time reading posts from some of my favorite social media gurus. In all the years that I’ve been working with nonprofits I’ve never experienced such willingness to share information. I’m like a little girl in a candy shop.

Then I stumbledupon a guest post on Windmill Networking by Claire Axelrad –  A New Era in Nonprofit Marketing: Why Winging It with Social Media No Longer Works.

Claire’s opening sentence – “On a wing and a prayer is not a strategy” caught my fancy. Unfortunately her contention that many nonprofits simply ‘wing it’ when it comes to social media is true.

The post is a must read! Throughout Claire provides links to many of the incredible voices in social media, including Kivi Leroux Miller, Beth Kanter, Brian Solis and many more.

As I followed the links I ran across a link to an Internal working plan for communication strategy. uses traditional and emerging communications channels to further their reach in HIV prevention, testing treatment and care.

The communications approach is based on Forrester Research’s POST  Method.  Josh Bernoff, senior vice president, idea development, at Forrester Research, developed The POST Method in 2007. It is really simple, yet profound in that it provides a user-friendly system for using traditional and emerging communications channels. The acronym refers to the four-step approach:

P is People. Don’t start a social strategy until you know the capabilities of your audience. If you’re targeting college students, use social networks. If you’re reaching out to business travelers, consider ratings and reviews. Forrester has great  data to help with this, but you can make some estimates on your own. Just don’t start without thinking about it.

O is objectives. Pick one. Are you starting an application to listen to your customers, or to talk with them? To support them, or to energize your best customers to evangelize others? Or are you trying to collaborate with them? Decide on your objective before you decide on a technology. Then figure out how you will measure it.

S is Strategy. Strategy here means figuring out what will be different after you’re done. Do you want a closer, two-way relationship with your best customers? Do you want to get people talking about your products? Do you want a permanent focus group for testing product ideas and generating new ones? Imagine you succeed. How will things be different afterwards? Imagine the endpoint and you’ll know where to begin.

T is Technology. A community. A wiki. A blog or a hundred blogs. Once you know your people, objectives, and strategy, then you can decide with confidence.

How uses The Post Method

Before starts any new communications activity they discuss the following questions:

  • Who are we trying to reach?
  • What information does our audience need? If we do not know, how can we find out?
  • What is our audience’s use of and comfort level with various communication tools?
  • What do we want to accomplish with this particular audience?
  • Is someone else already doing this? What partnerships do we need to engage to learn more about this audience and plan a response?
  • What resources (e.g., funding, time, capacity, human resources, etc.) do we have to implement and maintain this strategy?
  • What tools are most appropriate for this target audience, objectives, and strategy?
  • What would success look like? How can it be measured?

The Communicaton Strategy Internal Working Plan, January 2011 contains detailed presentations on how they use the POST Method, tools to listen, guidelines for engaging and connecting and monitoring and evaluation.

I strongly recommend anyone interested in using The POST Method for your nonprofit strategic communications review the report.

Interested in a sample Communications Grid based on POST? Please let me hear from you –