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Non-profits in a blogging age: challenges and opportunities

Thursday 26 April, 2012 by Cairín

Over the last year, we have seen some great blogger outreach campaigns by big brands but also non-profits harnessing the power of citizen journalism to raise awareness for their products or cause.

Commercial brands are being touted in sponsored posts created by blog advertising communities on popular, high traffic blogs like this post for Dove Australia or this post for eBay Australia with the results of increased sales, one must presume.

Recently World Vision has got in on the action by sending a well-known Australian blogger Eden Riley to Niger to document the food crisis there.

Eden's blog posts offered readers a personal account of the crisis adding extra depth to the story and creating a powerful call to action.

It is the inherent subjectivity of her blog posts that differentiates her from traditional news media outlets who stick to objective accounts of the facts.

Her honesty showcased in statements like, What am I doing??! Did I think I was a superhero?, juxtaposed with thoughts like ‘it's a scientific fact that chin hairs grow quicker on airplanes' makes it easy for the reader to relate to her. Her heart is on her sleeve as she describes every emotional step of her journey and her passion is evident throughout.

One of my favourite posts was her blog portraying the helplessness she felt there confronted with the realities of the situation without a ‘power off' button to make it go away.

I had nothing to give them. I struggled with that as I stood there trying to be all cheery and fun. I do not like seeing this stuff on television, let alone in the flesh. Sometimes I'm back at home stuffing myself and an aid ad comes on and I change the channel so I can eat in peace .. you know, so it doesn't ruin my

Her post calling out for those who have taken action and sponsored a child or donated as a result of her blog showed the real value of her expedition. 94 comments included readers speaking about being moved to tears by her journey and taking action to sponsor a child as a result.

With thousands of online articles, comments on her blog posts, tweets and even TV interviews, the awareness raising that the campaign created for the food crisis in Africa, and indeed new child sponsors too, is undeniable.

This campaign highlights the huge opportunities for health organisations to reach audiences and engage with them on a deeper level but how can we grab a bite of the blogosphere to extract behaviour change? Is it possible for online clicks to drive changes in lifestyle?

Cancer Prevention Centre at Cancer Council Victoria has started to explore these new opportunities by partnering with influential parenting, fashion, beauty and health bloggers in order to spread our cancer prevention messages.

Last year, we invited key parenting bloggers to be involved in the launch of the Traffic Light Food Tracker app sending them a ‘sneak preview' of the tool. During the first two weeks of the launch 72 per cent of all visits to the Obesity Policy Coalition website came via recommendations from parenting blogs and the Traffic Light Food Tracker application was downloaded by 44,330 people within one month of its launch.

SunSmart also made a beeline for bloggers with their Summer Love Your Body Carnival campaign. We asked fashion and beauty blogger to write about how they are SunSmart over summer. Each brought their unique individuality and style to their posts putting a new spin on the Slip Slop Slap Seek and Slide message.   

To attempt to find out more about how we could better harness the power of bloggers to spread cancer prevention messages, we held our very first blogger event. We invited some influential bloggers who have worked with us to sit on a panel, which included Croakey's very own Melissa Sweet, Melbournian fashion blogger, Phoebe Montague a.k.a Lady Melbourne and Nicole Avery from parenting blog, Planning with Kids. From the non-profit camp, Corrina Langleaan, Campaign Manager for The Parents' Jury and I, SunSmart Victoria's Communications & Media Advisor, also sat on the panel ready to share our experiences of working with bloggers.

The event attracted lots of guests from both sides of the fence, non-profits and bloggers, interested in networking, learning and sharing experiences.

So what did we learn?

Bloggers are trusted by their loyal followers and therefore they are very protective of that trust becoming more and more selective about the brands they align themselves with. Non-profits need to get out there and find bloggers who are passionate about their cause and ensure the blogs have a following that they want to reach.

Non-profits need to get creative when approaching bloggers with ideas. Give the blogger a campaign that they can really immerge themselves in so they can create great content for their readers.

Bloggers are also a time poor bunch so make it easy for them. Give them lots of notice about your event or campaign, make content that their audience will be interested in and ensure some exclusivity for the blogger.

Remember, it's a two way street so make time to keep in touch with your bloggers who have helped to spread your message. Share the bloggers content via social assets too, to help boost blog traffic and build a reciprocal relationship so they will be more likely to work with you again.

Be persistent! Just because a blogger says "no" to one campaign, doesn't mean they won't work with you in another one and if a campaign doesn't quite work, don't sweat it. Move on. Tomorrow is a new day to try something else and don't give up!

The media landscape is not just for media companies anymore. Not only are bloggers able to command a following and attention but so can you. Think of your non-profit as a publishing house - what are you putting out there on your website and social media networks. Provide relevant and beneficial resources
that your followers can use in their everyday lives. 

So there you have it. But will online communities take heed of our message when voiced by a blogger? Time will tell and in the meantime, it can't hurt to try....

You can follow Cancer Council Victoria and SunSmartVic on Twitter.

First appeared on Croakey

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