Transferable skills?

March 15, 2012

I often hear people tout the MBA style of management – “I just need to know how to be a good manager; I trust that my employees know the field and are skilled at what they do.” That managing a team of database the developers is much the same as managing a department of textbook editors is much the same as managing in a car manufacturing plant.

I have never really understood how this works in practice; while yes, knowing how to manage and assemble a team is a great skill regardless of the work involved, at the end of the day, why would I want to manage a team of editors if I didn’t know the basics about editing? Or the textbook industry? About what is involved in the process? It’s not fair to my team if I haven’t the foggiest idea what they actually do all day. Sure, ultimately they need to be the experts, not me, but if there’s conflict amongst the team, I need to understand what the issues at hand are.

So let’s narrow it down a little bit: what about transferring basic marketing and communications skills between industries or causes?

There will obviously be a learning curve with any new job, especially if you’re changing from, say, an animal welfare agency to a public health organization. Your core skills and experience will serve you well, but you will have to adapt to a different type of audience with different messaging, etc. But a solid foundation in strategic communications should handle most of that.

When changing jobs within the sector – or changing industry entirely – which skills do you find transfer the best, and which ones do you find you most often have to relearn or adapt?

It always helps to be a good writer, but how easy is it to change style? How do your PR needs change if you’re working with an under-served population as compared to a high profile sympathetic community? What have you found to be least affected by a change in employer?

(Your editor is facing a possible relocation – and thus these very questions – soon, and will take advantage of this blog while she can…)


Although is not currently able to “go dark” in solidarity with the protests against SOPA and PIPA (Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act ) today, as a website that provides resources – articles, columns, videos, podcasts, publications and links to other resources – and as a social justice organization we feel strongly that the World Wide Web should remain a source of free speech.

The Digital Divide  still poses barriers for access to the Web for underserved communities, but once a user is online, the Web has always stood as a resource available to everyone. For nonprofits especially – to advocate on behalf of their constituents; to find answers quickly when working on deadline and under capacity; and, most importantly, to have an impact in their communities.

Many great organizations have laid out the arguments better than we can today. So please read them, and think about how this legislation could impact your organization and its ability to do work.

Drowning in Jargon?

July 13, 2011

As communications professionals, we’re always battling jargon – even our own communications-related jargon.

We at TSNE also wrestle with finding alternative ways to express some of these phrases, especially on the Web when we need to be as short and simple as possible.

What are some of your favorite – and least favorite! – examples of jargon you’ve encountered in the nonprofit workplace? What suggestions do you have for restating them in clearer terms?

Comment here or on Facebook with your favorite stories. If you respond by August 31, we’ll include your submission in a poll to go out to readers of the TSNe-Bulletin in September. The winner of the poll will receive a basket of Equal Exchange products.


At last month’s New Models in Collaboration convening, we realized we wanted to live tweet from the event. However, we’ve never – as an organization – done this before, so we had to work out logistics on the fly. Especially since our Communications staff is also part of the training team and thus running event support throughout the day.

Questions we found ourselves asking, before, during, and after the event:

  • What is our goal/reason to be tweeting this event?
  • How many staff do we have who are able — and available — to tweet? What training might they need first?
  • What content do we want to prioritize?
  • How long is reasonable for a staff person to be on tweet duty at a full-day event? What sort of rotation do we need to put in place to give someone a break?
  • How do we handle the breakout sessions – especially when there are more workshops than there are people available to tweet? (@npc_life was leading one of the sessions)
  • How do we juggle event support (“Help! The microphones just lost power!”) with focusing on content enough to glean tweetable content?
  • Do we need a hashtag? If so, what is the best way(s) to get it (#npcollab) out to people?

Some of these questions we were able to answer, some we had to guess at in the moment and try to improve next time, and some we never resolved. Developing our policies is definitely a work in progress.

How does your organization deal with live tweeting while also hosting/organizing an event?

Since we’re using WordPress for this blog, when WordCamp first came to Boston last year, I took the opportunity to attend.

A common theme throughout the event was the increased functionality of WordPress as a CMS (Content Management System), not just a blogging tool. Presenters were promoting WordPress as a CMS solution for nonprofits and small businesses.

I hadn’t realized how much WordPress  and other blogging sites (such as Blogger) were growing the CMS functionality of their products. For a small nonprofit that doesn’t have a heavy web presence, this could be an excellent solution.

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This past weekend I was at a housewarming where the topic of Valentine’s Day came up. Generally, most of us didn’t do much to celebrate it – we’re not fans of the crass consumerism, amongst other reasons.

But I, at least, always acknowledge the holiday, even if I don’t “celebrate” it by  buying anything or going out to dinner. Since it is conveniently located approximately 6 months from my anniversary, I personally like it as the kick in the pants to slow down from the craziness of life and the doldrums of winter, take a deep breath, and appreciate my partner. A reminder  to stop and smell the are-you-kidding-me-$40-per-dozen?!? roses.

And this hit me as a good practice for other parts of my life, especially work. We’re so caught up with deadlines and workloads (such as being too busy to maintain this blog!) and crises that I sometimes lose sight of why we’re here. I get so busy supporting our mission and the social change we seek to effect that I forget to take a breath and celebrate the change that has happened and is happening around us.

So I’m left pondering how best to incorporate simple reminders – like a birthday,  anniversary or Valentine’s Day – that help me to slow down and treasure the successes of our constituents.

What sort of vital battery recharging opportunities do you build into your work? What strategies do you employ to remember to stop and smell the roses to feel reinvigorated on a regular basis?

As I recently quipped on Facebook, I love Google Analytics. I love playing with and analyzing the vast array of data that it provides (after all, how else would we know that the number of visits via dialup has increased over the past year?). But I dislike preparing the report that goes to staff.

First, there’s the data that I find interesting and useful as online communications specialist. Then there’s data that my teammates, as communications professionals, find interesting and useful. And then the statistics that program staff find interesting and useful. As well as the broad trends and figures that senior leadership and the board want to see.

Not all of these are the same facts and figures. Executive Transitions likes to know how many page hits a new job posting has received, while our communications assistant looks at spikes in traffic corresponding with the promotional efforts she’s made for our training series. My boss and I are concerned with bounce rates, increase in traffic, and visitor engagement.

Sometimes there aren’t any noticeable trends or fluctuations since the previous report.

So, then, how best to present enough information to answer most questions, but not overload everyone with more information than they care to ever know?

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