Getting Attention

NEA's Open Call for Logo Design Builds Awareness  Improves UnderstandingEarlier this week, National Endowment for the Arts(NEA) chairman Rocco Landesman announced the NEA’s open call for a new logo design to convey its focus (tagline?), “Art Works.”

Designers, you’ll find the RFP here, The deadline is February 26th,with the winner gets $25,000. Much better than the take from typical design crowdsourcing ops like 99designs.com.

The announcement, made to students at Miami’s architecture and design high school, gave the NEA a wonderful chance to take center stage. That’s an opportunity usually left to the programs it funds. Landesman described the NEA’s needs here:

These two words – “art works” – pretty much sum up everything we are about at the NEA and I hope you will see them everywhere. Art, artists, and arts professionals work to change the communities they inhabit: they are placemakers and help create livable, sustainable, complete communities. I look forward to having a logo that conveys that.

You know that contests are all the rage — from America’s Giving Challenge to Chase Community Giving — but this is an interesting amalgam of contest, crowdsourcing and flat-out PR. I think it’s a brilliant communications campaign. Here’s why:

  • Most of us only have a vague idea what the NEA actually is and does. This contest is a powerful platform for Landesman and colleagues to build understanding of its value.
  • Art Works is the NEA’s thoughtfully-conceived brand. They’ve done the planning to ensure that its relevant and this contest is a wonderful way to build its network of messengers.
  • And it’s news (new, time sensitive), so will be spread by traditional and non-traditional media (like me).
  • The contest gives the NEA to talk about itself this week, while the submissions are coming in, at the deadline and when a winner is selected. That’s several points of entry into the news cycle.

I’ll be tracking the coverage and response this campaign generates for the NEA, and will share back with you. Meanwhile, what’s your take on this strategy? Does it work for you?…

NOTE: Please read the comments section. AIGA has come out strongly against this practice of soliciting graphic design work on spec

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies like this one and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, Graphic Design, Nonprofit Communications | 4 comments
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How to Communicate in the Shadow of Disaster -- Guidelines for Respectful but Effective Outreach

As I read accounts of Haitians struggling for basic needs post-earthquake, I’m struck by the number of lives that have been taken and touched by this disaster. It’s almost all one can think of.

That’s a significant communications challenge for the nonprofit organizations delivering aid: How to mobilize giving while communicating respectfully about their efforts and impact on the ground? How to keep giving going even as the earthquake, and the plight of survivors, is no longer top of mind? And what about the many other organizations not directly providing relief efforts but soliciting donations to pass on to relief organizations, or the majority of nonprofits that must maintain their communications and fundraising initiatives despite the world’s focus on disaster recovery?

What is the place of nonprofit communications in the wake of disaster, particularly when even the most recent crisis of epic proportions—the January 2010 7.0 earthquake in Haiti—has generated less giving than the Hurricane Katrina relief effort?

For a nonprofit, the answer lies in the way (if any) your organization is involved in the relief effort. The following guidelines derive from an analysis of news of, and fundraising for, relief efforts in the response to the Haitian earthquake and the plight of its three million survivors in need. Review them today to ensure you’re taking the most effective path in this tricky time.

P.S. Here’s another useful guide to read right now: You’re Not in Competition with Haiti.

P.P.S. More effective messaging is a priority for all organizations. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the free 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Campaign Marketing Models & Tips, Crisis Communications, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment
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PETA's Media Relations Win Groundhog Day as Animal Rights PlatformHere’s a a fantastic model of an organization linking its issues to a major news event to generate headline attention.

Shortly before Groundhog Day, PETA took on the Punxsutawney groundhog club, heralding its call for groundhog (and more broadly, animal) rights via a blog post and press release. And PETA advocates went one step further to suggest that Punxsutawney Phil’s annual weather forecasting responsibilities be taken over by a robot.

PETA says it’s wrong that Phil is subjected to the bright lights and crowds related to the Feb. 2 tradition. Event organizers downplay those concerns and insist that Phil is beyond fine, living better than other groundhogs in his climate-controlled environment.

An extremely active conversation blossomed in comments to the blog post. And, even more significantly, major news outlets like NPR, the LA Times and the Christian Science Monitor picked up on the controversy. At this moment, 9:23 am on Groundhog Day, a Google search on “peta ‘punxsutawney phil’ ‘groundhog day'” generates 43,000 results! PETA rules.

Kudos to PETA communicators for realizing there are few days (any others?) when animals are scheduled to make the headlines and acted on it. In connecting Phil’s rights with a national event, they secured widespread mainstream and niche media coverage of animal rights issues at little or no cost. Phil’s in good hands!

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Photo: oygirl.files.wordpress / CC

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications | 5 comments
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Our recent survey of more than 900 nonprofit leaders reveals a major crisis among charitable organizations: Many are doing an inadequate job of connecting with their key audiences and characterize their primary messages – intended to motivate donors, volunteers and advocacy – as poorly targeted, difficult to remember and uninspiring.

Key findings include:

  • Most nonprofit messages don’t connect strongly with key audiences.
  • Behind the disconnect—86% of nonprofits characterize their messages as difficult to remember.
  • Inconsistency reigns, leaving confusion and annoyance in its path.

I suspect that none of this is news to you. But the way many nonprofits talk about themselves to the public is a core competency critical to any organization’s success. The bad news is that most organizations admittedly are doing a very poor job, despite a great deal of effort. The good news is that fixing the problem is highly do-able and promises vastly greater success in engaging their networks than they are experiencing now.

Messaging is the first step in effective marketing communications; there’s no point in designing strategic campaigns if the messaging
doesn’t connect. It’s incumbent upon executive directors, their boards and key marketing and communication leaders within organizations, to repair these critical marketing and communication problems. When they do, putting focus and intent to work, it will make a huge difference in communications impact!

I’ll be doing what I can to help fix this problem (and it’s definitely fixable), with a 2010 focus on messaging in blog posts, e-update articles and special programs for nonprofit communicators. More immediately, complete survey results, plus specific recommendations on how nonprofits can start to immediately improve key messaging, are available here. You can review the press release here.

P.S. More effective messaging is a priority for all organizations. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the free 2009 Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Branding and Messages, Nonprofit Communications, Surveys | 1 comment
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Several Getting Attention e-update readers had questions in response to this recent article: 11 Steps to Media Relations Success. This one was asked by several nonprofit communicators:

Q: What are typical objectives/measurable outcomes for media relations work?

That's the sticking point for us – with such little staff time and budget for our PR efforts, we want to be smart and targeted with what we do. But we find that we often don't hear back from the releases we send out, and don't have much time to do follow-up phone calls, etc.  So how can we measure our success?

–Kate Lucas, Grants & Communications Coordinator, Common Hope

A:  Here are key outputs to track. They'll enable you to stay the course, if all's well, or correct if you're not getting anywhere.

Track these outputs: Articles placed, links added, online mentions of your organization, number of requests for public appearances, incoming press calls, etc. For example, two articles or one letter to the editor a month, three incoming press calls or 10% increase in daily unique visitors to your website generated by links on other sites. As always, look for trending (steady increases) rather than absolute numbers.

In addition, Kate, tracking coverage helps your organization assess who is talking about you and how you can best respond proactively (before it’s a crisis, enabling you to keep the focus on your messages) rather than reacting in panic. In addition, it helps you gauge the ROI (return on investment) of your media relations work.

I suggest you create a media log to record media relations activities and results. It will assist you in evaluating the contacts/relationships you have with specific media outlets and reporters, and help you identify concerns with particular outlets/reporters so that you can address them (e.g. always misquoted, description of organization incorrect, inappropriate language to explain issue, etc.)

Remember that outcomes (changes in action, awareness, understanding, attitude and/or behavior)of your media relations work are what's ultimately important Of course, these changes (other than action, e.g. driving folks to sign an online petition) are very difficult to measure. 

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to
nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update.
  Subscribe today.     

Nancy Schwartz in Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment
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How Correcting Errors of Substance Builds Credibility Your Base's LoyaltyBack in November, I received this email from the folks at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). It’s a powerful example of how acknowledging an error of substance (i.e., not a typo or missing photo) can be a good opportunity to reinforce your organization’s brand (in this case, reliability, accuracy and passion for the truth).

Here’s what happened:

  • In striving to write a succinct review of a recently-published article, EDF implied the incorrect reason behind wasted electricity in the electricity production process.
  • When the error was pointed out by an EDF member (an engineering professor), EDF morphed this mistake into a clarion call on its commitment to accuracy as the only way to “promote meaning solutions to our environmental challenges.”
  • Sam Parry, EDF’s director of Online Membership and Activism reached out to the initial email list with a pro-active apology, correcting the error, thanking the professor and asking readers to let him know whenever they spot an editorial error.
  • Outcome: Sam scored on multiple fronts — 1) Thanking EDF supporters for their support, 2) Stressing the organization’s passion for truth-telling and 3) Engaging supporters to help EDF perpetuate its focus on the “business of truth telling.”

Most communicators are mistake-phobic. We labor away — conceiving, writing, designing and finally…publishing our communications. And when something is wrong — no matter who finds it — it’s dismaying.

But it doesn’t have to be. Some errors are due to sloppiness, and that’s truly dismaying. But errors like this one can be a real opportunity. Congrats to EDF for seeing the opportunity in the mess, and responding artfully but authentically.

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, Crisis Communications, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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Red Cross' Communications Innovation in Haiti Disaster Relief Effort -- Smart StuffBefore digging into American Red Cross’ stellar communications on the Haitian earthquake relief effort, I urge you to contribute to help the people of Haiti. Here’s a list of several organizations you can give to.

Please spread the word to colleagues, family and friends. Relief needs are huge.

At the moment of, I wanted to tip my hat to the American Red Cross for its immediate and creative communications strategy on the situation in Haiti and fundraising for relief efforts (through its International Response Fund). Their work is a great model for your organization when you’re responding to a crisis or simply handling everyday business.

Here’s how the Red Cross’ communication innovation is boosting the impact of disaster communications:

  1. Pushing out the latest from Haiti via the Disaster Online Newsroom, a blog that makes it easy for Red Cross staffers to get new info out a.s.a.p.
  2. Producing almost-real-time, short-form, easy-to-absorb video on the state of the devastation and the challenges faced by the relief effort. This video was “on the air” (via the blog) five hours after the earthquake struck.
  3. Sharing the Red Cross’ relief strategy as it evolves (via the video). The weak infrastructure in Haiti has resulted in the collapse of many entries into the damaged entries. The Red Cross outlines its preparation in surrounding countries for entering Haiti today.
  4. Making it incredibly easy to give via mobile phone.Text “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to American Red Cross relief for Haiti.
  5. Mobilizing social media tools to spur awareness, giving and conversation in multiple communities. You can follow the Red Cross’ Haitian relief news via Twitter (@RedCross), the org blog and Facebook.

Overall, the Red Cross is doing a great job in utilizing a broad range of communications channels and capitalizing on each one’s strengths.

Other organization’s are also responding effectively. Oxfam has communicated its relief focus (public health, water and sanitation to prevent the spread of waterborne disease) which is very helpful in making giving decisions. Partners in Health, already on the ground in Haiti, is bringing medical assistance and supplies to hardest-hit areas.

P.S. Follow these key strategies to maintain the impact of your org’s communications in the shadow of a disaster like this one.

To learn more about social media and other key communications strategies, get the in-depth articles and case studies featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 3 comments
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Birthday Wishes -- and Thanks a Million -- to Beth KanterDo you know Beth Kanter, dedicated teacher, experimenter, provocateur, mentor to organizations weaving their way through social media? If not, I suggest you dive into her blog a.s.a.p., because to know her is to learn from her.

Here’s what’s different about Beth – she’s relentless in her pursuit of understanding why and how social media build conversation and connection, and why not. And she shares everything she knows. More than any other single person, she’s leading nonprofits into smart and useful use of social media tools.

Beth even makes her 53rd birthday (today) into an opportunity to learn and to give back — by “friendraising” $530 to send 53 Cambodian children to school. You can give here to make that happen.

Happy birthday, Beth. I love your passion, admire your focus, am inspired by your creativity and benefit constantly from the insights and questions you share. Thank you.

P.S. To learn more about social media and other key communications strategies, get the in-depth articles and case studies featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 0 comments
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2010 Must Do Keep Up as Marketing Techniques and Tools EvolveHere’s my bad…I’m constantly scanning the nonprofit marketing landscape for case studies, models, new tools and more. But I just realized I can strengthen two aspects of our own online communications, both related to changes in that landscape that I neglected to review on a regular basis:

1) If you receive these blog posts via email, you know that the email subject line has always read ” The Latest from the Getting Attention Blog.” And I mean always — every post, every time it is delivered to you.

Several of you have asked me if I could feature the post topic in the subject line, to make it easier for you to assess its relevance to your work and find it when needed. But that option wasn’t available when I launched this blog (and the email feed, at top right here) back in Spring 2006. Just recently, a colleague informed me that Feedburner (the tool I use to send out the emails) now enables users to feature the post’s headline as the email subject line. I’m going to make that change next week — so heads up, email subscribers.

Check mark!

2) Back in the day, when I first strategized SEO (search engine optimization) for archiving Getting Attention e-update articles, I settled on one main approach: To prioritize the marketing topics covered in each article in the title tag (the text you see in white letters on the blue banner at the top of your web browser). That was standard advice, back then.

Since that time, SEO has changed many times over and so have best practices. So I’ll be revising the article title tags accordingly over the next couple of months.

Most important though, is my realization that it’s critical to check in at least twice annually on features and best practices of the techniques and tools you rely on, and more often on those that are mission critical. It’s the only way to make sure you’re getting the most from your org’s communications work.

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Flickr: Chica and Jo

Nancy Schwartz in Nonprofit Communications, Strategy, Web/Tech | 0 comments
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Project Hope Empowers Citizen Fundraisers wDIY Web Pages I recently heard from Project HOPE‘s (PH) Marisol Murphy-Ballantyne, who wanted to share the communications innovations integrated into the org’s new website.

Frankly, I (and your audiences) couldn’t care less about a new website. And organizations that announce the launch of a new site as if it’s news drive me nuts.

But when I hear about a new or improved site that makes it easier or more effective for the org and its base to achieve its goals, that is news.

Marisol and colleagues made many of the typical updates in the new site — improving access to basic information on its international health education and humanitarian programs, and adding homepage links to Project HOPE’s Facebook Fan and Cause pages, and its Twitter and YouTube channels.

But far more important are these two changes, likely to make a real difference in engaging the org’s base:

  1. A new series of stories of individuals like Consuelo Rodriguez participating in PH’s programs are much more meaningful that the broad-based descriptions and stats of those served that are featured in the program summaries.
  2. The ability of donors, friends and fans to create their own fundraising webpages, similar those created by ActBlue supporters during the 2008 elections. Users choose the specific Project HOPE program (by geography or focus) they want to fundraise for, describe what the organization means to them, then quickly and easily create and promote their fundraising page. The leading fundraiser to date (and this is brand new) has raised over $10,000!

Thanks for the heads up, Marisol. These are two significant improvements to the site that are strong models for your colleague nonprofit communicators.

P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications | 0 comments
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