Beth Kanter has a great fictional example on her blog today about a nonprofit called “Seagulls Global Internship International” that works with students. Those students have turned against the nonprofit by creating a Facebook group to criticize the new organizational logo. Beth asks, what would you do if you were the social networking manager? Would you bash the students, ignore them, defend your decision, or explain the design process? What do you tell your colleagues who are skeptical of using Facebook anyway?
Here’s my advice:
1) Respond directly with respectful humor. Acknowledge the comments right away, engage in the conversation at least initially, but make it clear that the decision won’t be reversed. A little self-deprecating humor can go a long way in cases like this. Admit that the students might have a good point or two. I wouldn’t get into the design process much at all, unless a bunch of the students were actually involved in it. In that case, you should ask those students themselves if they’d be willing to defend the logo decisions to their peers.
2) Then immediately try to redirect their energy into something related but new. Maybe one of the signature initiatives of the nonprofit needs its own logo, or maybe they need a logo for their next worldwide seagull fest. Maybe it’s time to update the design of the student recruitment brochure. Explain exactly how the students can participate in the development of that logo or new design. And make sure it’s legit — that they will actually have some say in the process. The students who are genuinely interested in design and logos will jump at the chance to be a part of something real. It also shows that you really do respect their opinions.
3) Tell the rest of your staff to take a deep breath. Remind your colleagues that you should all be overjoyed that the students are so interested in your organization that they are willing to create their own group to bash a logo. Since they are genuinely interested in the program and are not just “bashers du jour,”Â this is really a great opportunity to find waysÂ to make the students feelÂ like they haveÂ a real voice and role in the organization.