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August 2010

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Tweets from the Summit: Nonprofit Gets “Off the Ground” With Social Media

By Stacey Stepp

It's no surprise that public relations and marketing budgets are smaller these days. According to the latest Bellwether Report by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), overall spending on marketing, including PR, fell for the ninth consistent quarter in Q4 2009. And, while the same survey expected spending to increase in 2010, the reality is that most communications departments and agencies are still being forced to do more with less.

If you work for a for-profit entity, this may mean a drastically cut budget and fewer staff members doing the work of many. And for nonprofits, it probably means getting creative and figuring out inventive ways of maximizing an already restricted communications budget. The good news for both: with a little careful planning, creativity, and new media know-how, there are still plenty of ways to use PR and marketing to generate the kind of results your company or clients are seeking.

Getting Social From the Summit

In early 2010, Denver-based public relations and marketing firms Xstatic Public Relations and ideologie, began working with Summit54, a nonprofit organization for inner city students that delivers complete college financing, academic skills and real-world training for a lifetime of success. With its unique mission, Summit54 has an incredible story to tell. However, the organization was just getting off the ground, and like many nonprofits, needed to do so on a shoestring budget.

Ready, Set, Go!

To get the program started, the marketing team followed this simple four-step plan to ensure that Summit54's social media debut was effective:
  • Start with a Plan - You wouldn't start a long road trip without a map, so why start a long-term social media program without a plan? As a first step, Xstatic developed a detailed social media strategy for Summit54, outlining target audiences, goals, update schedule, recommended platforms (Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.), features and measurable objectives for quantifying the campaign's success.

  • Get Creative - Summit54 already had an engaging mission and story to tell. But, to help launch the program and gain awareness for the nonprofit, Founder Tony Caine took it one step further. He accepted a challenge to summit all 54 of Colorado's 14ers throughout 2010, symbolizing the climbs and struggles Summit54 participants will go through as they embark on the program early next year.

    After building Summit54's social media platforms on Facebook, WordPress, Twitter and LinkedIn, Xstatic wanted to capture the excitement of Tony's climbs to generate interest and support for the organization among fans and followers. Tony began blogging about each of his climbs and taking pictures along the way that would be shared on all of the social media sites. Xstatic set Tony up to Tweet, post Facebook messages and capture live video from his climbs, notifying Summit54's followers when he'd reached the summit, encountered bad weather or met menacing wildlife creatures along the way. The goal? To engage target audiences on the ground level, helping secure their interest, loyalty and support as the organization grew and went national.

  • Leverage Unique Assets - Undoubtedly, Caine's climbs provided a unique hook to create the social media campaign around Summit54's start-up phase. To build on that, Xstatic and ideologie worked to develop a fundraising campaign around the climbs, challenging followers and supporters to donate specific dollar amounts to Summit54 for every foot Caine climbed during his 14ers quest. Think about the unique initiatives your company, organization or clients are working on that you can spotlight and even cultivate through social media. Use these ideas and activities to help bring your organization to life with followers and supporters, get them involved and further secure their interest and loyalty.

  • Measure Time and Time Again - You know what they say about even the best laid plans, no? Well, they can go astray! With the social media plan for Summit54 firmly in place and going smoothly, Xstatic and ideologie's next step is to revisit the plan's metrics regularly to ensure the results are on track. If they are, fantastic! If not, we have some work to do to adjust the strategies and tactics to more effectively reach target audiences. The point is, what's the use of having a plan if it doesn't lead you to your desired destination? Measure your results time and time again to ensure you are progressing toward your goal and don't be afraid to make adjustments to stay on track.

Xstatic and ideologie launched the Summit54 social media campaign in summer 2010. Follow Summit54 through its national launch early next year on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (Groups) and blog at Stacey Sepp is co-founder and chief operating officer for Xstatic Public Relations. Contact her at (303) 928-7144 or

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