My guest on the show today is Luis Chabolla. Luis is the former communications director at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, in California. He’s also on the board of Idealware, a national nonprofit that helps nonprofits make good decisions about technology. In this episode, we discuss how to “focus more on the planning than the plan itself,” and more.
Highlights from this Conversation
- What has worked well
- You can’t respond unless you listen
- Focus more on the planning than the plan itself
- Small bites
- Meet regularly
- Be courageous, ok with making mistakes
- Find something you can measure, to make data a tool for planning
- Email, Blogs, video and photos storytelling
- Adobe Spark
- What didn’t work well
- Getting buy in from leadership and colleagues
- Use analytics (Facebook Insights, etc) to show engagement and reach
- Regular meeting with staff (talk off site and lay groundwork)
- Getting buy in from leadership and colleagues
- Excited about?
- Mobile messaging
- How can nonprofits use mobile messaging to connect with people proactively?
- Nonprofit Technology Network N10
- Communication Network
Adam: [00:02] Hi and welcome to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast, the podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways Eight, a digital marketing agency that specialises in non-profit work and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events to build forty eight websites for forty eight nonprofits in forty eight hours.
[00:26] My guest today is Luis Chabolla who is the communications director at Community Foundation, Santa Cruz County in California. He’s also on the board of Idealware, a national nonprofit that helps nonprofits make good decisions about technology. So sounds like you’re a perfect person for me to talk to today. So Luis, thanks for joining me. Is there anything you want to add to that bio?
Luis: [00:49] No, Adam, but I do want to thank you for inviting me on your podcast. I’ve listened to some of the other broadcasts and I think it’s a wonderful service for nonprofit to nonprofit leaders in the social sector. So I had softened. Thank you for thinking of me.
Adam: [01:05] Man, thanks for that endorsement. I really appreciate it. I’m excited to talk to you. I love to talk to people in all parts of the country about what’s happening with digital marketing and communications and how we can do it better. So, let’s dive in then. So I always have three questions related to digital marketing. Tell us something that’s worked well for you?
Luis: [01:24] This isn’t so much a recent thing, but it’s an approach that we’ve taken since we launched our online communication about eight years ago and that was really tapping into mentors and people across the country that had been doing this kind of work and trying to take a really strategic approach to our planning. And that really starts with listening to what people in organizations are saying. You need to be able to respond and you can’t respond unless you listen. The other big thing is taking a big picture approach to creating objectives that drive tactics and content, so what I mean by that is really focusing more on the planning than the plan itself. And I always go back to this quote, which I love, by Dwight D. Eisenhower, former president and general who says, “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Adam: [02:28] I like that. I love that.
Luis: [02:32] Really think about planning as being something that’s flexible and not rigid; taking small bites, meeting regularly with your team, then looking close to finding content that really works for you. Being courageous, not being afraid to make mistakes because I’ve made a lot of them and I know that I will continue to make mistakes and maybe even some today, but you just have to learn from those and keep pushing forward. And I think, finally, finding something that you can measure so that you can really make data and analytics a tool for planning and better content versus making it something in and of itself.
Adam: [03:19] I love that. I love that. And I think you’re totally right too many organizations they measure everything for no reason really. And so you’ve got to find the thing to measure that’s going to really move the ball forward for your nonprofit. Right?
Luis: [03:34] That’s right. And especially for us and a lot of — I’m sure other nonprofits and communication colleagues I’ve spoken to, you have a small team and you can spend a lot of time measuring and not doing, so you need to find that balance. And a couple of things that people really want specifics that have worked well for us, that continue working well are email, blogs, video and photo storytelling. Those really resonate and you can look online, even some of your own posts really keep hammering home the importance of the visual approach to storytelling and digital content that really makes sense to people.
Adam: [04:23] Absolutely. I think a lot of nonprofits probably don’t realize how easy it is to do visual storytelling. I think they think that maybe you’ve got to have a full time videographer or a full time graphic designer, but there are some tools out there now that really make some visual storytelling with compelling images really easy to do and for various platforms. I mean, one that comes to mind is Canva, which is an app you can put on your phone or iPad or whatever and even use online in a browser and produce some just amazing visuals in next to no time with no artistic ability whatsoever. So I think this stuff’s becoming more and more accessible to nonprofits and sometimes we just don’t realize it.
Luis: [05:04] Yeah, Canva is a great tool that we’ve started using. You can get some basic understanding of Photoshop and other tools. Your smartphone is really a powerful way to record photographs that you can upload. You can do simple videos. For us, it’s really and my way of thinking more about the content than the production. I mean you don’t want to have things that are sloppy or the audio is terrible, but you really want to get to the heart of the story. That’s the most important part.
Adam: [05:45] Yeah, I 100% agree and I would also mention just a few other apps for our listeners. Like you said, Canva is great. Also Adobe Spark, if you do have Photoshop, Adobe Spark is probably a hair better than Canva, in my opinion and I use that a ton and find it really useful. And then Quik, Q-U-I-K, which is an app by GoPro, you can put together some pretty amazing two to three minute videos with Quik. I do it a ton just for personal stuff, but a nonprofit could put together some amazing videos with that, too. So just some good resources there. Man, that’s great. Okay. Well, tell us something that has not worked well that we can learn from.
Luis: [06:24] Well, this is a common challenge that I find in talking to my other communication colleagues and that is getting buy-in from your colleagues and leadership within your organization. Too often we start thinking outward first, which is important because that’s where you’re going to find a lot of rich content and stories. But your colleagues are content ambassadors, they’re communicators. You need support from your leadership and you need more than just sort of intellectual buy-in. You really need people to feel like they’re contributing and sharing stories.
[07:06] And so this is challenging because everyone is busy. We’re used to working in a more kind of compartmentalized, sometimes even silo organizations and so really investing time in breaking that down and showing your colleagues whether it’s in program or development or finance, what’s in it for them and really mining those stories is really important. This is something that we’ve been working on for like eight years and we’ve made steps forward. We’re not there yet. It’s a never-ending challenge, but to me it’s so important. It’s so important.
Adam: [07:46] Yeah, I totally agree. And I agree getting buy-in from the team holistically can be really difficult. I think especially for nonprofits where I’d like to say nonprofits are so focused on doing good that they forget to look good. Do you have any recommendations on ways to approach leadership or colleagues to help them better engage with what a nonprofit’s trying to do from a marketing perspective?
Luis: [08:12] Well, for our leadership we used some of our measuring and analytic tools, some that are very easy to use like Facebook Insights or whether it’s on YouTube or Twitter or any of those others to show our leadership that some of the posts and contents, the reach that they’re getting, the people that we’re connecting to, they start to see, “Oh, yes, this is much more than we could do in everyday kind of conversation.” Showing them who else is engaged in online communication, other foundation, nonprofit leaders. Also trying to meet regularly with staff to really mine stories and make it less about getting the word out than looking for ways to engage and tell stories. So I think the idea of meeting regularly with staff is really important, whether it’s after a staff meeting or part of a staff meeting or a separate meeting and then taking the time to leave your cubicle or desk and go talk to other people in the building, not when you need something but ahead of time when you can kind of lay the groundwork and show people, “Hey, did you see this great story about this program grant that was made? Do we have anything like this that we could share?”
Adam: [09:44] Right, right. That’s fantastic. I love that. Love that. Okay. I think that is a particular struggle for most nonprofits. I think you’re right. It’s really just about conversation; just over and over and over again, talking to them about what the vision is, how we’re presenting the vision, what we’re going after, and helping them to see what the return on that investment is. I think a lot of times leadership has this tendency to not realize the return on investment for marketing. I think it’s critical to help them see that. It’s really smart. So it’s my last question, which is always a fun one, is tell me something you’re excited about.
Luis: [10:20] Well, I think of it more of what I’m extremely curious about.
Adam: [10:26] Okay.
Luis: [10:28] And something that’s been around for a little bit that I’m really interested in seeing the application for us as a community foundation and for the nonprofits that we work with is mobile messaging. First there was the website and then it was other kind of tools like Facebook or Instagram, but so many people are using instant messaging to communicate with each other and their friends and so how can we as nonprofits, tap into that? So I know there’s apps like WhatsApp and there’s other kinds of tools, so we’re trying to take a kind of an intellectual, kind of proactive approach to looking at it incrementally and going, “Does this fit into our communication strategy and objectives and does this make sense for us and how might this or might it not work? And I don’t have the answer yet, but that’s something that I’m really curious about.
Adam: [11:34] Yeah. I love that.
Luis: [11:36] The other thing is podcast. I’m a member of the nonprofit technology network NTEN and went to a workshop at their last conference on podcasting and go, “Wow, this is great.” I have a background in public radio and and I know the richness of audio storytelling like what we’re doing right now and go, “This could be a really rich medium for more nonprofits to get into.” I listened to podcasts. I know that you can set it up at a fairly inexpensive way, but again, not wanting to just jump into it without knowing if we have the capacity to do it. But I think the idea of podcasts are really interesting and exciting. I’d like to jump in before it’s turned to something else and it’s the old hat, but I think there’s still time. Things are moving so fast.
Adam: [12:29] Yeah, I totally agree with you about all of that. I think podcast was riding high right now. It’ll be interesting to see how that pans out over time but I think just like blogging, there will always be value in it if you’re committed to it. And I think that’s the trick to really any good podcasts is the cost to do a podcast is really very, very low. I think for what I’m doing right now, I’m probably paying, I don’t know, $30 a month at most, maybe $50 a month total for everything and so it’s really pretty quick and easy. It just takes time to do it well and some thought and methodology for it and then it takes consistency. If you don’t release the podcast very consistently, then you begin to lose an audience. And so I think that’s — and it’s just like same with that in blogging. And so I think as long as you’re diligent and you produce high quality content on a consistent basis, then you can really grow an interesting and good following and really help people in a lot of ways.
Luis: [13:24] And, Adam, I think that’s really the key to it and for us about being intentional and consistent and not being overly enamored by the tools because there’s so many coming out every day. And as a friend and colleague John Kenyan told us, which I love is, “Don’t be another fool with a tool.” There are a lot of tools out there and you can get sidetracked from what you’re really trying to achieve.
Adam: [13:51] Yes, I totally agree. We have a tendency to chase things that are shiny as marketers. I think I talked about that on another podcast recently and really where we’re better off is choosing a lane and a channel and a methodology and doubling down until it’s successful. And that’s really where we’re going to see benefits as nonprofit marketers.
Luis: [14:11] Yes.
Adam: [14:12] Yeah, I totally agree. So, Luis, let me see if I can recap a few things here and then you can fill in the gaps as needed or as you see fit, because I want to make sure that people have some good takeaways from our conversation here. So the first is related to what’s worked well for you. You pointed out listening. You made this great point: “You can’t respond unless you’ve listened.” I love that. I may take that and steal it and use it with my kids over and over and over again. That’s like maybe the best quote ever right there. Second, you said focus more on the planning than on the plan itself, which I love. You said be flexible. Take things in small bites and meet regularly. Be courageous. That’s so good. And you also had mentioned kind of the [inaudible 14:54] blogs, emails, video storytelling. And we mentioned a couple of the resources and apps that somebody might use: Canva, Adobe Spark, Quik. Anything else to add to that list of notes there?
Luis: [15:05] Well, the only thing I think is really important that I’ve gotten great value out of as a communicator is networking and staying connected to your colleagues. I’m a member of the Communication Network, I’m on the board of Idealware. I’m part of nonprofit technology executives NTEN, and all of those have given me great value and I think building your network, whether it’s local or a part of an association, has so much value that it’s worth the investment of time and, sometimes, dollars in doing it.
Adam: [15:42] That’s fantastic. Related to what didn’t work well, as you talked about, it’s been a struggle at times to get buy-in from leadership and colleagues and the best way to overcome that is through the use of analytics to prove a return on the investment and just regularly talking with people to lay the groundwork. There’s no better way than just talking and laying groundwork. I totally agree with you there.
[16:06] And then on excited about, mobile messaging, how nonprofits can use that to proactively connect with people. Podcast and then just — well, I guess that was it. Is there anything else you’re excited about to add to that in particular?
Luis: [16:21] Well, I’m excited about this connection that we made today. I actually learned a few things that I wasn’t aware of, so that’s exciting.
Adam: [16:32] Yeah. WelI, I mean, my goal is to learn from you and if I can offer any learning back, I am thankful to have the opportunity to do that. So well, that’s great. Well, with that said, thanks for listening to Good People, Good Marketing. To get more resources about nonprofit digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also, if you want to find me, Adam, you can find me on Twitter, @AJWalker, or my blog at adamjwalker.com, where I blog about productivity and habit-forming and the crazy life of having five children and other fun things. And with that, thanks for listening and make sure to tune in next time.
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