The Intersection of Development and Communications

“It’s not necessarily frequency. It’s getting in front of them with the right message that tells them your story, but in a way that resonates with them.” — Nick Ellinger, DonorVoice

Some organizations suffer from failure to see things as the donors themselves see it, notes Nick Ellinger. Nick, vice president of marketing strategy for DonorVoice, joins in to talk about how to create a connection between development and communications, and why communications in nonprofits is often one-sided. He explains how you can get real, substantive feedback from donors — and then how to actually use it. Where can you improve in your messaging so donors feel a personal connection? He shares some key advice, such as be careful what you ask as well as how you ask. He and Beth explore:

  • Why do people start to get involved with an organization? What makes them stop?
  • How to avoid “acronym-itis”
  • Why he believes “pyramid schemes are lies”
  • Why tailoring your communication is worth the effort
  • How to collect valuable data on your audience
  • What questions to ask to get substantive feedback from your audience

 

Resources:

Email Nick: NEllinger@TheDonorVoice.com

Find him on Twitter at @NickEllinger or on LinkedIn

DonorVoice website

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

U.S. Golf Association

Catholic Relief Services

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Turning Advocates into Champions for Your Message

“They’re not just members. They’re not potentially donors for every nonprofit. They’re not just funders. They’re champions and those are the people that are going out and really singing your praises.” — Jill Knaggs, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Manitoba

Jill Knaggs knows the perception about manufacturing typically evokes a sort of dingy image. But she also knows the industry is anything but dingy. She joins this session to talk about a campaign she coordinated as communication and marketing manager for the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Manitoba to change perception and show people what the industry is — and how they already interact with it, from food (pizza pops!) to aerospace. She explains how the organization incorporated hijack marketing around Canada’s 150th anniversary celebration and employing external influencers to reach a new and potential audience who can become advocates for your cause. She and Beth explore:

  • What is hijack marketing? How can it be useful?
  • How to change people’s perception of something like manufacturing on a small scale
  • Why identifying an organizational need before building a strategy is crucial
  • What is the value of working with influencers?
  • How to inspire your members to become advocates for your cause
  • How to create specific social media and marketing toolkits for influencers (it’s not as much work as it sounds!)
  • Most importantly: What are pizza pops?

Resources:

Email Jill: Jill.Knaggs@CME-MEC.ca

Find Jill on LinkedIn

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association of Manitoba website

 

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The Hidden Flaw That’s Killing Your Marketing

While we do a lot of work helping organizations define their brand, many others come to us with a professional look already in place. Thoughtful messaging that’s been carefully crafted. Impressive programming.

And another problem entirely: their marketing just doesn’t produce the results they want.

Could your conferences be better attended? Your services more widely utilized? Your donors more generous? Is your organization’s membership like a revolving door—people are in and out, but not as many stay as they should?

If you can relate to any of these challenges, you might have the same problem we see stealthily undermining so many organizations’ marketing efforts.

Before we tell you what it is, you have to promise us to keep an open mind. Because nearly every time we’ve helped a client or taught a workshop on this problem, everyone’s skeptical at the outset.

“We’ve already got a handle on this,” they tell us.

But as we actually lead people through the exercises that help them start solving the problem, they become believers. And it changes their entire perspective, paving the way for new insights and better results.

That’s just what happened over the summer when we presented a workshop for network affiliates of NeighborWorks America, an organization that helps build the capacity of independent nonprofits working in affordable housing and community development.

The topic of the day? Knowing your audience.

Like many before them, the workshop participants told me at the beginning of the session that they already knew their audience. But I’m not easily deterred. And based on past experience, I suspected they were wrong.

So to help them uncover their true, most profitable, most potential-laden audience, I guided them through an exercise in creating a detailed “persona” for their perfect person. The person they’ll think of when they write their messaging. The person they’ll think of when they choose their communication channels. The person they’ll think of when designing programs.

And that’s when my class discovered that all along they’ve been talking to “Millenials” when they should have been talking to 29-year-old Ashley. Millenials are a broad, generic group at best, a limiting stereotype at the worst. Ashley, on the other hand, is worried about paying student debt and a mortgage, values career networking opportunities, spends weekends hiking with her fiance and loves science fiction novels.

If this sounds crazy, let me tell you, the ideas that participants generate in a 15-minute marketing exercise after they create their perfect person always blow me away. And people leave excited by the new energy this changed perspective brings to the way they think about their communication strategy.

Because the thing is, once you know who your ideal audience member really is, you know exactly how to talk to her and what you need to offer— just like you know the best way to present something to your boss to win buy-in, to your teenager to entice cooperation or to your friend to convince her to check out that new movie you wanted to see.

Is your marketing falling flat—even though you feel like your doing everything right?

Maybe this same hidden flaw is plaguing your marketing strategy.

Maybe it’s time you discovered your Ashley.

From a workshop at your conference, an exercise for your team or through consulting, we can help you meet her (or him!). Give us a call at 267-468-7949 or email us at info@iriscreative.com to talk about how it works.

Branding Gets You to the Starting Line

“That spirit of trying to replicate what others do is the antithesis of branding.” — Jen Martindale, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

As Jen Martindale will say, having a brand strategy in place just the starting line — not the finish line. She helped the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts undergo a strategic re-branding — which goes much deeper than a new logo. As Chief Marketing Officer, she guided the organization to understand the needs of their community and find their place in it.

On this session of the Driving Participation Podcast, she talks with Beth Brodovsky about the role both arts and culture play in enacting change. The importance of zeroing in on what makes your organization unique — and then delivering on it — was key to their success. Deeply understanding their audience allowed her to innovate in ways they had not explored before.

Hear how Jen led the organization through a re-imagining of their brand, their business model and their culture — and what’s happened since. Beth and Jen discuss:

 

  • Why you should never try to replicate what another organization does
  • How to create trust when you’re taking a big risk
  • How to navigate the waters of buy in to get enough support to move forward when making a big change
  • What is the real role of a brand?
  • How does a rebranding affect other departments and programming of an organization?
  • Why interdepartmental collaboration is so important

Resources:

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts website, Facebook and Twitter

Find Jen on LinkedIn and Twitter

 

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Building Buy-In for the Value of Risk

“You can start effecting small changes along the way and then leadership will notice. If you are in a place where it’s just about the bottom line, well, you can start changing the culture and the culture will help shift the bottom line, too.” — Will Dennis, St. Joe’s Prep

Will Dennis wants people in leadership positions to come from a place of “yes.” With a background in theater and improvisation, Will, manager of the Prep Fund at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, knows the notion of “yes” and taking a risk on an idea is paramount — and often pays off. He believes in the value of conversation in determining what drives people’s participation with an organization and creating a real relationship. For those who want their organization to start taking more risks, he gives listeners who want start making a difference a two-part challenge and shares advice on how change starts from anywhere. He and Beth explore:

  • How companies can use the techniques of improv
  • Why failure doesn’t always mean what you think it means
  • How to create genuine relationships in a time when communication is done over email
  • How can you start to learn to think about risks?
  • Ways you can help create an environment where risk is supported and encouraged
  • Why calling someone by name can make a difference in a conversation

Resources:

Email Will at WilliamJDennis@gmail.com or at WDennis@SJPrep.org

Follow Will on Twitter at @WilliamJDennis

St. Joe’s Prep website

Revisit Session 153 with Anika Rahman

 

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Working Wikipedia as a Content Outlet and SEO Strategy

“We just look for ways to share broadly and when you start talking about how are you going to share beyond Philadelphia, you have to do it digitally.” — Shelley Wilks Geehr, Chemical Heritage Foundation

This week, Beth is back with the team from Chemical Heritage Foundation. This time, she talks with Shelley Wilks Geehr, director of the Roy Eddleman Institute, about the roles of social media and digital content for the museum. Shelley explores the various media assets of the organization, from its quarterly print (yes, print!) magazine to a podcast to weekly Twitter takeovers. She also explains the role of Wikipedia in their organization and how it has helped attract attention to the museum. They talk about:

  • What is the role of a Wikipedian?
  • How to make Wikipedia an invaluable resource
  • The benefits of having social media-focused projects like Twitter takeovers and Wiki salons
  • How the museum decides what content they create
  • How CHF’s Wikipedia page has drawn more visitors to their website
  • Why was working with a Wikipedian more worthwhile than investing in an SEO consultant?

Resources:

Chemical Heritage Foundation website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Email Shelley: ShelleyG@chemheritage.org

The Roy Eddleman Institute for Interpretation and Education

CHF’s Wikipedia page

The Lantern Theater

Conversations on Chemistry by Jane Marcet

The Fairy-Land of Science by Arabella Buckley

 

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Creating a Bigger Impact Through Collaboration

“We are surrounded by historic content and historic sites and so it makes perfect sense to me that we would seek out partners who are also working on issues of the historic preservation.” — Elisabeth Berry Drago, Chemical Heritage Foundation

When you start a new project — like a new exhibit at a museum — you might look at what other organizations are doing, and that can be a good thing. This session is all about collaboration — both internally and externally — as Elisabeth Berry Drago and Rebecca Ortenberg from the Chemical Heritage Foundation join in to talk about how the museum worked with other organizations as it developed its newest exhibit. They discuss how they worked to personalize the exhibit for museum-goers and how they looked to other organizations for help in creating that experience. They talk about the new Things Falls Apart exhibit and how they strive to create a personal connection with both visitors and the wider community. They explore:

  • How to ask other organizations for help or advice
  • Why an emotional connection is just as important as a personalized one
  • How the museum seeks to connect with a wide audience
  • Ways you can learn from other organizations or institutions
  • How to work with other departments within your organization on a project
  • Why it’s OK that one project won’t connect with everyone

Resources:

Chemical Heritage Foundation website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Things Fall Apart exhibit and walking tour

Email Elisabeth: eberrydrago@chemheritage.org

Email Rebecca: rortenberg@chemheritage.org

Eastern State Penitentiary

National Park Service

Drexel University’s Fox Historic Costume Collection

Detour guided walking tours

 

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Become a Champion

You want people to participate in your work. Donate, attend events, enroll, join — whatever it is you need to thrive.

Participation, however, is not just an external thing. Who you are on the inside reflects what happens on the outside. The most successful, thriving organizations have gotten where they are because they’ve rallied around a clear, impactful, shared vision.

NOT by chasing “buy-in.”

Because if you’re chasing buy-in, that means that the vision you’re promoting isn’t SHARED.

If you want to catapult your organization to the next level, the most important role you can play is to become a champion by helping your team create this vision.

And by “team” we mean leadership, staff, donors, students, volunteers … which brings us to fear. It feels risky to let your community have a say in who you are. It can be terrifying to tell your leadership they need to think differently. But it is only when there is cohesive excitement that you build a foundation for growth.

When this is working people report it as getting “buy-in,” but it really requires more than that. We call it “becoming a champion.” Buy-in sounds like someone was convinced that another person’s idea is worth doing. Champions are all-in supporters who inspire others.

When organization leaders invite participation into and among their team members to create a shared vision, their championship becomes a culture of championship.

And it’s so much easier to attract people who want to invest in a shared future.

Becoming a champion is just one of the shifts in thinking it takes to build a participation-centered brand and skyrocket success.

 

If you’re ready now to become your organization’s champion and advance a shared vision, we’re here to help!

In October we’ll be running a new session of our Build Your Brand Course. The program will include weekly Mastermind sessions to ask questions and get feedback on your work. To get a feel for what the experience is like, we are running a free Mastermind-style session, Skyrocket Branding Mastermind in September. This will help us get feedback and give you a taste of what you’ll get out of the course.

 

 

Creating Emotional Traction

“I have always defined a brand as a relationship and that means it’s inherently an emotional kind of connection…” — Cynthia Round

It’s easy to think of branding as something superficial. But at its core, a brand is really just a relationship, as Cynthia Round explains on this week’s session. A brand creates an inherently emotional connection that inspires loyalty and ongoing action. Why does your audience connect with your organization? Asking qualitative questions that seek to answer how people identify with a brand helped Cynthia in her work at organizations like United Way Worldwide and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She uses past experience to illustrate the importance of identifying the audience that understands you and knows why they connect with an organization. She and Beth explore:

  • Why brands may be more important for nonprofits than for-profits
  • How a brand becomes more than an image or perception
  • How to study what underlies the passion and the loyalty of your most loyal users
  • And what kind of questions should you be asking your loyal users in order to understand your ideal audience?
  • How to get people thinking about what is different about your organization that sets it apart and creates an emotional connection  
  • What is what Cynthia calls “the burning question”?

Resources:

Find Cynthia on Twitter and LinkedIn

The Met’s website

Procter & Gamble website

United Way Worldwide website

Interbrand brand consultancy

“An Emotional Connection Matters More than Customer Satisfaction” from Harvard Business Review

 

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Fueling Exceptional New Member Experiences

“There’s super huge danger in treating your new members like every other member. If you just send them the same old message that everyone else gets, they’re likely to ignore it because they don’t understand how it applies to them and when they ignore early on, it really starts that practice of ignoring.” — Amanda Kaiser, Smooth the Path

Amanda Kaiser, qualitative member researcher with Smooth the Path, has done more than 300 interviews with members of associations to understand their worries, challenges, problems and experiences with the association to determine why they engage or don’t engage. In doing so, she’s learned a few lessons and tips that she shares in this week’s session. She explains why the new member process is upside down. Early experiences with your association — whether it’s the first webinar, the first interaction with a staff person or the first conference they went to — leave a longer lasting impression on new members than you might think. She and Beth explore:

  • How this information applies beyond associations
  • The difference between features, benefits and value
  • How to use Amanda’s 3-3-3 model of engagement
  • Practicing imaginative empathy to help shape a new member’s experience
  • Different tests for engagement based on stories Amanda has heard
  • Why the emails you send new members matter

Resources:

Smooth the Path website

Fueling Exceptional New Member Experiences: Strategies for Member Onboarding, Engagement, and Retention e-book

Revisit episode 37 with Amanda: Rebranding Starts with Understanding your Community

 

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