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posted by Teresa Coles Jan 28,2011 @ 04:29AM

In Nonprofit Messaging, Brevity is Bravery

Rarely are nonprofits simple endeavors. More often than not they deliver a plethora of services for their community. Consider the American Red Cross. The Red Cross dispenses international relief, responds to natural disasters, collects blood donations, offers CPR classes, and administers vaccinations, among myriad other offerings. Each one of these functions could potentially warrant its own individual organization, but the Red Cross handles them all.

The Red Cross’s diverse service offerings could present a very difficult communications problem. How does the organization summarize what it does to the public? It wants everyone to know that it offers these various services, but must do so in a manner that is clear and understandable, so the Red Cross operates under a single headline: emergency response. Each of its services, while not seemingly related at first blush, represents a segment of this overarching mission.

If the Red Cross attempted to market all of its varied services to the entire population, its message would become muddled and its cause lost. By clarifying its message, the Red Cross becomes the globe’s monolithic resource of emergency relief.

The Red Cross offers a tremendous example for all nonprofits to follow. While your organization may provide a multitude of services, it must refine and clarify its message to be heard in a marketplace that is getting more crowded every day.

posted by Cathy Monetti Jan 27,2011 @ 07:12AM

Moments that Last Forever,With A Little Love

Time clicks by, moment by moment, until suddenly—out of nowhere, out of the blue—a wonderful thing happens that hits you by surprise, that makes your heart leap wildly, and you know: This, I will mark. This joy, this moment, I will carry on with me, forever.

It happened today. I was intently working away, took a quick break to check my email inbox and there it was. A message from my RP partner and friend, Kevin, sent to each of us who has worked on With A Little Love, an initiative to raise money to support the working poor in our community.

"Hello all. Just wanted to share some exciting news. A man walked into The Cooperative Ministry today and stroked a check for $15,000 because he 'was so moved by the TV spot that aired during the holidays.'

That $15,000 is preventing homelessness for many families, and it's because of the work you all have done. I hope that this inspires your day. It certainly does mine." (See the spot at the end of this post.)

My heart leapt. (Yes, wildly.) And for so many reasons, but here's the one that occurred to me first, in that magical moment. This is what happens when your heart is in the right place.

Fifteen months ago, Kevin, Teresa, Ryon, Tom and I made the decision to focus our efforts on doing work for socially conscious companies and nonprofit organizations. It was (quite literally) a leap of faith, and I have not regretted that decision for one single second. There are so many people doing important work in this world, and we come to work every day fired up, ready to do what we can to move their causes forward.

And so the $15k gift is highly symbolic to me. There are many people whose work and generosity led to it (and the countless other donations made by those who have donated online, texted donations, and downloaded the Hold My Hand single): songwriter and Hootie & the Blowfish drummer Jim "Soni" Sonefeld—the true heart of this movement—who made the song happen and who, along with his Hootie bandmates, donated all artist proceeds from the song to the working poor; Darryl Izzard and the Benedict College Gospel Choir for a divinely-inspired performance; our friends at Mad Monkey, who created the TV spot; Ryan Cockrell, who brought the vision of this movement to life in video; David Kunz, executive director of The Cooperative Ministry and all-around prince of a guy, who enriches every life he touches; the entire creative team.

I will long remember, and be grateful for, my involvement on this initiative. It is proof positive that good things come to those who serve.

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posted by Teresa Coles Jan 24,2011 @ 07:01AM

Doing vs. Talking

What does it take to connect people to your cause? Traditional nonprofit marketing tells us that if we craft a noble and inspired story, people will automatically be drawn to us and to our mission.

While story telling that illustrates the impact of our mission can be a very powerful tool over the long run, nonprofit marketers must consider strategies that can facilitate easy and immediate interactions with potential supporters; in other words, just give them something to do that’s relevant to them today. Once they have chosen to interact with us — whether it’s following our organization online, volunteering, buying tickets to an event, making a donation, etc. — we can then share the larger story of our organization and begin to develop a deeper relationship with them, cultivating them from “one-time buyers” to active, engaged brand loyalists.

Creating opportunities for your audience to connect with you vs. attempting to carry on a long conversation with them all at once can make the difference in winning over supporters. (Think of it like dating!) It’s the basis of how effective commercial brands are built, and it’s no different with nonprofits.

For more insights on how nonprofits can apply commercial branding strategies to cause-related marketing programs, check out Katya Andresen’s Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes.

posted by Cathy Monetti Jan 21,2011 @ 12:35PM

Moe is We

There's nothing I love better than a Friday lunch with my RP pals, made better when we're patronizing a client. Today we headed to Moe's in West Columbia, and it was the highlight of a really great week.

After loading up with a Joey Jr. and more than my fair share of salsa, I joined the RP crew at the table for some fascinating conversation and a lot of laughing. We planned a series of Explore Meeting excursions, took a couple of phone calls from The-Work-Goes-On Tom Barr, got great news from CreateAthon Evangelist Peyton Rowe, and had a great idea for a new Moe's Facebook promo. And just for good measure, we named every Moe's poster non-rock star dead rock star in the room. (Did you know Moe's stands for Musicians, Outlaws and Entertainers?)

It was the best kind of impromptu lunch — productive and fun. Isn't that a great reminder to get out from behind the computer and out into the world every now and then?

posted by Apprentices Jan 19,2011 @ 12:20PM

Marketing Trends: Cracking the DIY Code

In this changed economy, DIY culture is king. Let me introduce you to the new consumers (and they can be intimidating): they’re ready to reupholster a great Craigslist chair, bake sixty homemade pies for their wedding, or use online home rental services to play travel agent. They’re also deliberately choosing to support other DIY friendly ventures—shopping Etsy for handcrafted Christmas gifts or spending more to eat at locally-sourced and operated restaurants.

Ok, you’re thinking, I get it. But unless you’re Home Depot or an Etsy extraordinaire, you’re probably wondering: what does this mean for my marketing strategy? If you crack the DIY code, the answer is simple. Three words: do it yourself. Emphasis on the last word. The DIY movement is all about you, which, for consumers, translates to “all about me.”

Here’s a simple fact: everyone wants to be unique. In a world where we are all constantly sharing with each other, consumers are in search of individual experiences. This quest can be reduced to three basic elements: experience, creativity, and control.

The “experience” is equally, if not more, important than the product itself. When the Recession hit, values shifted and sent consumers seeking authenticity. The economy might have motivated people to roll up their sleeves and redecorate their own house instead of hiring a decorator—but the experience of painting their own kitchen together late into the night is what will convince them to tackle their landscaping next spring.

Think about the experiences you are providing or creating:

  • Are they authentic?
  • Are they engaging?
  • Are they an integral component of your product/service/cause?

People don’t just want to be authentic—they want to stand out. Global marketing and social networking means that we’re all becoming a little more homogeneous. A significant part of the DIY appeal is the simple fact that no two products or endeavors are alike. Ultimately, people want to identify with causes or companies that strengthen their identity as an “individual.”

How are you allowing your customers to express their individuality?

  • Keep in mind that consumption itself can be a creative act.

Consumers who have been empowered by DIYism expect a certain amount of control. Their new consciousness of their own capabilities and creativity heightens their sense of authority in interactions with companies and products.

Are there opportunities for customers to engineer or “craft” their experience with you?

  • Do your customers have choices? A place to speak up?
  • Does their input actually impact the final outcome?

Include your customers in the dialogue, but recognize that when you talk to the new economy consumer, you have to speak his language. Consumers are smart, empowered, and creative, and if they are not satisfied with your efforts, they’ll just do it themselves.

--Kathryn White

posted by Teresa Coles Jan 17,2011 @ 12:45PM

When Marketing Your Cause,Choose Fun over Fear

Think about the headlines typically used to call attention to a particular cause. Many use a “shock and awe” technique, presumably either to scare or guilt us into support:

• Every hour, 55 people nationwide become victims of domestic abuse

• By the year 2050, two-thirds of the polar bear population will disappear from the Earth

A more affirmative trend, however, is taking hold. One great example is Live Earth and its 2010 “Love, the Climate” campaign. Live Earth courted supporters through a more positive, “feel good” approach that completely departed from the typical doom and gloom associated with environmental causes. Supporters were encouraged to produce light-hearted videos inspired by a vision of a healthy future planet rather than dwelling upon the negative aspects of the climate issue.

While the House’s 2010 climate bill — the passage of which “Love, the Climate” advocated for — ultimately fell through due to partisan bickering in the Senate, the campaign served as a model of advocacy via optimistic encouragement as opposed to the traditional bully pulpit methodology.

It makes sense: your target audience will be more inclined to support a hopeful, inclusionary cause than fire and brimstone. Movements like “Love, the Climate,” while not the norm, demonstrate the tremendous effect of fresh, supporter-first thinking.

Check out the website and its affirmative vibe, and keep the Live Earth approach in mind as you design your next initiative.

posted by Teresa Coles Jan 14,2011 @ 04:07AM

Shopping for a Cause

Why do we choose the products we buy? More often than not, we buy things that resonate with our personality. We identify with what these products represent. If your personality tends to be conservative and family-oriented, you might be drawn to the promise of safety synonymous with Volvo. If you fancy yourself a classic outdoorsman (or at least like the look), your closet may look like an LL Bean catalog.

The same thinking holds true for nonprofit organizations. We support the causes we identify with, and those that correspond with our personality.

So when a potential supporter encounters your organization, what she’s really seeking is the answer to a single question: Do I fit in here?

Keep that in mind as you develop your organization’s brand message. De-emphasize the institutional story behind the organization. Accentuate how your message fits your audience’s point of view.

Make the choice to support your cause a natural one; one that makes sense, and one that, most importantly, is consistent with your audience’s core values.

It’s not about how your brand looks—it’s about how it looks on them.

posted by Teresa Coles Jan 12,2011 @ 04:00PM

Health care + social media + crisis:friend or foe?

Understanding how to integrate social media into a healthcare system’s crisis PR plan can be the difference between a brand performing at its absolute best vs. a brand that falls on its face. It’s that simple.

If the preference for your healthcare brand is the former, stand up, put your hand over your heart, and take the following pledge with me, now. Not after a committee meeting.

I promise to embrace the good within social media. Contrary to the belief that still exists in certain C-suites, social media is not the dark side. People just aren’t sitting at home waiting for you to open the lines of communications so they can destroy your brand. They’ve got better things to do. They will, however, immediately tap into your social channels the very moment there is a community crisis for information and assurance from a trusted source. Be there for them as a good friend.

I promise to start the conversation today. Relationships are never built in a crisis; but they can be torn down overnight. That’s why it’s critical to develop and nurture social media initiatives now, in a way that can help you build a community of brand ambassadors and a bank of goodwill in the event of a crisis. Just remember: incessant online self-promotion does not constitute a conversation.

I promise to give social media the respect it deserves. It’s not a toy. It’s not a tactic. It’s a powerful communications tool that will only be well executed if there is a very high level of strategic planning behind it. It’s not enough to just have the networks sitting there as a broadcast channel in the event of a crisis. You must know exactly how each channel should work, for which audience, and to what end.

I promise to make social media a part of our communications culture. Again, it’s not enough to establish the networks, create some promotional content, and go into your boss’s office with a check mark by social media. Healthcare organizations that are viewed as progressive communicators are those in which marketing directors have facilitated the immersion of social media into the very culture of the organization. This means working with other departments to consider how social media can help meet critical communications objectives throughout the system, from recruiting physicians and driving internal communications to responding to the need for public information in a crisis.

I promise to set up the crisis infrastructure now. Just as in offline days, you must develop multiple crisis scenarios and begin to build an arsenal of communications tools that can be readily edited and deployed. For example, the fact sheet templates of old should be replaced with “dark sites.” These are microsites that are created — but not yet posted online — that address specific types of crises the organization could potentially face.

There are many other items on the advance checklist, to be sure. But one more thing while I have your ear: apply your traditional media relations prowess to developing relationships with bloggers. Find them, introduce yourself to them, take them on a date. Whatever you do, don’t underestimate their necessity.

There is a whole new set of tools and cast of characters out there. Bring them to your brand now to ensure a smooth and effective working relationship when crisis comes your way.

posted by Cathy Monetti Jan 12,2011 @ 11:40AM

The Power of Simple Communications

Thank-you note written (and illustrated) by my talented (and thoughtful) nephew. A great reminder that the most powerful communications are simple, direct and heartfelt.

posted by Cathy Monetti Jan 10,2011 @ 01:54PM

In January

I've long held that January is the only civilized month. With its winter arms and 5 o'clock cloak, January offers an extraordinary opportunity to slow down, curl up, hide away. In fact, I love January because it is the one month in which it is deemed perfectly respectable to do so.

In January, I read. And by that I mean I fall slowly and deeply into wonderful, winding novels that take entire afternoons that stretch into evenings that go right on with me to my cozy you-can-never-have-too-much-down bed. I skate through centuries and across continents and just for a while, take leave of the incessant demands that are my life.

In January, I sit. Our living room is built around a real wood-burning fireplace, and our neighbors know if there is smoke coming from the chimney, Cathy is In Residence. There is just something about that fireplace, and me. I would rather sit and stare at its flames than watch TV or sit on a beach or play on my iBook. The woodsy smell, the pops and cracks, the constant tending, the red hot embers—I stare like a young lover, mesmerized.

In January, I knit. I know. So 70s. But I love the feel of yarn and the rhythm of the pattern and clickclickclick of the needles. I find deep satisfaction in making something useful. And I rejoice in the creation of something so beautiful, just Right There.

In January, I promise. I tell myself it's within my power to make time to do these things any time of the year; that there's no reason I can't take an entire afternoon IN AUGUST to sit quietly, or read, or create.

And I believe. Until inevitably, February comes, and the pause button releases.

Until then . . .

posted by Teresa Coles Jan 10,2011 @ 05:11AM

In Good Company: Taproot features CreateAthon™ as one of 8 Top CSR Models

Who were we to dream that our 24-hour creative marathon would one day be featured as a model of corporate social responsibility alongside seven leading corporations?

The Taproot Foundation, a New York-based organization that works to engage professionals all over the country in pro bono service, included CreateAthon in “Making Pro Bono Work: 8 Proven Models for Community and Business Impact.” The report recognizes the following case studies as exemplary models of corporate social responsibility. Check out the full, free report, and we’re betting your company will be inspired by one of these eight great ideas on corporate service to the community.

  • Pfizer/Loaned Employee Model: gives employees sanctioned and compensated leaves of absence to pursue pro bono projects
  • The Gap/Functional Coaching & Mentoring Model: matches employees with nonprofit peers to form relationships and share functional expertise
  • CreateAthon/Marathon Model: hosts 24-hour work marathons around the country to produce immediate, high volume of pro bono marketing services
  • Capital One/Standardized Team Project Model: its Pro Bono Corps divides employees into teams with specific skill sets and deliverables to match the needs of nonprofits
  • Cornerstone OnDemand/Open-Ended Outsourcing Model: makes its software and consulting services available to specific nonprofit organizations through a grant-based program
  • The Foundation/Sector-Wide Solution Model: offers pro bono, customized sales management software to the entire nonprofit sector
  • The Civic Consulting Alliance/General Contracting Model: identifies major societal issues in the community, then secures pro bono consulting contracts with other consulting firms to address each issue
  • Deloitte LLP/Signature Issue Model: combines individual pro bono work with additional corporate assets to put significant resources to work on a social issue

We’re delighted to be included in this report alongside these leading US corporations. More importantly, we’re happy to see our marathon idea beginning to take hold in a number of pro bono endeavors, such as Discovery Impact: Creating Change and the Nerdery’s Overnight Website Challenge.

posted by Ryon Edwards Jan 06,2011 @ 02:39PM

Vintage typewriter inspires new typeface

I recently came across this antique typewriter and was immediately fascinated by its design and pristine condition. It's a 1966 Olympia DeLuxe SM9 made in Western Germany. After some research, I found out that these Olympias were the top of the line and cost about $175 back in the day. I was surprised to find out that many writers still prefer manual typewriters, and that these archaic machines have become quite collectible. Check out this link for a pretty impressive listing: I couldn't wait to try it out — I carefully placed a piece of paper underneath the roller and proceeded to type away. Ahhh, the action, the ease of the keystrokes, the mechanical precision, the sound and the high-pitched "ding" at the end of the line made me smile. Then I proceeded to examine the actual letterforms that appeared on the paper and found them to be a script style — graceful and beautiful with some very interesting characteristics. It was unexpected, since the clunky, mono-spaced slab-serif style is most commonly associated with old typewriters.

A few days later, I was sharing photos of the typewriter with a colleague and had a moment of inspiration. What if I recreated this script typestyle and preserved the history of the SM9 through typography? So I've begun this experiment by sketching some of the letterforms (see early sketches and preliminary digital rendering below). I plan to create a complete character set and to build a functional typestyle.

Maybe I'm not going to write a novel anytime soon on the SM9, but it sure has inspired me to create something that I'm passionate about. Which proves that you never know where you might find inspiration.

posted by Teresa Coles Jan 05,2011 @ 10:30AM

How nonprofits can avoid board meeting info-ramas

So I’m sitting in a conference lately, and there in 30' x 20', screaming color was a projected wall-full of people tweeting from the event. People talking about who was speaking (usually it was themselves), what it was about, and — my personal favorite — when they were going on “networking” break. Needless to say, all that gigantic tweeting was more than a little distracting from the real content of the session.

Board meetings can be like that. While not quite as frenzied as the aforementioned Twitter fest, they can quickly turn into a litany of busy work vs. a well-framed conversation between board and staff members.

Your strategic plan — consisting of no more than three to five major initiatives — can and should serve as the agenda for all board meetings. Every agenda item should fit in one of those buckets. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider how worthwhile it is for the board to spend time on that item.

Organizing agenda items by strategic initiative also promotes shared dialogue among various board committees. For example, an update on a capital campaign reported by the development committee may have natural ties to the marketing and governance committees. Why not have those board members leading the effort position and report on the initiative based on its connection to the strategic plan? In doing so, other board members can more readily understand the relative importance of the initiative and make more well informed decisions affecting the initiative.

Next time you’re in a board meeting awash with committee-based tactical reporting, channel your inner Clara Peller and ask, “Where’s the beef?”

posted by Kevin Smith Jan 04,2011 @ 01:00PM

Rainy Day Ads

The long New Year’s weekend included the luxury of a cold, rainy Saturday, one that offered some guilt-free lounging in front of the television. Some observations:

  1. Lots of people have a structured settlement and need cash now.
  2. Everything is on sale.
  3. A dozen or more spokespeople used to wear huge pants.

OK, so numbers two and three are seasonal, but commercials across the board seemed way out of step with prevailing sentiment.

In their book, Spend Shift, John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio discuss the radical realignment of sentiment and behavior following the Great Recession. Here are some things to keep in mind:

55% of Americans have adjusted their lives to seek greater balance and fulfillment

36% are Southerners

78% are happier with a more “down to basics” lifestyle

The values-led movement cuts across socio-economic and generational lines. What unites them is “a common sense of optimism and newfound purpose.” Not sales, markdowns or the size of a spokesperson’s old pants, but optimism.

It’s time to focus marketing messages on what’s meaningful to the majority of Americans. Let’s begin this year by understanding the need for more fair weather messaging.

posted by Apprentices Jan 03,2011 @ 11:31AM

“I Am Now a Role Model”:Nike Commits to Corporate Social Responsibility

Russ Meyer, columnist at Fast Company, recently released news that Nike, Inc. has plans to distribute a multi-million dollar proprietary technology called the Environmental Design Tool among its competitors. For more, check out his article here.

Nike, Inc. is not a company known for its congeniality. For a time, the Swoosh notoriously leveraged underpaid and underage laborers to produce its vast quantities of overpriced sportswear. Furthermore, Nike resides in an industry that not only caters to competition, but also is embroiled with it at the corporate level. Competition is fierce for market share in the lucrative and ever-expanding universe of sports equipment, especially with powerful newcomers like Under Armour bursting onto the scene, not to mention the recent entry of Chinese giants like Li Ning into the U.S. marketplace. Considering all of these circumstances, why would Nike choose a time like now to begin sharing a proprietary technology that took seven years to develop with its rivals?

That’s correct: Nike has announced a plan to give away a $6 million technology it calls the Environmental Design Tool. Why? This cutting edge technology optimizes the production of synthetic fabrics from recycled plastic, providing a significant benefit to the environment. If all the world’s sportswear manufacturers use Nike’s tool to amp up recycling and cut down on waste, the result is a cleaner planet.

Nike’s newfound benevolence is another tremendous step in the growing trend of corporate social responsibility. The question is, if this competitive behemoth of an organization can alter its practices for good, why can’t yours? Corporate good: Just Do It!

- Pete Anderson

posted by Teresa Coles Jan 03,2011 @ 09:34AM

The No-Nonsense Nonprofit:Three Must-Dos for 2011

Perhaps no other New Year has brought such profound challenges to nonprofits than 2011. Traditional sources of operational revenue are shrinking, while the number of nonprofit organizations operating in the country continues to rise. The crux? Nonprofits must get serious about seeing themselves as small businesses and assuming an entrepreneurial philosophy to thrive in the new economy. It means doing three things, starting right now:

1. Strategize
By now you may be familiar with the idea of the Cause Trinity, which aligns strategic planning with marketing planning and development planning. Messages today are being disseminated in unprecedented amounts and at extraordinary speeds. Unify your organization’s message and product offering along all fronts to ensure consistent communication and delivery. If you find this task too great to accomplish on your own, do not hesitate to seek professional counsel. It will generate untold ROI for your organization.

2. Collaborate
When resources are scarce, sharing among likeminded organizations can yield tremendous results. As you begin to develop this year’s initiatives, consider allies who can offer help. Collaboration not only has the potential to generate better ideas, but raises your cause’s profile as well, by taking advantage of another organization’s audience.

3. Create
How can you lock up funding and exposure when the old avenues have all run dry? Think like a product developer: create relevant, revenue-generating initiatives to fill in the gaps left by the recessed economy. A new economy requires new thinking, so put your best minds to work and do something entirely different for a change.




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