Break the Rules! You’ll never look back

Break-the-Rules CommunicationsWake up, girls and boys! It’s time to change our ways.

Here’s the thing: I’m a rule follower, and I bet you are too. After all, nonprofit communications isn’t the Wild West. But…

Rules are made to be broken, at least once in a while. And as much as I believe in defining clear goals to guide your right-now marketing decisions, and staying consistent within that framework for as long as its relevant, sometimes you just need to bust out. Here’s how:

When? One perfect moment to break the rules is when there’s an avalanche of messages on what’s top-of-mind right now (a.k.a. relevance rules), but you can see a flip side.

Take this email I received from Make It Work (MIW) just a few days before Christmas. I remember that morning well. Nightmare! I was:

  • Hopelessly behind on holiday cooking
  • Frantically racing to finish a slew of work deadlines so I’d be free for my daughter over the school vacation
  • Sick and tired of the endless fundraising emails from the organizations I support, despite knowing how much they need my help

….when Make It Work slipped a surprise into my email with “A Little Holiday Humor.”

Eureka! In fact, I clicked simply because the subject line promised something SO different than what had been flooding my inbox, and my mind. I was DESPERATE for a laugh.

Make It Work— focused on changing attitudes and policy so families can live in economic security while participating fully in family and work—made good on its promise big-time. The email text plus the graphic meme (above) delivered the promised laugh, wrapped in a memorable message:

The holiday season brings a lot of great things. 

Time with friends and family, way too much hot chocolate, comfy sweaters, relaxing on the couch, relaxing on the couch IN comfy sweaters…you get my point. 


Unfortunately, it also comes with a lot of not-so-jolly things.

 Frantically searching Amazon to see how fast that gift for your mom can be delivered, your boss calling you at 4pm on Christmas Eve, all of your kids simultaneously catching the flu. Yeah, we feel you there.

MIW nailed me with this dark-side humor, and that’s absolutely irresistible. So rather than pushing this email to Trash with everything else, I clicked on the call-to-action link to forward these gut-busting holidays cards to three friends. BTW, including a call to action is a rule NEVER to be broken.

Win-win! My friends and I got a delicious laugh. Plus, Make It Work got our emails and our attention, all because they broke the rules.

Keep your eyes open for that flip side, test it out to ensure others get it, then dare to be different. You’ll Make It Work too!

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Nancy Schwartz on April 8, 2015 in Branding and Messages | 1 comment

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