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 –



Livestrong Foundation Shows Importance of Nonprofit Marketing


Shame on Donors Who Want Their Money Back wrote Elaine Fogel on her blog Totally Uncorked on Marketing.

I couldn’t agree more!

With all the noise about Armstrong and his fall from grace in competitive cycling, one would expect the cancer fighting Foundation he founded to suffer. As Elaine pointed out, there are some donors who want their money back.

Livestrong is succeeding and the donations are growing. Whether or not this continues in the long run is yet to be seen.

However, according to Charity Navigator, a prominent charity watchdog, it appears that the foundation has “successfully distinguished its mission from its founder’s woes.”

My suggestion to all nonprofits is to see your organization through a marketing lens.

What is Nonprofit Marketing?

“Marketing is so basic that it cannot be a separate function. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of its final results, that is, from the stakeholder’s point of view.” Marketing Guru Peter Drucker

I see marketing as – the strategies and tactics used to identify, create and maintain satisfying relationships with your donors, members, volunteers, clients and other stakeholders that result in value for both your organization and your stakeholders.

Creative Solutions & Innovations’ principles for guiding your nonprofit through a marketing lense:

1.    Always market your mission, not your current services. The ability to adjust its services to suit client need is key to ensuring the organization’s survival and its financial support.

2.    Carefully define whom your mission serves. You need to meet the needs of your  stakeholders.

3.    Measure your constituents’ needs. Research, research, research to ensure your programs & services resonate with your target audiences.

4.    Evaluate the success of programs & their relationship to your mission.

5.  Communicate regularly & consistently.

6.  Craft your messages to reflect how your mission effects your different audiences.

7. Develop an integrated marketing communications plan to ensure message integrity across all communication channels.

8.  Communicate in terms of your ROI even when it is not in monetary terms; quantify your economic impact.

9.  Celebrate your successes. Show how your ‘market diversification’ creates the funding to provide your services.

10. Know your organizational elevator speech so you can articulate your vision & Competitive Advantage Statement.

11. Keep a “face” on your marketing initiatives

12. Evaluate often & be prepared to refocus your efforts.

Any thoughts? Please let me hear from you.



The importance of marketing your nonprofit



I was asked to write about the importance of nonprofit marketing for CharityChannel, a professional online home for nonprofit colleagues. This post grows from that article.

I am sure by now that we all agree that marketing is essential for your nonprofit’s survival.

A recent study Branding Forward: Navigating a Branding World in the Midst of Transition  found a significant number of marketers believe there is still a need to understand the fundamentals of marketing, even while embracing change.

After all, nonprofits are a business; they have customers. Marketing consists of the strategies and tactics used to identify, create and maintain satisfying relationships with “customers” – donors, members, volunteers, clients and other stakeholders.

These relationships result in value for your organization and its stakeholders. I will go so far as to say that without these customers your nonprofit could not fulfill its mission and make an impact in the community.

At the heart of marketing is positioning. As described by Philip Kotler, marketer extraordinaire, positioning designs an organization’s image and value offer so that its customers appreciate what the organization stands for in relationship to its competitors.

Marketing is known to “pull” the audience from where they are to the nonprofit to create a desired action. Communications “pushes” out messages. Positioning is the linchpin between the two. 

Positioning flows from your nonprofit’s mission. Positioning guides your organization into the future and works to build its reputation with your key audiences.

Positioning is strategic. Can you think of anything more valuable than your nonprofit’s reputation? And, in this changing landscape where nonprofit’s must be nimble and quick, positioning takes on even more importance in competition to be loved “or be out.”

You can find more details about The Power of Positioning in an earlier post.

Loud & Clear: Successfully Marketing Your Nonprofit is a PowerPoint presentation I developed for GCN’s Nonprofit University. If you’re interested in our Marketing Communications Template, please contact me at



Don’t shoot yourself in the foot: Revisit your communications plan before you speak!

“If you don’t know where you’re going it doesn’t matter which way you go!”

How could one of the country’s most trusted nonprofits end up in a no-win situation with its supporters and corporate partners?

How could a well-liked and respected organization that does so much good for so many find itself on the defensive?

Below is a brief overview of how the Susan B. Koman Foundation landed in such a difficult spot.

On January 31st AP reported that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s leading breast cancer charity, was halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates that provided breast screening services through a Komen grant.

This caused a bitter rift between the two organizations. Planned Parenthood responded immediately and launched a fundraising initiative to replace the lost funds; at first the Komen Foundation was quiet. By the time they responded it was too late.

The ongoing effects were almost instantaneous. The once venerated Komen Foundation found itself on the defensive and it appears it will remain there for a long time to come.

It is hard to imagine, but as Kivi Leroux Miller describes in the Accidental Rebranding of Komen for the Curethe foundation waded into an area of highly charged public feelings without a communications plan. Or, I would suggest, without using their marketing communications plan to guide their actions.

This is not the first time that Komen has hurt itself. Nancy E. Schwartz, in Getting Attention, describes corporate relationship snafus Komen made, and how the brand suffered.

So, what can you do to prevent your nonprofit from shooting itself in the foot?

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Always keep your marketing communications plan  updated & use it!
  2. Always market your mission.
  3. Carefully define whom your mission serves. You need to meet the needs of your core stakeholders.
  4. Measure your constituents’ needs. Research, research, research to ensure your programs & services resonate with your target audiences.
  5. Evaluate the success of programs & their relationship to your mission.
  6. Communicate regularly & consistently.
  7. Craft your messages to reflect how our mission affects your different audiences.
  8. Communicate in terms of your ROI even when it is not in monetary terms; quantify your economic impact.
  9. Celebrate your successes. Show how your ‘market diversification’ creates the funding to provide your services.
  10. Know your organizational elevator speech so you can articulate your vision & Competitive Advantage Statement.
  11. Keep a “face” on your marketing initiatives.
  12. Evaluate often & be prepared to refocus your efforts.
  13. Do not go into the dark. Have a crisis communications plan and be prepared to use it.
  14. Keep your social media outreach up-to-date. If/when a crisis strikes be prepared to address issues head-on. Make sure your posts & tweets are relevant to the issue at hand.

Not certain your new initiative serves your better purpose?

Test it before you launch!

I would love to hear your thoughts on ways to ensure your communications integrity and success.

Interested in a CS&I Marketing Communications Template? Contact me at


AJFF 2012 soars above the ‘social media noise’

Let’s face it – the more important  social media becomes to marketing special events, the more difficult it is to be heard above the ‘social media noise.’

The AJFF 2012 is scheduled to start for February 8th. Incredible that more than 21,000 tickets sold in the first two weeks of sales!

How is the film festival getting above the noise? A focused year-round marketing plan topped with strong social media is key.

AJFF communication strategies consist of a blend of online buzz with compelling content for social media websites and consistent outreach to secure coverage in the news.

To ensure that the AJFF team reached its communications objectives to cultivate diverse audiences, increase awareness and enhance coverage, the marketing committee held brainstorming sessions and developed a social media content calendar.

AJFF 2012 Facebook page is visually compelling. I’m one of the more than 1500 people who have liked the page. Each day I get engaging posts with tickler descriptions of different films including video-clip trailers and reminders to purchase tickets.

AJFF website is geared to provide information on films, location of theatres and ticket sales. The online media center contains press releases and press kits – everything bloggers, reporters and twitter influentials need. Contact information is visible. Email queries and phone calls are answered promptly.

In an earlier post Promoting a Film Festival in 3 weeks! I describe marketing tools to use to increase the buzz and ticket sales for a film festival.

If you would like a copy of my film festival PR template, please contact me at

Special thanks to Brad Pilcher and Shayne Walsey, AJFF communication co-chairs and Kendel White from Weber Shandwick for their hard work to make AJFF 2012 a communications success.

Now, if you will excuse me I need to finish ordering my tickets for the festival before they’re sold out!

Promoting a Film Festival in 3 weeks!

ReelAbilities ATL Film Festival

“Hi,” my friend said. “Do you have any extra time? I could really use some PR help promoting our upcoming film festival, ReelAbilities ATL. The only problem is that the film festival is in three weeks!”

Well, believe it or not, we met the challenge. A small but dedicated staff and a real commitment to get the message out lead to a successful launch.

Although I would never advocate waiting so late to promote an event, it happens. So, here’s my suggestion on how to proceed:

Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm

  • Bring new voices to the table.
  • Explore new ways to engage partners.
  • Identify possible ways to distribute the message and outlets to approach.
  • Look for the story within the story. 

Make sure that the event website is functioning properly.

  • Ask someone who doesn’t know how it is supposed to function to navigate the site.
  • Is it easy to navigate?
  •  Do all the links work?
  •  Are the messages clear?
  •  Do the links make it easy to buy tickets to the film festival and/or make a donation?
  •  Is it easy to find contact information?

Launch a Facebook page.

  • Send messages to all your personal friends to “Like” the page.
  • Invite your organizational partners to Like and share the site.
  • Keep the posts fresh with photos from films, updated press releases, new volunteer opportunities, etc.

Use a news distribution service with social media capabilities.

  • Send a link of your html press release to all your partners and ask that they in turn distribute to their media contacts.
  •  Be sure to send a link, not a PDF copy of the release.
  • Make sure that your news distribution has the capability to add Social Media Links such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to your release.
  • Confirm that the service enhances your release by Tweeting and/or blogging about your festival.

Send personalized email to your media contacts

  • Paste the release to the body of the email.
  • Send a link to PDF and JPEG files housed on your website instead of sending attachments.
  • Make personal phone calls to media contacts.

Monitor Your Progress

It is never too late to promote your events. If you would like a copy of my film festival PR template, please contact me at

Cheers! Now enjoy the film festival.

Getting to Know Your Target Audience

“Getting to know your supporters, volunteers, clients and other participants in your mission is easy, if you build that listening and learning into your everyday work.” Kivi Leroux Miller

I know a lot of people think ‘putting together the puzzle pieces’ is a hackneyed term. Beyond the fact that our logo is constructed around a puzzle piece, I think it is apropos to organizations trying to get above the noise in the marketplace to build awareness and raise funds.

What do I mean putting together the puzzle pieces? Reaching out and building better relationships by understanding and knowing your target audiences.

There is no question that knowing your target audiences is the most essential aspect of your nonprofit’s marketing communications and fundraising. Nonprofit marketing guru Kivi Leroux Miller goes so far as to call knowing your target audience the Number 1 Rule in Nonprofit Marketing.

And, I agree.

That said, Kivi also provided some easy to do suggestions on how to know your audience. These appeared in her Nonprofit Marketing Tips on July 12, 2011:

  • Be curious, all the time
  • Formalize that curiosity
  • Convene Informal Focus Groups
  • Conduct an Online Survey

I would like to add to Kivi’s suggestions:

  • Create a CRM database and really use it. Take notes on what you learn. Be sure and qualify how you received a gift, e.g., direct mail, social media posting, personalized letters or special events.
  • Invite board members, key donors and volunteers to sit around the table and discuss your mission, programs and services. Ask what they see as important to each of them.
  • Take that information to craft messages to reach out to current donors, sponsors and prospects.
  • Provide “Invite a Friend” programs to your members. Ask each to invite their friends and family to join them to support you. Be sure and provide meaningful information about what you do and how you touch the community.
  • Consider reaching out to the business community and elected officials to show how you make an impact. Be sure and figure the economic impact of your programs. Gauge their interest and learn how they like to receive information.

Be sure and use this knowledge as you build your marketing communications program. I’ve created a template based on my experiences. There are some excellent templates that can be accessed through a key word search.

The key is to personalize to your organization and keep the plan updated as you learn more and more about your target audiences.

If you’d like a copy of my strategic communications template, please contact me at