Guided Visualizations at a Social Media Strategy Workshop | Beth's Blog

Guided Visualizations at a Social Media Strategy Workshop


Flickr Photo by El Dave

Note from Beth: As a trainer,  I’m constantly on the prowl for new ideas for activities and exercises that get beyond death by PowerPoint.    After spending a lot of time developing trainer of trainers curriculum, it is also fun to incorporate new ideas.      I’ve looked to meditation and reflection practices before – in fact – last year during a guest instructor appearance in Jennifer Aaker‘s “Power of Social Technology” class at Stanford,  I had the class do a reflection activity that involved eating a Hershy kiss.

When colleague Dan Cohen told me of his recent experience using guided imagery in a social media workshop, I thought it was definitely valuable to share with others.

Seeing Social Media Success Before It Happens by Dan Cohen

A powerful lesson hit home during a recent two-day training.

Before starting work on developing a social media plan, a communications plan, or even just pieces of it, take some deep breaths. Then, in that quiet moment that follows, think about what fantastic success might look like.  Examine all the reasons it was such a success.

After you do all that — and only then — set off to make it happen.

Ironically, and what made that lesson so powerful, is that I wasn’t at the training program on social media to learn, but to conduct it with Ana-Marie Jones of CARD – Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disaster. Our trainees represented a cohort of 50 health and public health officials connected with the UC Berkeley School for Public Health – Center for Health Leadership.

As you might expect, the 16-hour program covered all the basics of social media: from how and why to write a social media plan, to a review of the major social media tools, including LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook and WordPress.

When it came time for an afternoon session on using Facebook to build organizational capacity, we all took a pause. Berkeley Prof. Ellie Schindelman, the host of the event, said she wanted to approach things a little differently.

Instead of jumping right into the topic, she decided that the session should begin with a guided visualization.  Ellie thought a moment of serenity in the heat of a very intensive training and cohort-building workshop might be a good idea. Whatever the participants were expecting as they returned from lunch, there was Ellie telling them to tune everything out, close their eyes and imagine it was January 2012.

She asked the group to think about what their social media usage might look like within their organizations.  She asked then to think who their allies were.  She asked what tools they thought made the most impact over the “past” year.

I admit that when I’d first heard Ellie suggest this approach, I was skeptical. However, I figured I might as well try the exercise myself to see if it could help me solve a problem that had been stumping me back at the office.

I have become a big believer in social media, and am convinced it can help advance the social change work that binds all of us in the Communications Network.  However, in a true “Doctor, heal thyself” moment, I recognized that some of my colleagues at FCP haven’t been gravitating toward it as quickly as I would like them to do.  We face the same organizational challenges that everyone does – too many demands on our time and balancing the tactical vs. strategic dilemma for engaging with these tools.

In my visualization, I saw a path to empower each of my FCP colleagues to “own” a topic or an issue, and develop a unique voice and expertise.  For example, our staff guides a coalition in California to preserve the state’s investment in health and human services. While our point person continually works to empower advocates to stay on message, she has not used social media tools to broaden the reach of these messages.  It was powerful to visualize how a year from now we could be using these tools to create a statewide echo chamber among a vast network of opinion leaders.

It wasn’t rocket science, but a moment of peace helped me see a new way to solve the problem.  Once I could see what success looked like, I started to work backward on how to implement the vision.

I wasn’t the only one, who felt that way either. A participant said to me afterward, “I liked it. If you can see it in your mind, you can create it in your life.”

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  A long time ago, I had a colleague who would visualize successful pitches to the toughest reporters.  He would imagine the conversation before it happened, see the path he had to take to be successful, and then implement it in real time.  It was astounding.  Seeing success before it happened made him more confident when he picked up the phone.

Ironically, even in today’s world, where the velocity of information is overwhelming, taking a moment to breathe and to think about what success looks like can make a huge difference before actually jumping in and doing the work.

Don’t just take my word for it. Here are the questions Ellie Schindelman posed–try them on yourself or better yet, partner with a social media skeptic at the office

I invite you to close your eyes, get comfortable, and take 3 long, deep breaths…

Now, imagine that it is January 2012.

Last year at this time, you decided to focus on one communication goal for your organization – such as increased visibility, community engagement, advocacy, or education. Then you decided on one social media strategy to help you meet that goal, focusing on one audience.

Take a couple of minutes to think about this goal and social media strategy that you selected.

You are at your office today, and thinking about how everything has turned out so well with your social media strategy. Look around your organization.

What is different today from last year?
How are you using this social media strategy?
Who is working on this and what are they doing? How do they feel about it?
How do you feel about what is happening?
How do you know your plan is working?
What evidence do you see of the impact of your social media plan?
What do you hear from staff, clients, customers, your boss, your funders?

Take a few more minutes to look around and observe what is different in your organization, feeling really, really good about what you have accomplished.

Now, take 3 more long, deep breaths, open your eyes, and write down what you saw in your visualization.

This blog post was originally published on the Communications Network Blog.

Dan Cohen is the Principal and Founder of Full Court Press Communications – a firm dedicated to providing strategic communications counsel to foundations and others working to make social change.

You can find more social media training resources here on the UC Berkeley School of Public Health Center for Health Leadership website.

5 Responses

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