.ORG, The Public Interest Registry: Case Study

America’s 911 Foundation is a certified 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Leesburg, VA, and was started in October 2001 by Ted and Lisa Sjurseth in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to support Active First Responders (EMS, Fire, Police) and their families. The Foundation is active in the larger community in several ways – including awarding a college scholarship every year to a child of a first responder and also running a competition for the drawing of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, known as the “Opportunity Bike” both made possible with funds raised from the Foundation’s annual 911 Ride occurring in August of each year and reaching the three major attack sites hit on 9/11/2001 – The Pentagon, Ground Zero/The World Trade Center, and Somerset, PA.

Over the last ten years, America’s 911 Foundation has consistently grown its volunteer base and the reach it has through its outreach programs, without any of the large network of volunteers ever taking a penny of payment/salary.

America’s 911 Foundation recognized their need to increase brand recognition and awareness, encourage participation, and spur donation to advance the Foundation’s mission and reach.

PIR, as a dynamic Internet company and also the home of the .ORG community worldwide, was already engaged in social media in the form of blogging, monitoring/commenting, reciprocal linking, etc.

Upon coming to RMR in the spring of 2008, PIR was in need of assistance with creating a strategic focus and framework to govern these activities, particularly the blogging, and was in need of guidance and marketing/PR expertise around whether or not to participate in new social media platforms, i.e. Ning, to promote .ORG and continue to build on their broad and diverse community base to further complement ongoing marketing communications initiatives and efforts that were in place.

RMR set out to help PIR achieve their objectives through creation and execution of a comprehensive social media plan comprising the use of several tools and portals. With the overriding goal of positioning PIR and their team as experts and insightful participants in the conversations, RMR was also able to help to continue to position PIR as the ‘connector’ to the larger .ORG community across the globe and earn the attention of the audience.

Largest goals at the outset included the need to first identify the community to target and interact with, then proceed with cultivating relationships with individuals within this community and provide them with valued content and connections to turn them into ‘raving fans,’ and then empower these fans to act upon this support and spread the message of the .ORG brand and community to additional channels.

Over the year and a half since beginning the social media program, the largest successes have come from the ‘raving fans’ we have been able to grow throughout the various initiatives, who have in turn helped to spread the message about .ORG and the .ORG community across the globe. The effects of this can be seen in readership statistics for The .ORG Blog (http://pir.org/blog) which show that it has continued to increase, as has participation from the community.

Initiatives such as the guest blogger program, bringing industry experts to the .ORG Blog for the benefit of the community, the branded PIR team blogging presence by area of individual expertise, and series around key topics, for example World Voices and the DNSSEC initiative that PIR has pioneered to bolster internet security for users across the domain and advocating for adoption across the Internet as a whole have helped with this acceptance among the community/audience and built credibility and trust around PIR’s participation in the wider dialogue. Additionally in the Spring of 2009, the first-ever .ORG Ambassador Awards were announced entirely through blog presences, between .ORG and their partner, the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), whose annual NTC conference served as the venue for the announcement of finalists and the winner in April, 2009 in San Francisco.

“RMR is exceptionally strong in Social Media.  That is why after an in-depth national search, we selected them.  Now it has been two years and they have been great to work with–they are smart, creative, organized, drive our program daily and have exceeded our expectations!”

-Crystal Peterson, Marketing and Communications Manager