Current Project

Online marketing/promotion/outreach: advertising by any other name

I am coming up to speed on a variety of communication channels and tools that could possibly constitute a marketing campaign for a new product, tool, application etc. I am doing this as part of my new position in outreach and education. While I never constituted myself a marketer, I am coming round to the fact that all outward facing work done in any organization is essentially marketing. Therefore, all my training sessions, my educational materials, all my instruction is essentially in some part promotion of the online resource that I am working with.

I suppose I should come clean about my background lest you think I was born infatuated with the marketing profession.

I like to consider myself a civic-minded individual. I am a teacher by education and experience. I am a librarian by education and profession. I teach people how to search, to research, to teach with an online resource. I work for the Stor of J, which is a non-profit organization. I consider myself altrustic, contributing as much as possible to Kiva and Save the Children.

And now I am a effectively a marketer. So, what changed?

Nothing, really. I still train and teach and produce educational materials. I still do webinars, site visits. But I slowly became aware of the journey of the altruistic organization in a modern world.

The best do not always succeed.
Competition exists in all circles, in all communities.
Non-profits have to promote themselves as well as for profit organizations.
Active outreach enhances the mission of the non-profit more effectively than any other metric.

So, promote yourself. Promote your worth. The mission will never be abundantly clear to the user; everything is a service online. Differentiate yours from another.

Make your organization useful; even if you are a non-profit (I am looking at you libraries, museums, schools!), find the value in your service and then promote it continuosly.

Try a few of these for your website:
A. Testimonials -people love to see how things are being used
B. Don’t keep pushing your mission- the mission will present itself through your service
C. Create tools for teachers/patrons/students-give them the supplemental materials necessary for use in their fields (eg, lesson plans)
D. Listen and engage

  • Twitter- don’t blast your community with promotional materials. Listen to them, hear what they are talking about before engaging them.
  • Youtube- make your own videos. Keep them short, concise. Stress the utility of your service. Have short staff video introductions
  • Facebook- why not?
  • Flickr- personalize your organization. Pictures of staff, offices, presentations, seminars. Make it human.
  • Podcast/videocast- why not have a presence on iTunes? Everyone else does. It isn’t even that terribly difficult. Give it a try.
  • Website Optimizer-make sure your website allows users to do what they want on it. Bounce rates with non-profit websites are exceptionally high due to poor design. Your worth is not self-evident! Google offers a free service to test for this.

All in all, promotion is not a dirty word. It is not good enough to offer a service, no matter how altruistic. You have to show people how to use it, convince them of your worth. You are still competing with market forces, competition.

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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