How COVID-19 has Affected Nonprofit Communications
By Mayah Odom, Digital Marketing Intern
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses across the globe to rely on virtual platforms to communicate their brand more than ever before. Among those most impacted by this change are nonprofit organizations that conduct marketing to increase their social influence. While the transition from hybrid communication models to fully digital marketing has required some adjustment for these organizations, recent trends show that communication through social media has actually opened up new opportunities for growth for nonprofits. This potential is due, in large part, to technological advancements that increase connection with audiences, as well as the increased desire of individuals to give.
The New Age of Social Media
According to Smart Insights, an online training and learning platform for marketing professionals, about 54 percent of Americans rely on communication from social media as their first source of news – a number that is expected to increase in the coming years. While most businesses are now seeing the need for increased social media engagement, many nonprofits were already heavily involved in the digital world prior to the pandemic, giving them an advantage when traditional communications were disrupted in March 2020. In fact, nonprofit organizations have been responsible for a large portion of social media activity over the past year as individuals search for ways to give back to their communities. As users' eyes locked on the timelines of their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, nonprofits were already prepared to captivate their audiences and increase engagement.
Participation in Charitable Giving
Nonprofits were initially concerned that charitable giving would decrease due to fewer in-person opportunities for giving, as well as the financial hardships brought on by COVID-19. However, the opposite has proven to be true. Despite the fact that COVID-19 impacted finances for many Americans, surveys from the MIT 2020 Technology Review have shown that 87 percent of individuals plan on participating in charitable giving in 2021. In fact, according to Cision PR Web, 55 percent of individuals surveyed intend to donate at least $500 to a charitable cause in 2021. Further, nonprofits have not had issues collecting donations through virtual platforms, as anticipated. Instead, individuals are using these platforms more than ever as the issues caused by the pandemic have tugged on the heartstrings of people across the nation.
Technological Advancements Molding the Future
The ever-changing world of technology has brought new opportunities to the nonprofit world. Digital media has become a vital part of any advertising campaign and recent developments have made it simple for businesses to create content using innovative features. Notably, nonprofits are among the businesses making the most of the newest tech trends – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) channels have helped nonprofits to more accurately identify their audiences, while digital questionnaires and interactive media make it possible to connect with target communities.
Despite concerns, the generosity of Americans combined with tech advances have put nonprofits in a great position to amplify their brand and increase giving. The most successful nonprofits will take advantage of social media, consumer engagement, and new age technology to expand their footprint and carry out their mission of improving the world we live in, during the pandemic and going forward.
How to Protect Your Mental Health While Working Remotely
By Micah George, Digital Marketing Intern, The Hannon Group
Due to the pandemic, many large corporations have transitioned from working in the office to working from home. Even though working from home has some benefits, there are a number of challenges that can take a toll on mental health. Instead of ignoring these issues, learn how to protect your mental health while working remotely. This is what I’ve learned that works.
Protect Your Routine
It is important to have stability while working from home. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommends maintaining a consistent schedule during the workweek. For example, it can be beneficial to start your day with a morning routine: eat a healthy breakfast, exercise, meditate, and then start your workday.
Be sure to take two to three ten-minute breaks throughout the day. This will allow you to get fresh air, stretch, and give your eyes a break from the computer screen. Also, everyone should take a 30-minute to one-hour lunch break to rest, eat, and regain their mental and physical strength in order to be productive for the rest of the day.
If you do not respect your schedule, than no one else will. APA also recommends that you identify specific work hours and communicate this information to your coworkers and managers. You shouldn’t work during your lunch break or your 10-minute mental breaks. Use this time to refresh your mind, so you can be effective for the remainder of the day.
When you work from home, it is easy to take on more work than you would in an office setting. However, you should not overwhelm yourself with additional work just because you are at home with your computer next to you. During your lunch or mental breaks, turn off your computer and put your phone on vibrate or silent so that you can enjoy your breaks uninterrupted.
Incorporate Positive Distractions
We Work Remotely (WWR), the largest remote work community in the world, says that it is okay to have a few positive distractions to keep you motivated and productive. Positive distractions can include:
- Outdoor walks
- Listening to soothing music
- Breathing exercises
These distractions are short-term tactics that can refresh your mind throughout the workday.
Protect Your Mental Energy
WWR also notes that too much time in front of the computer can negatively impact your quality of work, but also cause fatigue, lack of motivation, irritability, and anxiety. There are several practices you can adopt to minimize these effects.
Preventing Screen Exhaustion
Preventing screen exhaustion can preserve your mental energy. You should limit screen time during your 10-minute breaks, at lunch, and when you’re off duty. This can be achieved by cutting back on recreational social media time and trying to avoid reading or watching the news too frequently. You should also avoid reading or responding to emails when you’re off the clock.
Preventing Information Overload
Preventing information overload can also preserve your mental energy. Companies can assist with this by reducing the number of applications or programs that employees are required to use during the workday.
Another strategy to prevent information overload is to schedule specific times when you will respond to emails or conduct research. Additionally, try to complete one project or assignment at a time. Multitasking can cause information overload and a feeling of being overwhelmed. One last tip is to use paper and pen while brainstorming or writing notes instead of typing everything.
Protect Your Space
Skillcrush, an online coding and design school, stresses the importance of separating your personal life from your work life. One way to achieve this is to have a designated room or area in your house that is just for work. While working from home, it is essential to have proper tools that will help you be productive, such as a supportive chair that you can sit in comfortably for long hours.
Further, avoid completing work in your bed or rooms that are meant for rest. It is important to separate your downtime from your work life because it is very easy these days to mix both work and personal time. That’s why it is essential to have areas in your home that feel like a safe space from work or personal distractions.
Construct A Positive Atmosphere
Lastly, create a safe space for your work as well. Ways that you can create a positive atmosphere within your workspace include:
- Filling your workspace with bright or calming colors
- Working close to a window that provides sunlight
- Using an essential oil diffuser to release relaxing scents
- Playing soothing background music
Protecting your space by surrounding yourself with supportive, calming, and motivating objects will allow you to be productive while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Prioritizing Your Mental Health
If you follow these strategies, you can significantly boost your mental health. Prioritizing your mental health and energy should be just as important, if not more important, as prioritizing your work. You can be productive and achieve work-related goals while maintaining mental and inner peace.
Three Top Strategies in Multicultural Marketing and Outreach that Stand the Test of Time
By: Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR
In the last 10 years, the options we have to reach target audiences has exploded. For instance, I don’t think many would dispute that technology has revolutionized our marketing and communication strategies. There are multiple digital platforms to brand, create experiences on, and use to distribute messages. Yet, despite this revolution, I’ve observed that there are some strategies that work from one decade to the next, especially in reaching and engaging diverse audiences. Over the years, I have found that successful multicultural outreach campaigns use all of these 3 key strategies. They are: representation, cultural appropriateness and partnerships. Here’s what I mean.
1.Include Representation on Teams
A key approach to reaching diverse audiences is to comprise a team that reflects diversity and inclusion. Representation inevitably leads to insights and access that might be difficult to achieve otherwise. A diverse team and inclusive thinking results in culturally relevant strategies, content, collateral materials and partnerships. This approach was just as true 20 years ago as it is today. Having designed and executed dozens of research studies to support nationwide campaigns for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we have seen the benefits of conducting research with participants representing African American and Latino communities. In our experience, taking the time to be inclusive always resulted in determining creative, messaging and strategies that best resonated with the participants, which often differed from the selections of other audiences.
Fast forward 20 years later when we worked with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to develop a ground-breaking nationwide campaign targeting construction supervisors and workers of small businesses to work safely from heights. Many of our target audiences were Latino. Our team included bilingual and bi-cultural members who worked to create distinct strategies and messages for our Latino audiences. When necessary, they trans-adapted and translated collateral for the campaign. What helped to make the campaign successful is the community-based partnerships we developed that extended the distribution of safety messages and enabled us to conduct formative focus group testing in Spanish to ensure content, brands and collateral were effective.
2. Ensure Cultural Appropriateness and Relevance
Years ago, we worked with a client to test seat belt promotion messages and approaches targeting African American males between the ages of 18 and 50. This was around the same time that Diana, Princess of Wales, died tragically in a car accident. News outlets reported that she was not wearing a seat belt, which likely contributed to her death. One approach the client wanted to consider was to incorporate Princess Diana’s accident in campaign creative and messaging to illustrate why it was important to wear a seat belt. This approach tested enormously badly. It was culturally inappropriate. Why? Participants could not relate to Princess Diana and said she had nothing to do with their world. Our participants told us that a higher power was more in control of their fate, and wearing a seat belt was therefore unnecessary. For many, however, the idea that they could be seriously injured in an accident and not be able to provide for their family gave them serious pause. Appealing to the fear of living with the impact of a life-altering accident would be a relevant approach for the campaign.
Today, cultural appropriateness is just as important. When we helped the CDC design and execute a safety campaign targeting construction workers, culture played a central role in our branding and messaging. Of course, we created campaign products in Spanish and English. More importantly though, we understood that this federally sponsored program was unprecedented in the United States. We went global to look for approaches and messages that might work here and found dozens of approaches that were successful in countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. When we tested approaches such as a humor or fear or factual approach, they frankly tanked. We found out that the best approach was to include in the campaign other construction workers that were from their culture and shared the same concerns surrounding safety on the job. They too wanted to stay healthy so that they could provide for their families.
3. Establish Salient Partnerships
In 2000, I was a consultant to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to develop effective ways to advertise and market to African American audiences. We designed a strategy that included partnering with secular groups and community-based organizations to extend campaign messages for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign.
Nearly 20 years later we helped the Maryland Benefit Exchange increase health enrollment rates by nearly 40% among African Americans in Maryland by creating partnerships with mega churches that helped us extend messages and content to thousands of congregants. We also partnered with community-based organizations such as the Urban League, sororities, fraternities, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to extend campaign messages from trusted sources to African American Maryland residents. These partnerships enabled us to have far-reaching distribution of the brand and messages.
In conclusion, while parts of our industry are changing at the speed of light today, there are some strategies that stand the test of time decade after decade and that continue to help us create campaigns that reach and engage our audiences.
How to Successfully Manage Large Federal Contracts
By Jill Fisher, Senior Vice President
Managing a large federal contract can be a challenging experience, but it can also be extremely rewarding if you deliver results. The Hannon Group has successfully managed multiple, large federal contracts and, as a result, our management team has gained a thorough understanding of the requirements for delivering excellent performance on large contracts.
While there will always a be unexpected issues that pop up, the following five strategies will enable your organization to effectively administer large government contracts:
1. Make Sure that Staff are a Great Fit
In my mind, staff quality is the primary factor in determining whether a contract will be successful or not. Staff must be technically qualified and also have a good rapport with clients. Because the quality of the team is so crucial to success, contract managers should ensure that they are hiring the best possible employees for each position.
At The Hannon Group, we take the hiring process very seriously. Many of our contracts support technical sectors such as health and energy, so we need staff who have previously worked in those industries. As a result, we actively recruit many of our staff, as opposed to just placing ads and waiting for resumes. By actively recruiting staff, we have been able to find candidates with the appropriate technical skills AND industry background. As a bonus, recruiting using LinkedIn is actually a lot cheaper than placing an ad on the platform.
2. Provide Excellent Customer Service
Another requirement for achieving customer satisfaction is providing excellent customer service. This includes being courteous to clients, responding as quickly as possible, providing accurate and appropriate information in response to requests, and proactively providing updates and other information that clients may need.
While being courteous and providing the correct information is expected, many clients are not used to receiving a quick response to emails or calls and are pleasantly surprised when they immediately hear back. I’ve been thanked many times for my quick response, which actually always surprises me a bit, since it suggests that other contractors are not that responsive.
Federal clients also appreciate when contractors are proactive in providing status updates and other useful information, as clients are very busy and don’t have the time to make the request. Further, giving clients a heads up on potential issues can also help mitigate or avoid future problems.
3. Pay Attention to Detail
If you’re in charge of a large contract, you’re going to be managing considerable amounts of information, including funding and invoicing amounts, hours and ODC costs, as well as contract numbers and dates. This data must be accurate, as errors could result in overspending, incorrect billing, and other issues that could significantly impact your credibility with clients. Due to these potential problems, it’s critical that you work closely with your accounting and contracting departments, and check and double check any information that you’re entering or distributing.
It’s also a good idea to carefully check written materials to ensure that you’re communicating in a clear and professional manner.
4. Understand Federal Contracting
There are a lot of rules in federal contracting, from event spending regulations to per diem requirements. To avoid causing issues for your contracting officer and your own organization, it’s very important to understand and follow federal contracting regulations. Further, you should thoroughly review your specific federal contracts so that you know what FAR clauses and deliverables pertain to each project.
5. Use Appropriate File Structures and Templates
And finally, no matter how simple and straightforward a project seems, contract administration is bound to get complicated at some point, with multiple modifications, new task orders, or even new contracts issued. That’s why it is critical to properly organize and back up contract files, so that data is easy to find when needed. It is also important to utilize robust templates to track and analyze spending on labor hours and other direct costs. These tracking documents must be updated each month and should be regularly cross-referenced against your accounting or contracting department records.
While it can sometimes be difficult to consistently implement all five of these approaches due to time and resource constraints, it’s definitely worth the extra effort to ensure that you are providing the best possible service for your clients.
For more information on The Hannon Group and our experience supporting federal communications clients, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pivoting Your General Market Campaign Strategy to Reach Specific Audiences
By Sandra Wills Hannon, Ph.D., APR
Because of The Hannon Group’s expertise in multi-cultural marketing, we are frequently asked to tailor strategies to reach minority audiences, including African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. One example is our firm’s support for the State of Maryland’s Maryland Health Connection (MHC) enrollment campaign. The campaign was led by award-winning PR agency GMMB and targeted Maryland residents who were uninsured and hard-to-reach. The Hannon Group was specially selected by GMMB to conduct outreach to the African American community to create awareness of MHC and encourage enrollment in an insurance plan by the January 31 deadline.
In pivoting the general market strategy, The Hannon Group identified appropriate partners and tactics, and developed messaging and images that would resonate with Maryland’s African American community. The goal was to maximize the distribution of campaign messages, content, and collateral materials using strategies that would attract, compel, build trust, garner buy-in, and encourage action.
Strategy 1: Pivot Digital/Creative One of our first steps was to take global objectives and messages and create content and materials that would appeal to African Americans in Maryland. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for partners to engage in the campaign by providing them with creative work that they could plug into their existing communication channels. This included social media content, recommended hashtags and handles, as well as promotional materials. Strategy 2: Identify and Leverage Partner Networks While working on digital/creative development, we also began to identify partners, including organizations and influencers. Using four criteria, we were able to determine where the target audience “lived, worked, played, and prayed”. Key pivoting criteria for selecting partners were the following:
- Like-minded or complementary interests
- Existing communication vehicles or events
- Ability to provide sustainable support
- Accessible decision makers
Based on these criteria, we initially selected five partner types – Churches, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Civil Rights Organizations, Black Sororities, and Digital Influencers. We leveraged their communications channels as a central component of our strategy and implemented the following activities:
- HBCU Outreach – The Hannon Group partnered with four HBCUs on this campaign – Coppin State, Bowie State, Morgan State, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. We worked with the universities to incorporate information into the exit process for graduating seniors; use health and career center communications channels; and use student services communications, including on campus media.
- Grassroots Outreach – We worked with the National Urban League and NAACP to engage African American men and women in their 20’s and 30’s who were serving in leadership roles. Our team collaborated with these organizations to determine the best methods for reaching young adults through chapter events and activities.
- Sororities and Healthy Living Groups Outreach – We engaged African American women through partnerships with three sororities (Sigma Gamma Rho, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and Delta Sigma Theta), and two girls’ athletic clubs (Girls Run and Girltrek). We asked chapters to post MHC messaging and links on their websites, social media platforms, newsletters, and blogs; incorporate MHC into their trainings and discussions on healthy living; and host or participate in MHC events.
- Influencer/Blogger Outreach – The Hannon Group partnered with Meredith Hurston, the author of the Empowered Mocha Patient blog, as well as Micheline Bowman from Fox 5 News, who organizes a regular event called “Meet me on Mondays”. These influencers led an online campaign to encourage people to enroll in a health insurance program to protect themselves and their families. The team hosted a Periscope with Meredith and one of the MHC navigators and enlisted other Maryland bloggers to promote the interview on their blogs and social media platforms. Micheline hosted a “Meet Me on Mondays” networking event focused on MHC.
- Media Relations – We engaged other types of influencers to conduct media outreach. These included Senator Elijah Cummings and the NAACP, who endorsed the importance of health coverage for Maryland residents by participating in a press conference to kick off the MHC enrollment period.
- Super Health Sunday – Because faith organizations have an interest in the wellness of their congregants, The Hannon Group organized a special statewide event on a single Sunday at 16 African American churches, including six “mega” churches. During the event, these churches provided messages from the pulpit on the importance of health and health insurance. They also hosted meet and greets with MHC navigators and members of each congregation and incorporated ongoing education into church health ministries. In addition, The Hannon Group placed ads in church newsletters promoting Super Health Sunday.
Results: The Hannon Group campaign successfully leveraged partnerships with trusted community leaders and organizations to achieve the desired milestones. Partners distributed collateral materials and promoted key messages through websites, social media, email listservs, and special events. The Super Health Sunday event reached 41,500 in-person attendees and 21,000 more people were reached through live streams, while social media posts for the Periscope and Meet Me Monday event had a combined 323,500 impressions. Through these activities, Maryland achieved one of the fastest growth rates of any state in the country for 2016 enrollment compared to 2015, increasing by 33%, and African American enrollment was up 37%, indicating that the campaign and pivot had been extremely successful.