The challenge of simplicity

Late last year, freelance content creator Matt Mansfield distilled 151 articles projecting marketing trends for 2017 into a glorious infographic. (I love infographics!) The article even comes with instructions on how to use the infographic depending on your interests and needs.

I’m glad there are marketing experts out there such as Mansfield, making sense of everything from analytics and chatbots to “ephemeral content,” but I’ll never be a Matt Mansfield.

I started this blog for small businesses and non-profits operating on shoestring marketing budgets that focus on free and do-it-yourself communications.

In short: I’m a peanut butter and jelly marketer.

As “the” expert about your business or non-profit, and most likely the “chief marketing officer,” it’s easy to lose a straightforward message amongst your intimate knowledge of all things organizational. That is when it is necessary to take a step back, remove your CEO hat and try to think like a consumer of that message.

A piece from Flee app creator Didac Hormiga on LinkedIn really spoke to me. Yes, there are marketing lessons to be learned from fortune cookies:

  • Make your message applicable to everyone.
  • Combine a product with a message.
  • Make your message short and sweet.

Nolan Berg, head of his own marketing consultancy, penned an equally straightforward and practical column after attending a Garth Brooks concert. I appreciated his insights.

If you own a small business, or are working to sustain a vital non-profit in your community, I encourage you to get organized and develop a marketing/PR plan to communicate a positive and compelling message. I think you will be amazed to see how it takes your mission to the next level. If you need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me. My rates are reasonable and the initial consultation is free.

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Keeping track of success

Cute dog puppy

Last week we explored the myth of “truthful hyperbole” and I made three distinctions about content that passes the smell test. As a review, it should be based on:

  • internal research of my business and non-profit
  • statistics, other facts and opinions of reputable, and cited, sources
  • fairness and contextualization (Am I comparing apples to apples or applies to garden hoses?)

Let’s look more closely at the first item, internal research.

Those in public relations and marketing, as well as grant writers, are internal customers of business owners, key employees, CEOs, boards of directors and others. Our ads, press releases, billboards, videos, grant proposals, and social media posts are only as good as the data we are provided by an organization’s leaders.

Keeping track of the cost of your advertising and other marketing activities and calculating your return on that investment is vital, but that is a blog post for another day. I’m asking that you instead focus on data that you use in those advertising and marketing endeavors.

Rather than looking at data collection for public relations and marketing as a task separate from other necessary bookkeeping and record-keeping, look at the data you keep track of in the natural course of your work or mission.

For non-profits, the information on your IRS Form 990 can be a great source of positive statistics, if those facts are in line with characteristics sought most often by discerning donors. What are those? This article from Charity Navigator shares several, such as: “What is the percentage of every dollar donated that is spent on fundraising,” and, “How much does the CEO make annually?”

For small businesses, the approach is a little different. Are you tracking customer satisfaction through surveys, follow-up emails and phone calls? If you have a high percentage of your customers expressing enthusiastic satisfaction with their experience at your business, that’s a statistic worth sharing often and to a great many people.

Is your small business a major employer in your community? Are you recommended by the Better Business Bureau? If so, for how many years? What about positive ratings or accolades from the local Chamber of Commerce? Do you hire a significant number of military veterans, or perhaps individuals with disabilities? What other positive contributions do you make to your community through philanthropy, partnerships, and other initiatives?

Maybe you’re so busy running your small business you aren’t sure exactly where you stand? Here are a couple of articles that might help you gain perspective:

How To Know When It’s Time to Expand Your Business, from Value One

But Am I Making Any Money? from The Balance

Sharing positive, specific, and credible facts about your organization or business is a must for an effective communications strategy. Think of these facts as credible, reliable evidence submitted to the court of public opinion.

If you are ready to explore this or other marketing and communications issues for your business or non-profit, give me a call. I’d love to help.


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Connecting with donors


There’s a great Far Side cartoon that depicts a man trying to correct a dog for an offense. In the first panel, titled “What we say,” the man is scolding: “I’ve had it, Ginger! Stay out of the garbage. Do you hear me, Ginger? Bad dog, Ginger.” In the second panel, titled “What they hear,” the dog interprets, “Blah, blah, Ginger! Blah, blah, blah, Ginger,” etc.

Working for non-profits for many years, there were times when I thought my communication skills were no better than that guy’s. Every message sounded the same to my ears.

To my surprise, I learned that, in a lot of ways, it was supposed to sound the same.

Because I was working for a non-profit with a clear and compelling mission statement, I discovered that it was a sign of having your ducks in a row if the main point essentially sounded identical from donor letter to donor letter, feature story to feature story, video to video. Supporters prefer to contribute to organizations that know exactly what they are doing and why.

What should change is the way in which a non-profit frames it’s consistent message.

It is in that re-framing that a wonderful thing often occurs: The switch is turned “on” and suddenly someone who was on the fringe of your audience buys into the message that they really can be part of your mission. That, dear readers, is exciting.

There are several ways to re-frame your message to get those exciting moments of resonance with your audience. Priority One is to include in every exchange a specific call to action. People want to help but most don’t have a lot of time so it’s up to you to give them solid suggestions. (I’ve altered my examples below for a variety of non-profits.)

Get specific with what a gift can do.

  • How much does it cost to care for an abandoned dog or cat for one week?┬áMake that exact figure, or one like it, a giving option in print and online forms.
  • Itemize a grocery list to feed a family of four for one week and ask donors to provide it for your food pantry.
  • What does it take to fill a bag of personal-care items for a homeless man or woman, a nursing home resident, or the single mom of an infant? Get specific with the items and give supporters the option of contributing money or in-kind donations.

Provide something tangible for your donors as a way to keep your mission in front of them.

  • Bookmarks, refrigerator magnets, bracelets and more can serve as reminders to donors to continue their support. (Regarding give-away items such as pens, magnets, etc., don’t get the cheapest item available, no matter how tempting the price may look.)
  • Some items, such as bookmarks, can be incorporated into print materials. A creative graphic artist can help you brainstorm.

Tell stories

  • Brief stories about someone your organization has helped can be the approach that flips the “on” switch for many donors. Leave out identifying information to protect your clients’ confidentiality. Tell their story with accuracy as well as heart.
  • For those who are open to telling their own story, give them an opportunity to say “thank you” to donors. This could be done by publishing excerpts from letters, original art work, brief snippets of a video interview, etc. Be sure the client is informed and agrees, in writing, to the ways in which you intend to use what they share with you.

The year-end giving season is practically upon us. Don’t miss an opportunity to re-tell your mission in creative ways. If you need help, email me at danniewriter@gmail.com or call (502) 432-8725.


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