Mike Kujawski is Vice President of Strategic Marketing & Digital Engagement at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM). Mike blogs at Public Sector Marketing 2.0, speaks frequently on social media and serves public sector and non-profit clients internationally. The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal of and a frequent contributor to the .
MKC: I noticed that you deal not only with nonprofits but the public sector. Do they have the same kind of problems?
MIKE: No, definitely different, but there is this common theme of wanting to do social good – not pushing a product or service down people’s throats with the sole aim of making money. There’s a difference between a nonprofit of five people, with one person wearing multiple hats, and a government organization with multi-million dollar budgets, of course. It’s like night and day. But when you look at the individuals, the actual people involved in running the programs and services, there is much less difference.
MKC: You consider yourself an expert in “strategic engagement.” What does that mean?
MIKE: Well, I avoid the words expert or guru. At the end of the day I’m a strategist. That’s my expertise, organizational strategy. Whether you’re a nonprofit or government organization, my aim is to help you be more efficient and effective by leveraging the modern digital space.
MKC: Engagement means something specific to me, which has to do with this passion you’re talking about, and getting audiences more involved. Is that what it means to you?
MIKE: Oh absolutely, that’s one of the core outcomes. Organizations will have different goals. I always try to help people identify a key issue they currently have in their business. Some, for example, are extremely risk-averse and extremely late to the game of adopting social media, so their goal could be to leverage the tremendous amount of business intelligence out there through strategic social media engagement. We help them set forth the steps they need to take in order to have this happen – to build that culture within their organizations, start training people on the importance of monitoring these channels, and how it could actually help them tie into the objectives they are working on.
MKC: What is the issue that brings most clients to your door?
MIKE: Being over inundated with requests from their supervisors saying, ‘We’ve got to do something about social media, and who are we going to go to, who do we trust out there, because now they come a dime a dozen.’ Oftentimes there are so many great services or products these organizations are responsible for, but just have no idea how to get them to market, how to get people using them, how to get people engaged.
MKC: Could you bring it down to a specific example of an issue?
MIKE: A nonprofit organization suddenly waking up after seven years and realizing that nobody even knows of them, even though they thought they were the best, because they haven’t been engaging on line and they have no digital footprints. So when people are Googling for them, nothing appears about them; but their competitor appears. And because they’re not engaging, they’re not being indexed on Google. The stats are, 92% of people online start with a search engine. So where are you? It comes down to basic search engine visibility. It could be as simple as leaving a YouTube video. The fact is, YouTube is now the second largest search engine. Think of the impact that has. That means that people are now going directly to video content. They want video explanations of what you’re about. This has tremendous implications. If you look at mobile stats, by the end of 2012, over 50% of world Internet access on a daily basis is going to occur via mobile device. Yet right now, as of today, less than 1% of websites are mobile friendly. Think of the impact that’s going to have.
MKC: What was your goal in starting your blog?
MIKE: When we were starting the Centre, I needed a place to put down my scattered thoughts publicly so they could be challenged. That’s one thing, and another reason was, to be honest, I was getting tired of answering the same questions multiple times per week via email. So early on, I started writing blog posts that actually were answers to common questions I was getting, almost like an FAQ. Then, when anybody asked me that question, I’d just point them to the blog post. Not only would that drive traffic, it was a great way to build that digital footprint for myself, all based on topics that I know people are asking, because they were asking me via email. Over time, as I built my community, I also started blogging on topics people happened to be searching for. There’s a great tool out there, Google Insights for Search, which shows you what words and terms and phrases people tend to be using based on your topic. So just being smart in how you structure your content can have tremendous implications in terms of your visibility. Over time people build trust in you and you are perceived as an expert in that particular niche in that field. It’s just consistency, transparency and openness. I call people out and ask them, can you challenge me on this, show me the other side. I’m not afraid to be doing that.
MKC: Do you get responses to those challenges?
MIKE: Oh absolutely, yes. What I’ve found, though, is that it’s hard to track specifically where the discussions are going. Early on, people would leave multiple comments solely on the blog, but now it is aggregated, streamed and accessed by so many different sources. For example, through RSS, my blog content is pulled onto GOVLOOP (a social network for government) where government focused posts get much more discussion than on my actual blog. Then there’s a whole separate discussion on the Twitter channel and now Google +. So you have to be cognizant of where that’s happening. Some of the discussions are behind firewalls. For example, the federal and provincial governments here all have their own internal wikis, which are blocked to people who aren’t public servants. And I know for a fact that my blog posts are often shared and discussed behind the firewall on these internal wikis. But that’s just one channel. I’d say my strongest channel is Twitter, I get the most value from it. And then things like putting up my occasional presentations on SlideShare.
MKC: What is your biggest challenge with clients from the public sector?
MIKE: The challenge of dealing with a risk-averse culture, where people are programmed and compensated based on risk aversion, is huge. It’s not everybody, but you’re playing an uphill battle if you’re looking for the opposite. What breeds success? Failure. You need to fail. The organizations that reward smart failure are the organizations that get ahead with innovation. So it’s a Catch 22 – government wants to innovate, but yet it wants to avoid failure at all costs. So how are you going to do that?
Guest blogger Don Akchin writes frequently about marketing and philanthropy at donakchin.com.
This interview series is produced with the generous support of the Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Zone.