The following is draft material for my next book, Welcome to the Fifth Estate (the follow up to Now Is Gone, which is almost out of print). Comments may be used in the final edition. You can download the first drafted chapter of the new edition — Welcome to the Fifth Estate — for free.
Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of an outreach effort and results are lagging. Those measurable outcomes – the ones based on your original objectives before your strategy was created – seem unattainable. The desert of organic community development turns into the Sahara, and fear begins to develop.
That’s when you consider a course correction. Does a course correction represent a failure?
Maybe, and maybe not yet. Almost every online effort experiences some tweaks and optimization. For organizations that are newer to online communities, this may be a result of not fully understanding how the Fifth Estate views the issue, or perhaps simply a question of fine-tuning an application so it’s easier to use. In the worst cases, a strategic choice is off base such as a misunderstandings about the value an organization offers its stakeholders.
I look at the issues that arose over KFC’s recent offering of pink fried chicken buckets to benefit Komen’s fight against breast cancer as a classic example of this kind of disconnect. Obesity is often a pre-condition of breast cancer amongst older women, according to research linked to on the Komen web site. The end result was a bit of a disconnect with the nonprofit blogging community who saw the partnership as hypocritical.
What is clear is that monitoring measurement (discussed in depth in the next chapter) during outreach should tune you in to possible failures and opportunities for optimization before they happen. When these issues are identified, not making a course correction would be the worst failure of all.