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…)


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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SEO vs. Consistent Style

August 25, 2009

In the process of promoting this year’s Capacity Building Training Series, we’re implementing some of the SEO techniques we’ve been studying.

As Communications staff, one dilemma we’ve encountered is the use of alternate spellings from what we use in the TSNE style guide. Such as “nonprofit” vs. “non-profit” and “fundraising” vs. “fund-raising,” etc. TSNE uses “nonprofit” (except for the NonProfit Center) throughout all materials and the website.

So “non-profit” (the example in question was “non-profit financial management”) does not actually appear within the text on our page. Which translates to a lower quality score for certain search terms (“non-profit fund-raising”), and thus lower SEO potential.

If you have an organizational style guide, how do you address this issue? Do you ignore the style guide on your website in order to allow for multiple options to appear within the text? Do you stick to your style guide and remain consistent? Have you created a new style rule that still allows for consistency?

So, Larry King and company have proclaimed, “It’s in to be Black.”  He explained, laughingly (and that’s the part that really got me), on one of his recent shows that his eight-year-old son wants to be Black.

When did it become appropriate for people in the news business to joke about race like bad comedians on cable networks?

So, I guess I wasn’t in before?

First, King is suggesting that being Black was out until he decreed otherwise. As a Black American, I’ve always thought that being Black was in. I either felt sorry for or angry at those pathetic people who acted otherwise — the people that unwittingly helped to galvanize the Civil Rights movement and the centuries-long activism (most of it left out of the history books) that came before it.

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Last year, marketing for the Nonprofit Workout was simple in one key way – we promoted it in as many places as possible. We had several hundred seats to fill, after all.

The challenge is that we don’t necessarily know what worked and what didn’t. There were obvious spikes in our web traffic and registrations that could be tied to specific e-Newsletters or partner events, but as is the way with these things, most people registered in the final weeks before the conference. And while there is a “how did you hear about us?” field in the registration process, it’s not detailed enough to pinpoint which specific websites/calendars/partners were most effective.

So the conference wound up selling out — and even had a waiting list! — and we breathed a sigh of relief.

This year we are running a training series, so the marketing plan is very different. Instead of several hundred seats available at an all-day conference, we’re only trying to fill 30 seats at a half-day training — each month. We’re trying to find the right balance between promoting it enough places to sell out each training, but not having a long waiting list full of disappointed people.

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How Do You Use Our Website?

September 30, 2008

We are preparing for a revamp, and we’d like to ask you to take six to eight (6 – 8) minutes to fill out a quick survey, to help us evaluate and improve the TSNE and NonProfit Center websites as a resource to you. It’s quick, easy, secure and confidential.