It Worked Because We Were Ready For It

Robin Dixon of the Firelight Foundation

I’ve written before about the concept of newsjacking – or getting your organization and its point of view included in the updated versions of news stories, often hours or days after they first break.  You have to be fast on your feet to newsjack. What’s easier to do is to prepare your response to a big story that you know is coming up. That’s what Robin Dixon did, when she learned that the Facebook IPO would happen.  I had a great time mentoring Robin earlier this year as she revised her marketing strategy, and I’m happy to share her story with you about how she successfully gained some great media coverage for the Firelight Foundation by connecting it to the Facebook IPO. Robin got Firelight ready, and that preparation paid off.   ~Kivi

Guest Post by Robin Dixon of Firelight Foundation

A few months ago, our Board of Directors identified a unique press opportunity related to the Facebook IPO. Firelight Foundation was born from a successful IPO, and Facebook provided a highly visible way to talk about tech IPOs and the future of philanthropy, something we take pretty seriously. It was a great idea, but how to make it happen was the million-dollar question. We decided to take three approaches to the story, creating a trail that journalists, donors, and anyone could follow up on.

First, we established the facts with a background story about how the foundation was started from a successful tech IPO. We did this through a blog our director writes with Alliance Magazine, an international magazine on philanthropy. Second, we asked our founders to write an op-ed about their experience with a successful IPO that spoke to Facebook employees and encouraged their smart, thoughtful philanthropy. Finally, we published a more personal side of the story from one of our founders on our blog. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

We had an ideal placement for the op-ed on the day before the Facebook IPO. Since we only received 12 hours notice, we immediately shifted into calling our network to let everyone know how to help. We called Board members and offered cover letters, subject lines, and ideas on where to share the op-ed. A Google alert let me know when the op-ed was posted, six hours earlier then expected, and I sent the link out right away. We lost no time at all, and a handful of people started talking about it late that night on Facebook. The response of our Board was invaluable and our founders were happy to have the leadership support. We then reached out to our donors, friends, and colleagues through personal emails and our mailing list. That exposure brought an entirely new round of attention.

In the end, the op-ed was tweeted, shared, and posted on sites that reached millions. It trended on LinkedIn and one Bay area TV station interviewed our founders for the 5 o’clock news. At least 550 people took an additional step and pushed it out further by sharing, tweeting, or emailing it. These are just the engagement numbers I can track. The next day, we posted our founder’s more personal story on our blog. We again asked our network to share the story and keep the conversation going. Our blog traffic tripled and our website traffic doubled.

There have been a few learning moments along the way, which will help us as we move forward in this campaign about IPOs and smart philanthropy. Ultimately, this three-step approach worked well. The fact that we were ready for it and could move quickly into action made the real difference.

Robin Dixon is the Communications Officer at Firelight Foundation, which works to improve vulnerable children’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa through grassroots philanthropy. She’s a strategist and writer who’s in love with video and grassroots media. Find her on LinkedIn and @robindixon or reach her directly at robin@firelightfoundation.org