Revamping New Media at the New Organizing Institute

2010-2011

The New Organizing Institute is well respected among progressive organizers as a provider of comprehensive trainings, resources, and community. Although the organization was founded by veterans of representing the online teams of the 2004 presidential campaigns, and enjoyed spectacular growth since then, its online presence had not kept up with the times.

I was an internal proponent and manager of a complete site overhaul to a more staff-friendly CMS, WordPress. In addition to the static pages, we redesigned our CRM and created a simple workflow to handle the delicate divide between nonprofit and political advocacy content, balancing the user’s desire for consistency with legal requirements. We also developed and launched subdomain sites for major projects like the Organizing Toolbox, and the Organizer’s Guide to Election Administration.

Concurrent with the website redesign, I designed communications processes, updated strategies, and held internal trainings to improve communications at the organization. I have been able to use a myriad array of channels, online and offline, to improve the content, frequency, and tone of our myriad daily communications.

I have empowered staff to tell their stories and reflect the unique role the New Organizing Institute plays in the political organizing, advocacy, and technology arenas. My natural instinct, encouraged by social media, is to draw upon the talent and personalities that comprise the organization for regular content. This instinct has to be balanced, however, by avoidance of unnecessary risk and occasionally, political perception. My intimate knowledge of the norms of various online platforms has allowed me to strike a fine balance between encouraging staff contributions and a varying amount of moderation and approval-seeking.

To acheive this balance, I audited the many communication channels at our disposal and classified each with a simple traffic light metaphor. On channels designated red, such as our bulk email tool, the process would be tightly controlled from the start and involve sign-off from a number of people. On yellow communication channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, and our blog, staff were free to write and contribute in whatever form they’d like, but all messages would need to be approved before being published. Finally, on green communication channels, like Flickr and personal Twitter accounts, staff were advised to fire away (using good judgement). This system removed roadblocks to staff contribution by clarifying, and where possible, eliminating the process for each official channel.

Lastly, and least technically, has been the need to revive our brand. The organization is widely perceived as creative and visionary, but also humble and effective. Our online messaging, responsible for all of our communications, had lost some of this personality over time. I’ve been able to improve our messaging in its frequency, quality, and reach across various online communication channels. We now communicate the wide range of activities we’re engaged in on a daily basis, and have seen incredible growth on the various social media platforms we use.

I run our communications from a campaign narrative that ties in the various programs, messages, and channels we use to engage organizers. I use this document to track metrics, calendar messaging, and ensure we are communicating sufficiently about each program.
Communications Manifest
An overview of some of the more restricted communication channels the organization uses, and how staff can contribute
Sample Communications Process: Red
A sample of some of the communication channels staff are encouraged to engage in without seeking approval
Sample Communications Process: Green
In one year, I've expanded our Twitter audience from under 1,000 to almost 5,000 followers. I regularly advise organizations on the benefits of using Twitter to communicate succinctly, regularly, and with personality.
Twitter Growth
We've had equally impressive growth on Facebook, where we've expanded from a simple canvas page to an interactive, personal presence.
Facebook Metrics
I keep regular metrics of our communications' reach to gauge the success or failure of various outreach strategies.
Metrics