Posts tagged ‘communications’
Here are 7 tips on storytelling that would be helpful for all businesses, particularly nonprofits. These are 7 important points, what I have learned along the way as a professional writer for nonprofits and as a member of the media as I am currently…
- Make your audience “feel” your story. DO NOT give us facts and figures. We truly don’t care–we glaze over them, mostly. Tell us about the tears. Tell us about the victories. Tell us about the struggle. Tell us how your organization CHANGED things. Give me something to feel, to care about, to go out and tell my friends and family about. Here in Pinellas County PARC does a GREAT job of telling their story HERE.
- Get your FACTS straight and make sure your information is up-to-date. I will not mention the site, but it is one I know all too well–they have the date the company was founded, which is good, but then they also include how long the company has been operating. Not only is this information redundant, but the number of year operating is an evolving number that needs to be changed each year. If you insist on including it, you’d better be committed to updating it every single year. As it stands, you’ve been dormant for about 5 years. Okay, that’s just an example, but in a historical statement, STAY AWAY from figures that change. Also, if you include a blurb about where you are today, which is good–update that at least annually. Do it the same time you do your annual report–that’s a good reminder that all your company’s content should be reviewed, including your website
- Make sure your website looks good. Honestly, this is not an expensive or difficult thing to do. If you have a website, and you certainly should, make sure it’s attractive. Certainly, if it’s easy to navigate, lots of content, etc.–even better. But, first, make it visually pleasing. If your web page is hard to look at, no one will want to bother, and it reflects poorly on your company’s image.
- Less is more when it comes to text. WOW! So much verbose copy, laden with industry jargon–I’ve been working in the helping fields for over 20 friggin years, and if I wonder what you mean by what you’re trying to say, and I’m getting tired of reading wordy copy, I can’t begin to imagine what the public at large thinks when they see it. Tighten it up, and keep it simple. If that’s too hard for you pros in the field to do, get some clients and community members together to focus group your marketing copy for you. If you don’t believe me, listen to what they have to say…
- Include a link for media on your website. Please, think of us and throw us a little bone. Include your press releases there as a link. Include contact info. and brief bios of subject experts that we can contact for quotes and insight into issues–we are always looking for expert opinions. Make it easy for us to find. Give us your logo and other graphics that we have total permission to use as stock art for articles. And, tell us who your media contact is so that we can contact them directly. When a story is breaking, and we want to use your organization as an expert, we don’t have time to wait around or hunt to find “maybe” the right person. Get us linked to them straight away, and we’ll get you into print faster and more often as the experts in the field that you are.
- Be responsive to media. We matter. In a time when funding is tighter than ever, getting and keeping your company’s name in the community dialogue is critical when you are cultivating donors. If a development director has to spend too much time explaining to a potential donor what the organization is and why they care about it, it’s probably already too late to bother. Keeping your name in the media as noted experts in what you do is key to raising the value of your organization in the mind of your public. There’s no short cut. There are many creative ways to do this, and traditional media isn’t the only one… but it’s important to do in some fashion.
- Reach out to media. Don’t just send us a press release. Trust me, we often don’t “get” why your story is important. Talk to us. Get to know us. Take us to lunch (we really like that!). But, develop a relationship with us. And this is critical–don’t bother telling us why your story is important to you. Tell me why I, the media professional cares, and why it’s cool, interesting or important to the public. THAT’s the story. Don’t count on the fact that the media professional will be able to see why your story matters. Spoon feed THAT to them, because why your story matters IS the story.
Thought of the day: Competition means partnership (AKA: The world is flat, and competition looks different)
Are you in charge of keeping your business afloat? Relevant? competitive? Sustainable? Yes? Then, my friend, you have much to worry about.
You have much to worry about unless words such as diversification, collaborations, change-management, resource-sharing and partnership are not central to your business philosophy. Beyond incorporating these key words in meaningful ways, perhaps the most important part of this newly-needed philosophy is redefining your concept of competition.
Today’s competitive edge is far from the 80s version–kill or be killed and destroy your adversaries; wipe out the competition so that
you’re the only one left standing. Why doesn’t this philosophy work any longer? Because the world is flat. The world is flat due to advanced communications and globalization. The world is flat because customers and clients can reach all corners of the globe to get the goods and services they want and need. The customers and clients–your target population–in your community no longer need you. You need them. Redefining your concept of competition is a powerful method of cultivating them.
At the end of the day, it’s all about value. Some things have never and will never change about business, and central to these constants in a free market is value. Customers and clients will seek it out and build their loyalty around it. So, the question is, are you as valuable as you can be?
A key way to raising the value of your business is through partnerships and resource-sharing. This doesn’t necessarily mean bringing partners into your business to run things and work with you and your team to make things happen. What it does mean is looking around for your competitors, getting to know them and the services they provide, looking for the unique–looking for value. Then, see how you can leverage your difference to share referrals and team up on projects, utilizing one anothers’ expertise. Very few pros are equally good at everything, so look for ways to share resources in niche markets. This will increase your value in the eyes of your public and demonstrate that you and your partner(s) are innovators in your field working together to provide the absolute best for your customers and clients.
Look at your competition differently–they are your greatest potential allies, and working together, you can each raise the value of offerings to your customers and clients. By viewing competition as partners, everyone wins.
This is all about game theory for business. Wiping out your competitors could concel you out, too. Better to collaborate than lose everything.
Here is an example–a florist delivery cooperative shares resources on delivery services so that flower deliveries going to the same zip code end up on one truck from a variety of florists’ orders: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/small-business/2007/08/the_sweet_smell_of_rising_gas.html
It’s foolishly overlooked as a critical strategy. Resting allows the mind to stop spinning in circles over the obsessive conscious, which tends to result in an anxiety-ridden, explosive, reactionary and thoughtless state of being. No, seriously, it’s that bad. Do you think you are immune? Think again–you’re just in denial. Resting, ample amounts of rest in various forms, are required for the brain to act creatively and thoughtfully and to learn.
Sleeping, napping, meditating, dreaming, visualizing… these are all crucial activities that help give your mind needed rest.
So, if you’re having trouble coming up with that pressing solution, if that new concept or artistic idea just isn’t gelling, if you simply can’t learn that lesson or program you’ve been studying, if that issue is just beating you down: rest. Sleep, nap, hike, meditate, dream, visualize… anything to get your mind in a peaceful state. Rest, and you will find it gets better.
Games–the word brings different meanings to different people, from cards and gambling to board games on rainy days or smart phone apps with angry birds attacking defenseless pigs to massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) such as World of Warcraft. Games capture the attention of people across the globe, hooking them into an experience that requires skill, attention to detail, concentration and often strategy and high levels of thinking. People young and old and everything in between love games, and savvy marketers have learned how to apply game theory to gathering intelligence about target markets.
- It’s interactive–players do something and engage in a game.
- There is often an imaginary element to a game–players can transport themselves into another world, environment, character, space and time.
- It’s competitive–even if players only compete with themselves to get to another level or to receive a response that they want, there’s an element of achievement.
- Visual–using pictures, graphics and even animation to tell a story or further engage players–games are often highly visual.
- Rewards–games have an element of reward, and this can include anything from unveiling more information a player may want to receive to just attaining high scores and potentially comparing scores with friends and other players.
- Brain power–games require thought, whether they engage strategy, skill, knowledge or a complex combination of these elements, the brain is activated, and players get hooked.
What does this have to do with marketing? I’m glad you asked. Innovative marketers have learned that they can develop games, including all of the elements above, to collect valuable information about players–otherwise known as respondents in marketing lingo. In other words, market research in the form of a game, versus a bland survey, can be used to collect complex, valuable information about target markets. Research has demonstrated that players are far more likely to engage higher levels of thought and consider more complex elements to provide information collected if they are engaged in a game versus answering questions in traditional market research surveys. They are also more likely to return to the game and spending far longer periods of time providing enhanced information depending on the game’s structure and interactivity between multiple players.
Think about it. How can you use game theory to amplify your communications and marketing strategies? Hint: It can go far beyond market research and include customer service, e-commerce and multiple other systems in business. Get creative, and the applications are nearly limitless. It’s all bout engaging your target market more completely and collecting valuable information. Collective intelligence is the real name of the game.
On-line games and advertising, it’s a natural combination. Ads want to collect the attention of eyeballs. Period. Collecting the attention of targeted eyeballs is even better–eyeballs generally attracted to a certain lifestyle, recreational activity or demographic. While this has always been true of every sort of ad, on-line ads have an advantage–they can be interactive.
Let’s face it, traditional on-line ads have a bad rep. In fact, if traditional on-line advertising had a personality, it would be my gaudy, drunken uncle wearing his circa 1970s polyester leisure suit, making an obnoxious toast, insulting every guest sitting around the Thanksgiving Day table. Banner ads, pop-up ads, customized ads–flashing, blinking, blurring, distracting and obstructing your view from the content or game or other on-line experience you intended to consume–have become an unfortunate part of the commercial web-based landscape.
Games, however, have found ways to integrate ads into the user-experience, often triggering urges in gamers to go get the product, now. They borrowed the concept of product placement from TV and movies and put the impact of these things on steroids, having gamers interact with the products in the games they are playing. Pogo.com is notorious for this, advertizing such products as ice cream and orange juice. They insert name brand items into the games as an integrated part of the game that gamers must interact with to participate in the game.
Seeing the enticing graphic of a tub of strawberry ice cream over and over again, that you must concentrate on to complete your game, gets your sense memory going about what that ice cream tastes like, feels like and where you can go get some. Same goes for the frosty carton of orange juice. Yes, I admit to falling victim to this manipulative device, and have stopped playing a game craving and even going out to get the product I was playing with.
This reminds me of an older ad campaign by the now obscure Blimpie sandwich and sub shop. They played this TV ad late at night in college towns, knowing the nocturnal habits of college students who are often up late studying or partying or both and who are always on the prowl for easy, tasty, cheap food. Blimpie, which was often open late at night and even 24 hours in some cases, played a TV ad that just showed a giant sub sandwich and the Blimpie logo, saying over and over again in a strange tone, “Blimpie,” “Blimpie…” Sales for Blimpie skyrocketed as a result.
There are other games, however, that are wildly popular, such as app games like Angry Birds. App games are still using the banner and pop-up ads as their primary source of revenue, allowing for the free download of the app. While I appreciate the free games, I feel compelled to report that I have never, not once, clicked through to an ad. Not ony will I not click-through, I don’t know what the ads are–I just see them as distractions as I’m trying to concentrate on a game, much like buzzers and flashing lights in a casino.
Now, make me play with the products in the game–you’ll have my attention. If Angry Birds were made to knock down piles of Campbell’s Tomato Soup cans and Ritz Crackers, I’ll notice. I’ll likely even have these products on my lunch menu in the very near future after playing with them often enough. I wouldn’t want to see this on every level of the game, but maybe the first game of each set would be enough to reinforce the message.
And because I can’t help myself, if this is true of products, what about other types of messaging such as social marketing–spreading prevention messages for health and behavioral health issues or other social problems such as bullying and violence prevention. What great things we could communicate through games!
As a long-time professional in the nonprofit industry, specifically focusing on substance abuse and mental illness issues, this is a subject I know well–cause marketing. While it is a subject I know well, it’s interesting that I am witness to the fact that few grassroots organizations participate in cause marketing at all. In fact, most of the experience I have acquired in this particular realm of nonprofits was due in great part to my instance that perhaps the organization just try it out. Just consider that it might possibly be helpful to market and that no harm could come of it. Strange, you may think, as all businesses know that marketing is critical to building and sustaining a brand and loyal followers/customers, right? Well, nonprofits are a rare breed of business.
Many nonprofits have become so accustomed to receiving direct referrals from institutions such as courts, jails, prisons, shelters and hospitals that marketing only consisted of maintaining those long-term relationships with a select few funding entities and referral sources. Keeping staff salaries and program expenses covered was a job for grant writers and development and managed care officers. Well, if anyone has been paying attention, there’s not so much money going around in grant land these days, and philanthropy is a dark, dry, empty place. That’s not to say that these resources don’t still exist, but the landscape and substance is changing, making these funding options less lucrative and far more restrictive when the money does arrive. For instance, you might have luck getting your program funded, but good luck repairing that leaky roof or paying for all of the unfunded mandates the grant requires such as tracking and reporting complex outcomes and participant statistics, etc.
Enter the solution of cause marketing! Here’s what marketers for centuries have known:
- Develop a quality product and/or service
- Wrap around solid and reliable development and delivery methods–make sure your customers can get what they want within reasonable time frames consistently
- Make certain there is a method of quality customer service provided to address customer needs and concerns
- Ensure that the products and/or services available are of high quality and competitively priced
- …and we the marketers will make sure that specific target audiences know the product and/or service is here, that it is valuable to the market and that it solves or changes something for the better–marketers help solidify the branding among target markets and build a culture for customers to walk in the door and keep walking in the door.This str
This formula is no different for nonprofits. Go ahead and market. Pay attention to the unique needs of your target markets and develop services to answer those needs. They will pay for it. That’s how supply and demand works. Go out on a limb and be daring, and go all the way. Don’t hold back, because reservation is the house of failure. It’s okay that you’ve never done it this way before–dream big and charter new grounds. Be the innovators and leaders in your field. Let the public and your target markets know you are here, listening to them, responsive to them and are committed to answering their needs.
If you’re a nonprofit who serves populations experiencing poverty, then give your philanthropic pleas a face-lift. Remember Twain’s story of ”Tom Sawyer and the White Washed Fence.” Make giving to your cause something special, an honor for philanthropists to be a part of. Stop begging and instead be exactly what they want to support. Find out what your target philanthropists value most, and ensure that you organization mirrors those values. And all the while seek out cues from for-profit businesses to assist in generating income. Create jobs and help develop skills within your service population by developing a business venture. Market the whole package to venture capitalists and to the community, soliciting cash contributions for seed money. Do NOT think outside of the box, whatever that means. Throw the box away and create a real solution, and market that.
Cause marketing should be the new development trend within nonprofits to help them reinvent themselves and transform their services to better meet the needs and changes of the culture here and now.
Rule 1: Welcome, be welcoming and make an effort to put your guests’ needs and comfort a top priority.
This requires listening and paying attention to social and behavioral cues and body language. Prioritizing the needs and comfort of others is the grand basis of hospitality. Everything else is a variation and details surrounding the same theme. Obviously you cannot please everyone all of the time. What you can do is make an effort to care. I believe that hospitality is a value often forgotten or put aside to make room for other priorities, and I just wanted to provide a gentle reminder of its importance. Hospitality and graciousness is a trait that helps others measure your character–it is a direct reflection of who you are as a person. In relation to communications, remember to be welcoming and to have messages that prioritize the needs and comfort of others at the forefront. You will find that your public will take you up on your welcoming statements and sentiments and will want to be associated with your brand.
Having said this, this does not mean that being edgy, abrupt, snarky, sarcastic, etc. is not valid in good communication messaging. In fact, to several audiences, this is comfort and welcoming. The point is to know your public, know what they value and know what makes them comfortable. If you care about this, genuinely care, you will have your messaging on-point.