Eric Morgentstern Discusses Nonprofit Communication

On episode 378 of KC Cares, we talk with Eric Morgenstern, CEO with Morningstar Communications! Great discussion about nonprofit communication! Listen now!

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On episode 378 of KC Cares, we talk with Eric Morgenstern, CEO with Morningstar Communications! Great discussion about nonprofit communication! Listen now!


Morningstar Communications | Fri Apr 03 2020 

Eric Morgenstern, CEO

They specialize in strategic communications targeted at promoting businesses and organizations mission and products. 



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Bobby Keys: [00:00:00] Welcome back to Casey cares,

Kansas city’s nonprofit voice brought to you by a charitable communications and generously underwritten by the Kauffman foundation. I am Bobby keys.

Ruth Bigus: [00:00:18] We are doing the virtual thing was our listeners to be, without all the great folks, we are able to connect and provide really great advice and information. And right now we have, again, one of our favorite folks, and that is Eric Morgan stern with Morningstar communications. Thanks for being with us, Eric.

Bobby Keys: [00:00:43] Thank you.

Ruth Bigus: [00:00:45] We were chatting a little bit before we joined you about how we miss that face to face contact, that I’ll tell you, hearing the human voice and the emotion and it’s, you know, it’s a good second way to do it. If we can’t be in the same room with each other on drinking my cup of coffee and. Well together.

Actually one of my, one of my positive points about what we’re going through now, all of us are having to hone our skills at audio communication and video communication. And those are skillsets that we’ve relied to face to face. For a long, long time, and I’m just not sure it’s going to be as much face to face going forward.

Bobby Keys: [00:01:24] Yeah, I, you know, I agree. I absolutely agree. I mean, because that’s, you know, we both live in the same world outside of the nonprofit world is, you know, that’s video and audio communication and messaging is. What I do. And that’s like, it’s, it’s actually, people are relying on it. More corporations are like, we’ve got to get this stuff.

We’ve got to reach people, and this is how we do it. And it’s really also, you know, what? You specialize in your messaging and, you know, that, that’s. That’s key to, you know, kind of clean up and hone in on and get all that digital presence together these days for nonprofits and small businesses.

Eric Morgenstern: [00:02:03] Going to accelerate that for all of our, not for profits, whether they want to or not.

Bobby Keys: [00:02:08] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Then that changes the fundraising aspect, right? I mean, you know, there’s, that’s a whole. That’s a whole new world. You know, we were talking about earlier before we got on that you can’t meet face to face anymore. So

Eric Morgenstern: [00:02:25] what are the first steps, right, Bobby? How many not for profits rely on a double digit percent of their annual revenue annual event?


I will tell you one of the things I’m advising regularly right now is while we all want to postpone, I am recommending cancel for many, many events because just play this out at some point where on the other side of this craziness. Well, there’s already a lot of stuff on the calendar. Now you’re going to take all this stuff that didn’t happen and plug it in on top of.

I think we’re going to see an awful lot of wasted effort. So one of the things I’m telling clients is in the not for profit world, is can you pivot from focusing on your longterm viability and core, longterm, sustainable,, important actions and flip and say, what can you do right now? To make your mission have a positive impact on our region.

So for example, turn the page, one of the not for profits that I serve on the board that focuses on third grade literacy has canceled our big fundraiser, and instead gone to all of our sponsors and said, look. We have an immediate need to get books in the hands of kids that are all at home. Now. The challenge is getting them to the library.

Boy, that’s even gone though. So we’re doing it super intense, short term, immediate book drive and trying to pivot some of the efforts that would have been for our annual fundraiser to give us the money and we’re going to buy books. And by the way, they can buy books that like 20 or 30 cents on the dollar.

So it’s better to just turn the page the money. And let them buy three books. Then I’ll let you just donate exactly what we’re here to talk about.

Glad to learn about turn the page. We’d love to talk with them and how they’re pivoting and putting that back. How were they communicating that you’re the strategic communications do would share with us how organizations like the turn the page then can get that kind of message out there because everybody’s out there on the internet now, right?

There are only four communications channels paid. Earned shared and controlled. Paid are paid. Advertising almost always wins. They’re expensive for all the not for profits. We care about earned. Is publicity or speaking engagements really, really hard to get right now unless it has direct impact on what’s going on in our world.

Shared is everything that happens in the social arena and we must activate enormous and engaging social presence and. Finally control, and this is the answer to your question, Ruth, how to not for profits and get their work to the people who matter most to them, to have control, communication and email a postal mail, a direct mail somewhere.

Where is, as all of our nonprofits have worked so hard to cultivate their own equity, their own credibility, their own thought leadership. Now is the time to let that out. Publish a blog post. Do statements on your website, activate your social channels in a way that is directly focused on what you are doing in spite of today’s craziness to help your clients, customers, people you serve, however you want to define it.

Um, direct communications is the best methodology today.

Bobby Keys: [00:06:12] So, so real quick on what you had just touched on, the controlled, aspect of it. You mentioned email, but I was thinking, is this going to be a time where we kind of go back to the low tech and maybe, you know, snail mail is something that we might want to go back to some, some nonprofits might want to revisit and coming up with a creative way to say, send something in, in innocent snail.

Eric Morgenstern: [00:06:36] Right? Of course, it’s the answer, Bobby. When someone says to me, if I’ve got a piece of information I need to share, how do I get the word out? Do I take out an ad., a news release. Do we post it on the website and we put it out on our social? Do I tell my employees to spread the word? Do I put it in my bill?

The answer is E, all of the above because everybody consumes information differently. Some people look at it directly, some people get it indirectly. Some people never look at the hard, paper version of the Cassidy business journal and only say on the digital. So I’m the only stay on the digital and never look at the paper version.

Um, the research shows that people consume their information through a huge variety of channels. And so the answer to the question is, should we incorporate postal mail? Should we do all of the above? Is the right answer.

Bobby Keys: [00:07:30] Now, kind of speaking to that point,  do you want to kind of concentrate on, on your.

You’re the people that you’re targeting and what they consume instead of broad brushing it because it seems like you could probably waste a lot of money. You know, just buying a bunch of, you know, content and having it made to where your demographic doesn’t even consume the content in that channel.

Eric Morgenstern: [00:07:52] You’re spot on. Again, the coup phrase is recipient oriented communication. It’s not what you want to say, it’s what they need to hear and that is not a semantic difference. That is a fundamental shift in how you tell your story., one of the things that we’re noticing is that people are dramatically cutting down on email right now and moving more towards text and direct social engagement because of the immediacy of it.

Um, I have lots of folks that are only checking email once, twice a day, and these are the same people that would be checking it. 30 times a day. So the vehicles are evolving., you know, coming teachers are staying focused on what’s important, not always what’s urgent. Well, in today’s world right now, for the first seeable future, I think the urgent is the importance.

And so as you were, as you were alluding to, Bobby, the content that our not for profits should be talking about should be today. Directly within the frame of how are we providing the products and services that we do, our core mission in context of what’s happening in the world. Anything else that you talk about?

I would say at least for the month of April is going to strike out as potentially. A negative that you’ll be tone deaf, that you’ll be out of touch. I’m sorry, I’m reading the Ann Landers statements this morning., I always, I always have a, a two second smile and look at that when I scan through my paper and it says, go to go to events and mingle with others.

And I’m thinking, okay, this was a long time ago cause I don’t think, you know, commit a high risk behavior. So we’ve gotta be fresh. Yeah, empathetic and short term because the day the urgent is the important, people aren’t checking email as much as frequently as they were. We’re seeing a huge trend towards more and more texting, more and more direct messaging via social people.

Have a huge sense of urgency brought on by what we’re all experiencing. I mean, is there a person that doesn’t think last month lasted three months? I mean, it was March, not the longest month in history. We talk about the beginning of the crisis and it was all in the last 30 days. No, we just didn’t really have our eyes open to it, but that’s a different conversation.

The point is. As you are not for profit, you need to be client, empathetic, proactive, sensitive. But you must keep communicating with the people who matter most to you. I go back to the hard line,, lessons I’ve learned and. 40 years of crisis management and communication, and one of them, which everyone relates to is in the absence of information, people default to a worst case scenario.

If I don’t know what’s going on, my default is not, I’m sure they’re going to take care of me. I don’t need to worry about that. In today’s world, if I don’t hear what’s going on, my default is there’s a problem. Something’s wrong. So if you’re a not for profit and you’re not having the biggest problem in the world, keep communicating.

If you’re having problems communicating it the moment you stop communicating. You fall out of everyone’s radar. And so being effective, focused short term,, but don’t just hunker down. That’s the worst thing you can do. So unlike what you see at the movies, we can’t go out into movie theaters right now.

Silence is not just think about it. If I care about the ABC organization and I haven’t heard from them in 30 days. What questions do you have of yourself? I’m sure everything’s fine, or, Oh, no, I bet there’s problems and they’re just not letting me know. Where do you think most people default? I’m pretty sure most people default to a negative answer on that.

So even if you’re having a negative answer, communicate it because then it ends out, I wonder what’s going on. Oh, they need such and such. Oh, they’re for low and a third, and their staff, Oh. They’ve moved this service to an online solution. The people who matter most to you what’s going on so that they continue to stay engaged

maybe or examples of, you don’t have to name an organization. Boy that was a blooper. They sure had a right idea to communicate, but a wrong way to scare far the wrong message. You know, Ruth, instead of poking at someone who I don’t think did a very good job, let me tell you one that I think is really smart.

Um, it starts with the core five word definition that I share freely. How to build a brand by word. Do good. And get caught. So about a week ago, I read that Joanne, which I guess is one of the largest fabric stores. I’m not a seamstress. They had,, had a partnership with Neiman Marcus that I think is about as high end as it gets.

Uh, Joanne had all this material. A Neiman Marcus had all the seamstresses who clearly weren’t busy, is no one’s buying fancy event where cause there’s no event. And so they did a deal together to provide the material, get it to the seamstress and then talk about do good and get caught. It’s one thing to do good, only to get caught.

Now you’re exploiting, now you are capitalized. But if you’re doing the right thing for the right reasons. Make sure people know. My son’s got a notice from Delta., that said, if you don’t show up for your flight, don’t worry. Everything’s so crazy. If you don’t take the flight, if the flights cancel, we’re just going to credit you the money.

Don’t worry. Which I think is a really good way., dealing with that we thing we’ll figure it out later. Take care of what you need to take care of. So instead of thinking about who’s not doing it right, I think you both know me. I’m a, I’m a glass half full kind of guy and I look at crises as opportunities for true values to shine right through.

So compare the organization that lays everybody off. To the organization that keeps everyone on board and says, we’re going to do everything now. Which value do you think is going to be more sustainable, longterm? That’s a rhetorical question. The point is every crisis is an opportunity for an organization to let its true value shine through.

And you know what. Your true values are going to shine through whether they’re good or bad. I hope you have good ones. Let them out. Explain what you’re doing. I’ve seen some incredibly innovative things being done by small businesses and doing takeout and do the right thing. At your menu, make it less expensive, provide for the health care workers.

There’s so many things that can be done. And the flip on that for our not for profit community is what can you do to help, not just be the recipient? Can you marshal your team to so base map, which is not something I’m advocating because I think that’s too important that the amateurs do, but whatever the point is, there’s something every not for profit can do to be a part of the solution.

Bobby Keys: [00:15:46] Thank you very much, Mr. Eric Morgan stern now. So how can people get ahold of you and, and find out some more information and get your blogs or articles or just stocked full of the information.

Eric Morgenstern: [00:15:58] Bobby just come to our website. It’s morning star communications and it’s morning star com, C O M m.com so no morning

and all my contact info and about a hundred blogs and it’s all ungated and it’s all designed to share, just to help our not for profits and other community leaders be as effective as possible. It’s selling their stories.

Bobby Keys: [00:16:25] Well, thank you Eric, and we appreciate it and thank you for listening to Casey cares, Kansas city’s nonprofit voice produced by charitable communications, a five Oh one C three nonprofit organization.

We’re probably sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman foundation. You like what you hear, support our efforts. And other than efforts of nonprofits around the Kansas city area. By sharing the stories of those nonprofits, underwriting opportunities are available. KC cares, podcasts are available. Casey cares online.org and if you want to be a guest, just visit us there and fill out the form, spread the love and find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at Casey cares online, and thank you for listening to Casey cares, Kansas city’s nonprofit voice.

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