Nothing builds credibility quite like a word-of-mouth referral. Think about it: Are you more likely to visit a restaurant because a good friend tells you it’s delicious, or because an actor in a television commercial said so? For nonprofits, word of mouth is an invaluable marketing tool. When positive comments about your organization start to circulate, good things happen. Awareness and buzz, when positive, can help people develop confidence in your organization.
So what are some tried-and-true ways to get people talking? “Everything stems back to creating strong, authentic messages,” says Carina May, president of Smith and Harroff, Inc. (Alexandria, VA), a marketing agency that for four decades has helped associations and other clients overcome communications-related obstacles. She and her colleague Rick Morris, executive vice president, share strategies any nonprofit can use to encourage word-of-mouth marketing:
- Build relationships at the local level. “National organizations have an opportunity to develop strong, internal communications with their chapters from coast to coast,” May says. “Stimulating conversation at the local level with those on the ground will help you spread the word about new initiatives, benefits, etc. This can lead to peer-to-peer communication, social media reach and more.”
- Develop a communication tool kit. “Create a go-to document that provides local organizations with timelines, measurable objectives and quarterly meeting guidelines,” Morris suggests. “Including items like templates for local advertising, banners and event ideas can help organizations think creatively about spreading their messages with members and supporters.”
- Create an online game. Everyone loves to play games! Create a clever and fun online app or game that ties back to your mission and gets people talking. Incentivize them to share an app with friends by using a badge or reward system. “Taking creativity and novelty to a new level is certain to generate word of mouth,” May says.
- Link marketing to a good cause. “The National Christmas Tree Association, which represents farmers, retailers and distributors of Christmas trees, participates in an annual effort called Trees for Troops in which they donate thousands of trees to military bases nationwide,” Morris explains. “The association has been able to communicate the benefits of real Christmas trees versus artificial ones through this effort.”
- Advertise on a social network like Nextdoor. Described as the world’s largest social network for the neighborhood, Nextdoor lets neighbors recommend local contractors, services and more to one another. Nonprofits with causes connected to construction, home maintenance, etc., can benefit from having a presence on sites where people are already talking.
This article is featured in the August edition of The Nonprofit Communications Report and is being republished with permission by the Wiley Company. The Nonprofit Communications Report, (Online ISSN: 2325-8616), is published monthly by Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., a Wiley Company.
Click here to read our interview last year with The Membership Management Report where we discussed hybrid membership models.