message development

Every election season is a barrier to connection, with people overwhelmed by 24/7 messages from multiple campaigns via multiple channels. But connecting this fall—through the noise of so many contentious midterm races—is particularly tough. That’s a real concern as we plunge into Giving Tuesday and Year-End.

Pile on the chaos we face on so many fronts—from the mass murder at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue to constitutional threats and the refugee crisis—and it’s almost impossible to get attention, much less motivate action. We can’t fight it, nor can we sit it out.

Here’s how to get (and stay) close to your people right now:

1) Show your people you get them. The fast-moving shifting of norms we face is unnerving. People are feeling vulnerable, and the candidates’ fear mongering fuels our anxiety and sense of powerlessness.

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Relevance Rules Messages

From soulful to silly, heartfelt to heavy, no matter the approach, organizations like yours are using Valentine’s Day to get attention and motivate the actions they need this week and beyond. You still have time to leverage Valentine’s Day TODAY if you act now.

The secret sauce here is piggybacking on what’s top of mindYour people are already thinking about this stuff, so are far more likely to connect with your Valentine’s mini-campaign right now. They’ve been helping their kids write out cards for the entire class, buying that last-minute box of chocolates for their partner, or grabbing a bunch of roses on the way home from work. 

They couldn’t forget Valentine’s Day even if they wanted to. So use St. Valentine as a springboard to engagement. That’s Relevance Rules Messaging! Here’s how:

1) Find your cause’s genuine connection to love. It’s crystal clear for causes/issues like heart health, blood and organ donation and human services. The link may be less evident for other causes but is often findable with a bit of probing. Brainstorm with your colleagues over coffee asap.
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Call to ActionRemember when you were a teen and your mom told you to clean up your room, call your grandmother, and set the table all within the same five minutes.

Remember how frustrating that was. How even if you wanted to do what your mom wished—not every teen’s desire, for sure—you couldn’t do three things at once. So instead, most of the time, you did nothing!

I was thrown back there this morning when I uncovered this card I had picked up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met). Just count the calls to action featured on this small postcard:

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Consistent MessagesWhether you’re all in on year-end fundraising or working in some 2017 prep, I bet you have some pretty ambitious goals to meet. You wouldn’t be reading this otherwise.

Here’s a proven but frequently overlooked method to help you get there: consistent communications. Consistency enables your people and prospects to recognize your organization’s communications in a flash. Time and time again, I’ve seen consistency across channels, programs and services, and audiences help nonprofits like yours motivate the actions they need. Those are the same messages likely to be remembered and repeated. Here’s how to get there:

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Relevant MessagesThis morning’s election news dug into the divide that’s fracturing the U.S. Hearing the stats on how deep and broad these divisions are—rural vs. urban, men vs. women, those with post-secondary education vs. those without—wasn’t surprising. But it was distressing, especially as I contemplate where we go from here.

So many organizations have ignored the chaos we’ve lived in during this extended election ramp up. In sharp contrast, StoryCorps has communicated with non-partisan honesty and heart:

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Civil Nonprofit Communications

Every election season is a barrier to connection, with people overwhelmed by 24/7 messages from multiple campaigns via multiple channels. But connecting this fall, with a presidential campaign as contentious and bizarre as the Clinton-Trump contest, is tougher than ever. That’s a real concern as we plunge into Giving Tuesday and Year-End.

Tonight’s debate will, once again, highlight our dukes up, all-rules-broken political arena. Pile on the chaos we face on so many fronts—from Hurricane Matthew recovery to racial profiling, and the refugee crisis—and it’s almost impossible to get attention, much less motivate action. We can’t fight it, nor can we sit it out.

Here’s how to get (and stay) close to your people right now:

1) Show your people you get them. The shifting of norms—who is presidential material and how the campaign is run, caring for refugees fleeing nations that brutalize them, public safety for all—is unnerving. People are feeling vulnerable, and the candidates’ fear mongering fuels our anxiety and sense of powerlessness.

Acknowledge that this is a tough time for all of us, and that you respect and care about your people and their families.

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via GIPHY

Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this morning, and I’m thrilled we’re not going to get stuck in the snow. In fact, it’s melting fast in the 50-degree sun right outside my New Jersey window.

Your marketing doesn’t have to stay stuck either. Instead, turn to comic genius Bill Murray for guidance on breaking out of your same old, same old marketing approach. He’ll help you take the rest of the year by storm.

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FullSizeRenderI’ve rarely seen a bigger message fail than this one.

There’s clearly been some controversy on this nearby street about front lawn etiquette. Typically, there are lawn lovers, who water and fertilize their way through summer. Then there are the folks (my family among them) who focus on garden beds instead, and others who just cut the grass. Peaceful coexistence, till now!

When you demand your audiences take action, you’ll fail every time. What you will succeed in is pushing prospects and supporters away for good.

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Effective HeadlinesThe first line your reader sees means the difference between success and failure. Most leads are clever headlines that play on words. Many are cute, but most aren’t effective.

We can learn to do better from recently-deceased report  Vincent Musetto, who wrote this “most anatomically evocative headline in the history of American journalism. [see photo]

“What endured in public memory far longer than the crime was the headline, with its verbless audacity, arresting parallel adjectives and forceful trochaic slams. The corresponding headline in The New York Times that day proclaimed, genteelly, “Owner of a Bar Shot to Death; Suspect Is Held.” Headlessness was not mentioned until the third paragraph; toplessness not at all,” reports The New York Times.

You can do the same, even with far less sensationalism!

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Published in Ebony magazine, April 1967, Vol. 20 No. 6 “When the new antenna went live, you’d swear that Dizzy Gillespie was playing right next to you.”

I can easily visualize this scene, and hear it too. Can’t you?

In fact, this excerpt from WBGO’s (NYC’s premier jazz radio station) recent appeal made the listening-enriching value of the station’s new antenna crystal clear—by showing, not telling.

Compare it with another station’s intro of its new antenna:

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