Co-authored by Hannah Studen, BBA ‘21 William & Mary
The first few months of 2020 brought new challenges for organizations, and that was before the global COVID-19 pandemic. In the face of economic uncertainty and the transition to remote work, technology is becoming the primary channel of engagement, prompting organizations in every industry to reevaluate their digital strategy.
Recently, we hosted a webinar on how to realign your priorities to meet these needs. We have been receiving questions from nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies about how to tackle their current digital transformation challenges in light of current events. During our webinar, 65% of attendees noted that their biggest challenge is moving major in-person events to virtual events. Other common challenges included breaking through the noise, planning for 2021, and communicating the relevance of their work.
To learn more about how to realign your 2020 digital strategy, you can download the recording of our “Realign Your 2020 Digital Strategy” webinar.
Combating the Challenges
Our recent webinar covered the importance of planning for long-term digital transformation. We discussed three crucial steps that you should take in order to realign your digital strategy.
Crafting a digital strategy
When crafting a digital strategy, we define and explain how a digital-first strategy should appear. Your digital strategy is—at its core—about how you will truly achieve organizational impact by using technology. It requires a common platform, and it must connect strongly with your digital and organizational goals. We typically map out a digital theory of change to serve as the foundation upon which all digital efforts should be built. A digital theory of change includes defining your activities, the outcomes, and the impact of each. Service mapping, which consists of a “front stage” and “back stage” that helps visualize all of the relevant technology, channels, and systems that help fuel an organization’s digital strategy.
Engaging your key stakeholders
Research shows that many nonprofits are concerned about 2021 as they see a decline in contributions. In order to engage individuals, you should get personal with them, communicate your work and value, and be COVID-19 relevant. There are opportunities to reach a wider audience by making your online event bigger, more unique, and more impactful than your traditional in-person event. When thinking through how you will engage stakeholders, group them in audiences that are relevant to their type of engagement, such as individuals, partners, and event attendees. There could be cross-over in these audiences, but you will begin to see how their needs and channels might change based on the action they are looking to complete. Create goals and a storyline by understanding the possible experience for each of your relevant stakeholders and how you cause digital tools to make that experience more delightful or easy to navigate.
Taking a lean approach
Taking a lean approach helps your organization stay flexible and adaptable, particularly in an environment where audience needs are changing at a rapid pace. Define the key elements for success by developing a measurement plan, breaking down large goals into smaller increments, and building in regular feedback loops. Breaking down goals allows for making adjustments as you go and learning from your mistakes in a faster and more effective manner. Feedback loops help test new ideas and identify areas of improvement.
Here we answer some questions that are commonly asked by clients.
Q: What are the best tools for promoting interaction during webinars? I’m curious to know the latest creative thinking in this area.
A: We have found great results by using polls. Platforms such as Slido help promote more engagement, as it combines slides and Q&A. We also use quick polls and breakouts during our Zoom meetings. It’s also important not to overlook social media and hashtags; it can be a great way to connect with your audience. For example, your audience may already be very active on Twitter.
Q: Metrics are always important to measure and consider before, during, and after implementation, but it’s easy to get lost in too much available data. What are the top few metrics that are important when assessing digital strategy success?
A: You first must define a measurement plan before implementation, as you can easily get lost in the data and numbers. You should tie the plan to your organizational goals. Some important measurements include engagement metrics and rates where you will want to specifically look at the percent of your audience that is actively engaging with your content. Additionally, you should also assess your growth rates and examine your monthly web traffic growth. Consider whether or not you’re making consistent progress, but make sure to be realistic when evaluating your growth rates.
Q: Do you have any solutions you can propose for technology constrained geographies with poor online access like Africa?
A: In locations with low bandwidth, mobile access is often the only connection. Wechat has a high success rate in Asia, as it involves a more conversational basis and is less of an immersive experience. However, we expect bandwidth to be rapidly increasing in the next five years, and more satellites will be placed around the world.
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