News and Views from the desk of John Goslino
This page contains mainly short articles and responses to relevant news and developments that we hope will be of benefit, some link to new or revised pages.
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Situational analyses (or SWOT) can be very useful for community media and indeed other organisations.
A SWOT Analysis is a simple and powerful business technique that has been around for over 40 years. Whilst ideal for a radio station you can also do it for a specific radio program or even yourself as an individual, to map your career development. The idea is to be realistic about the situation and environment, whether you are a new station in Bangladesh or a long established one in the USA. The goal is to have a cool clear-headed base for next steps. To read more about this visit our evolving page about this useful but under-used method.
Community Score Cards is a community-based participatory tool used for holding local authorities accountable for providing quality services in areas like health, agriculture and education.
Play the video below that describes and discusses the different stages of using the tool with actual examples from Nepal. The tool is time intensive and dialogue-based, and it may not be suitable for every situation, but it is a positive approach that can support better outcomes and not just for poor people. Consensus groups are a supportive technique that can be used to understand the consensus that exists within a community on performance indicators, as example.
Sustainable funding of community-based media is an issue the world over, and also on the Isle of Man apparently, refer the article below via the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association.
That kind of situation is nothing new, and with a concerted strategy Manx Radio can develop a more viable model less reliant on public funding. But in my experience, there are many agencies and media that prefer to lobby and plead for more public money rather than develop a strong business model. Audience Dialogue has been assisting media overcome issues such as that of Manx Radio for about 20 years. Maybe we need another 20 years? http://www.cba.org.uk/featured/the-true-cost-of-broadcasting-with-public-funding-accountability/
Our resources on how to achieve this are available from this page.
There is still a lot of money (and time) invested in so called "media assistance" and "capacity building" that offers little real and sustainable value to media in the developing world. A report by Mary Myers addresses the challenges of supporting independent media in countries where media freedoms are restricted, based on country case studies in Bangladesh, Cambodia, South Sudan, Syria and Uganda, several of which we'd like to work in, especially to support community media sustainability.
According to this report (I have underlined some items that we strive to address or overcome, and add comments in brackets), the dilemmas of foreign support include short-term donor strategies, the lack of reliable local partners (often due to lack of training), the patchy evidence of the positive impact of past media support (no surprise that most agencies report positive outcomes of their work, even if there is no evidence), the management of inflammatory media coverage and sometimes hate speech in countries that face inter-ethnic tensions or sectarian conflict.
Report also outlines strategies that have had some success, like foreign and UN broadcasting, training and advocacy from the outside, emphasising neutral and 'public interest' topics when working from inside a country, and supporting local rights organisations and media advocacy groups.
The study concludes, amongst other factors, that media should be a key area of political economy analysis, that media assistance should be incorporated more explicitly within broader development systems, and that support should concentrate on media outlets and not just on individual journalists. I only hope this report (click here to access it, PDF document) has resonance amongst donors and aid agencies, as media assistance can be much more effective
Facebook and Community Radio
Many organisations know or believe that social media like Facebook is one of the best ways to connect with their customers and members. Often many people in the radio target audience use Facebook much more than they listen to radio. Facebook is a free business tool.
However, in our experience many organisations forget the "marketing" in social media marketing and think Facebook success is about publishing content and getting as many people as possible to "Like" their Facebook fan page.
My advice is that you need to consider how Facebook can help you achieve specific station goals, that is, success with Facebook is not just getting more fans and followers to a page. Just building a list is of little value unless you do something with it. This means you need to build a community, engage your audience and create word-of-mouth by persuading your audience to share your message with their friends.
This all relates very well to what community radio needs to do, but how can your station take practical advantage of Facebook, to link activity to a meaningful outcome? A couple of ideas to get you thinking.
1. Create separate Facebook pages each about a specific topic.
As we've noted before it is more important for community radio to sell programs rather than the station itself. The community is not interested in a station per se, but is keen to listen to programs that interest them.
Facebook allows a station to build a community of interest around topics/subjects and find prospective listeners who can be invited to tune in to programs/presenters that address that topic, such as reducing teenage pregnancy or finding local jobs.
Linking the Facebook page to a specific page on the station website allows people to follow through to access more information about the programs, listen to sample programs and subscribe, such as to receive an email newsletter or meet the presenter.
2. Running campaigns for specific (social) purposes.
This requires that you use a third-party application to install a tab on your Facebook page. Once you install a tab you can publish an offer or a piece of engaging content (say an article about the impact of one of your programs on community behaviour, helping lives etc) that is designed to get page (program) fans to take a specific action (for example, buy a podcast of a program, make a donation, renew a membership, print a sponsor's coupon).
You can also "Like-gate" your offer, requiring users to "Like" your Facebook page in exchange for a free gift, say a podcast of a program. But getting more "Likes" is only one benefit of running a campaign, as it is important to get people to participate and share your offer or content with their friends.
As mentioned above, getting someone to "Like" your page (or program) is really just list-building. What really matters is what you do with your fans. For example, if you lead a fan to print a membership coupon or program voucher, chances are the fan will become a paid member or program buyer.
And if you can also get that same fan (person) to share your offer you will likely attract new fans and prospects—and, therefore, potential new listeners and members. People trust recommendations from friends, and a social campaign is a great way to inspire your station's fans to create word-of-mouth referrals for you.
What do you need to keep in mind? At least two things.
Facebook is not the same as having your own website (or an alternative to a website for an organisation). Facebook is controlled by Facebook, and Facebook determines what you can and cannot do.
Ideally Facebook can help drive people to your website, where you can do a lot more, and get people to take a specific action as noted above.
And secondly, whilst Facebook is mainly free to use (at least for the time being), being effective with Facebook requires constant work to publish, respond and connect. If you are unable to put in a consistent effort then we suggest you don't bother. Your fans will soon get bored and forget about you.
What information about audiences/stakeholders should a community services organisation collect, and how should it do so?
We had a recent request along these lines to inform a strategic planning exercise. The not-for-profit organisation wanted to learn more about its audiences/stakeholders to provide direction on key issues (ie exploratory) and also shed light on specific new strategy ideas to generate more income. The organisation had previously relied substantively on ad-hoc verbal discussions with stalkeholders including members.
A key strategy we suggested was the use of consensus groups to determine what its key stakeholders, in particular funding agencies, sponsors and program developers, agreed on. What general issues, opportunities and strategies influential parties felt were important to that organisation in question. Learning about the consensus that exists in any group is important and can be done by non-research specialists, unlike focus groups.
We've also created a new page to briefly cover the activities a community services organisation could implement to better understand its audience, aptly called audience research for community organisations.
A restaurant in the northern Dutch city of Groningen has carried out a week-long experiment during which diners could decide themselves how much to pay for their meal. The experiment was designed to attract more customers and to improve the dining experience.
During the week, says Keimpe Postema, the owner of the Feithuis Restaurant, "turnover fell, but now we have a better insight into what our customers desire". We have to say this is a very good example of engaging with customers and receiving valuable (even confronting) direct feedback about your menu, cooking, service and value for money. The restaurant may have lost some money initially but is the wiser now and if it applies the lessons learned it should be able to gain more customers and certainly more repeat business longer-term. You can learn more at the link below.