Category Archives: Nonprofit Marketing Tips

Support Nonprofit Sunday at area museum gift shops, historic sites, and parks

Wait, you haven’t heard of Nonprofit Sunday? I’m sure you’ve heard of Black Friday…and Small Business Saturday…and Cyber Monday! Are you telling me you haven’t yet heard of Nonprofit Sunday?

Well, maybe that’s because I just made it up.

It’s a natural extension of the theme, though, on the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Think about it. Where can you find the most unique, high quality gifts, at very good prices, in historic or aesthetically beautiful settings, and know that the money you spend is going for a good cause? At our area museums, national parks, and historic sites, of course!

Here are two nonprofit sites where you can find amazing gifts at wonderful prices — and all the proceeds go to further historic preservation and education.

The Gate House Gift Shop at Claude Moore Colonial Farm Park

6310 Georgeown Pike, McLean, VA 22101 (703) 442-5577 Hours: Wed – Sun 10 am – 5 pm

The Claude Moore Colonial Farm Park is a National Park and a true local treasure. All of the proceeds from sales in the shop fund quality educational programs. Shopping in the beautifully decorated Gate House Gift Shop is a real holiday experience.

Among the many terrific gifts, you will find a selection of new and antique books, farm-produced honey and preserves, exquisite soaps and bath items from France, Scandinavia, and around the world, beautiful jewelry, vintage linens in immaculate condition, wonderful children’s toys, crafts and games that don’t need batteries, a selection of unique boxes, compasses, and other items that would appeal to the man or boy in your life, as well as Christmas ornaments.

Don’t miss the special Book Sale on Saturday, December 1.

The Freeman Store and Museum

131 Church Street NE, Vienna, VA 22180 (703) 938-5187 Hours: Wed – Sun 12 Noon to 4 p.m.

This ante-bellum historic site is maintained by the Historic Society of Vienna. Shopping in the store feels like you are stepping back in time. The store sells a number of historically inspired gifts, including cast iron penny banks, as well as a wide assortment of “Made in Virginia” items, such as Graves Mountain preserves and jellies, soaps, afghans, pillows, candles, prints, and cards. You will also find a terrific variety of quality toys, puzzles, books, and candies.

On Monday, November 26, the Freeman Store will be open for additional hours for the Church Street Holiday Stroll and tree lighting from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Area choral groups will perform and Santa will visit at 6:15 p.m. Santa visits the Freeman Store on Sunday, December 2 and Saturday, December 8 from 1 pm to 3 pm.

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Learn how nonprofits are using social media

You know, when it comes to innovation in social media, there are some interesting trends I have observed.

Of course, you see some amazing work from national and global brands.  But I also admire the work done by individuals and organizations with fewer resources.  Many nonprofits, in particular, are doing quite well in social media.  For example, according to the 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark report (which you can download here) produced by Common Knowledge, the average nonprofit Facebook Page has 8,317 Likes, while the average Twitter account has 3,290 followers.

Common Knowledge, a communications firm specializing in the needs of nonprofit organizations, is presenting two free webinars this week and next that sound worthwhile:

2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report – Part 1 of 2
This Thursday (4/19), 2:30 p.m. EST

2012 Nonprofit Social Networking Benchmark Report – Part 2 of 2
Wednesday (4/25), 2:30 p.m. EST


Think Before You Speak (and comment on blog posts)

One of the great things about having a blog is that it gives me the opportunity to have a dialogue with my readers about important issues.

Today, I received a comment on my March 17 Ad Council post that was basically unrelated to my point, but gave me the opportunity to make an important point about my personal beliefs, as well as my company’s business practices.

The issue today was a public service announcement sponsored by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network).  You may have seen these.  They are part of the “Think Before You Speak” campaign created by the Ad Council for the nonprofit organization, and they  discourage the use of the word “gay” as a negative adjective.  The commenter thought the PSAs were funded by the federal government and that they were possibly infringing on his right to free speech. The campaign is not funded by the government; it’s funded by the nonprofit organization.  Also, no PSA, federally funded or not, can take away a person’s right to anything, because all a PSA can do is influence someone to change their behavior.  It can’t compel, intimidate, or penalize a person for not responding to the call to action.

He also called the advertisements “gay.”  Although that usage tempted me to delete his comment, as I will delete comments I find abusive, I let it stand so I could inform him of his mistake, and also my point of view.

The public service announcements are particularly targeted at students, and the campaign is designed to raise awareness about bullying and harassment  in schools.  I find it notable as an advertising vehicle because it gives teens the words to use so that they can confront their peers who engage in hurtful speech.  So I think it’s an admirable use of call to action.

For the record, Fletcher Prince supports safe and affirming schools and workplaces for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.  And we never use, nor do we support the use of,  the word “gay” to mean something negative or derogatory, in our personal or business practices.

Nationwide, schools will be observing a day of silence on April 20, 2012 to recognize the importance of respect for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, including the 90% of LGBT students who have been harassed at school for being who they are.  Please take a moment today to watch and share the public service announcements.

Follow @GLSEN on Twitter

Bet you didn’t know: the Ad Council and public service campaigns

Ad Council

Image via Wikipedia

Do you sometimes see or hear a public service announcement that is produced by the Ad Council for a nonprofit organization or a government agency?

Did you assume that the nonprofit organization or agency received that public service announcement  for free?

I did.  Until this week.  But I was wrong about that.

The Ad Council takes credit for these campaigns, and the public perception is that the Ad Council is responsible for them.  For example, NPR just recognized them for 70 years of “Ad Council campaigns.”

But the truth is, the campaigns are initiated by other nonprofit organizations or the federal government; advertising agencies (such as BBDO and Arnold) contribute the creative at no cost; and the advertising space is donated by publishers that can’t sell the space (the leftovers) and broadcasters, who are mandated as a condition of their license to allot a certain percentage of their broadcast time to airing public service announcements.

You won’t see these nonprofits, government agencies, and advertising agencies getting much credit from the Ad Council on the Ad Council Facebook Page, however (at least, not until I mentioned it yesterday!)  The Ad Council claims the campaigns as their own — and they also take credit for the impact.  And I don’t think that’s right.

So if the Ad Council doesn’t come up with the idea, execute it creatively, or pay for advertising space, what is the Ad Council’s contribution?  And is it fair for them to claim these campaigns as their own, as well as their impact to the community?

Well, the Ad Council does make a contribution, for a price.  It actually charges some pretty hefty fees to federal agencies and nonprofit organizations for “managing” the production and distribution of PSAs.  In most cases, this “sponsorship” amounts to many thousands of dollars.   The agencies and nonprofits are expected to assume all costs of production (which the Ad Council expenses to the IRS – seems odd to me!).  The nonprofits and agencies also pay project management fees paid to the Ad Council.  For example, Autism Speaks paid the Ad Council $844,000 in fees in a recent year (as reported to the IRS).

Maybe that’s a great price for what Autism Speaks received that year, I don’t know.  But I’d be curious to know what exactly they were paying for, if the creative and space were already donated.  Stock photography?  Or maybe it helped pay for the Ad Council president’s $862,000 annual compensation package.

Did I mention that the Ad Council was a nonprofit organization?  How do you feel about a nonprofit organization paying its CEO $862,000?  Still consider them benevolent?

In their most recent tax report, the Ad Council claims that it received nearly $32 million in program revenue from nonprofits and federal agencies, as well as nearly $9 million in donations and grants.

What is your opinion now of the Ad Council?  And do you think they should take credit for these public service campaigns?

Nonprofits, apply now for YouTube Next Cause

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

YouTube has just announced its new program, YouTube Next Cause for nonprofits.  The program provides nonprofits with the tools they need to turn video views into donations, volunteerism and awareness.

Organizations that are part of the YouTube Nonprofit Program (full eligibility requirements) are eligible to apply for YouTube Next Cause.  Apply online  Applications for YouTube Next Cause are due February 27, 2012.

Selected nonprofits will be announced on March 5th, and selected participants will be invited to an April 2 one-day summit in San Francisco, where they will receive in YouTube fundamentals and promotion and community engagement tips.  One-on-one consulting sessions to grow their YouTube presence will also be offered.

Check out this new not-for-profit PR podcast

One of our first Fletcher Prince Facebook Page fans, Bob Crawshaw, has begun a new public relations podcast focused on the needs of not-for-profit organizations.

The first episode (9 minutes) is live on his (excellent) blog, Traffic on Maine.  You don’t have to download anything; you can listen to it right on the blog.  Helpfully, he also lists the upcoming topics for the next seven episodes.

I think you’ll find the content interesting, and the audio production value is top rate.  Check it out!

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012: Invest in the Basics; Refine What You Have

You ever open your closet and think: oh, god, I hate ALL my clothes!

Yeah, me too.

Who among us couldn’t benefit from updating our look?  Or even a makeover?  You’d still be the same person inside, but the packaging.  Ah. Packaging is powerful.

Wait a minute, are we talking about clothes or marketing?  Well, maybe there are similarities.  Just like you need to have a fantastic “networking” outfit that makes you feel like you can do anything, you also need to have a website that reflects your success.

You need the basic pieces, but you also need accessories to bring life to those pieces and show your individuality.

Get the idea?  Same concepts apply to your business…or nonprofit.

These are the basics you need to have in your marketing closet.  Most clients I see who do not have all the basic elements they need in place.  That, or they could benefit from refining those vehicles.

We did a lot of “makeovers” in 2011 and expect to do even more in 2012, as clients resume their goals for positioning themselves competitively in the gradually improving economy.

Regardless of company size, most business owners and nonprofit managers should be considering an investment in most or all of these basic marketing elements…

  • A marketing audit and plan for your business ($1500).
  • A suite of professionally designed logos ($1500) in various sizes for your website, business card, letterhead, and for your business presence on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Yelp.
  • A public relations kit that includes executive bios, company fact sheet, and launch press release (starting at $500).
  • For proposals, mailings, and speaking engagements, you may also want to invest in a corporate brochure ($1500) and custom presentation folders ($350).
  • Professional headshots and corporate photography ($ call for estimate).  At the bare minimum, you will need professionally taken, recent photographs of the principal and top managers, as well as photographs of your company headquarters, signage, products, services in action, staff, and community participation.
  • A website that is searchable and easy to update ($850-$1200) that integrates social media features.
  • A branded YouTube Channel, and at least three videos ($2500 ) YouTube is the third most visited website on the Internet and there is no better way to tell your story than with video.
  • An email marketing plan and calendar of communications.  So important, and so easily neglected.  Email has been shown to be the most effective form of marketing there is.  If you have a B2C business (and even some B2B businesses),  it is not optional.
  • Some form of strategically scheduled direct mail outreach ($ call for estimates).

And here are some recommended accessories.  They’re not right for every single client, but for those who can pull it off, it can make those basics sing…

  • A blog ($850 for set-up and training)
  • Additional videos throughout the year ($750 to $1200 each)
  • Facebook Page ($300) – for some clients
  • Twitter Profile  ($300) – for most clients
  • Flickr Photo Sharing – for all clients

The service fees above are for fixed-fee projects are estimates only, based on 2011 published rates, and are subject to change in the new year.  Fees do not include affordable printing fees.

Your Marketing Strategy for 2012 — Avoid 10 Common Pitfalls in the New Year

When prospective clients ask me how to achieve visibility for their new or existing business, I generally make similar recommendations.  My advice would also apply to managers with nonprofit organizations, associations, and government agencies, as well.

Although my advice is sound and practical, I struggle with convincing some people of the value of my recommendations.

When planning and executing marketing strategies, the biggest and most preventable mistakes I observe are

(1) Skimping on needed marketing and public relations activities, even when the resources are available and the services are affordable.  I have never seen a client who spent too much money or too much time on marketing.

(2) Failing to create or stick to even the most basic marketing and public relations plan.  Being disorganized in their business practices.

(3) Postponing sales-generating marketing tactics when their business is doing well.

(4) Neglecting to update their websites, social media platforms, and public relations and marketing materials — sometimes for several years.

(5) Procrastinating until the last minute to launch promotions or public relations outreach. Not understanding the amount of time it takes to build a campaign.

(6) Abandoning marketing efforts before they have a chance to obtain results.  Having unrealistic expectations.

(7) Fearing to make a change, or try a new tactic.  Refusing to consider new options that are working well for their competitors, from a lack of familiarity with those options.

(8) Omitting the important step of reviewing and measuring their past efforts, a step that would help inform their goals and decisions.

(9) Disregarding the value of informed, external opinions and constructive criticism, even from customers.  Clients can’t always “see” that their website looks disorganized, or that their marketing materials are outdated and ineffective. They are too “close” to it.

(10) Assuming too much.  Taking on too many projects at once, or attempting too ambitious a project.  It’s better to keep it simple, and sustained.

No one is perfect.  Everyone lapses on following through on marketing plans sometimes.  The important thing to identify now is: reviewing these pitfalls, can you see whether you put obstacles in the way of your success?  Can you identify any patterns?  Did you do the best you could do, or did you let fear, disorganization, or unrealistic expectations hold you back?

Looking back at 2011, what could you have done differently?  What can you do differently in 2012?

My message for sole proprietors, businesses and nonprofits as we move into 2012 is this: you can’t complain that no one asked you to dance if you didn’t bother to put on your best clothes, or even come to the dance.

You have to make an effort if you want to see results.  And that effort usually involves an investment of resources.  It will cost something, but if your business model is sound, or your nonprofit organization is worthy, wise marketing choices will make a difference.

Marketing works when you work it.  There is no magic to marketing or public relations, and there are very few shortcuts.  Marketing your business or nonprofit takes effort and dedication, over time.

The end of the year is a time to regroup and plan.  Now is the time to analyze your position, look at what your competitors are doing, and measure the results of your past efforts.  It is time to set actionable goals, create a plan, and dedicate a budget to making that plan happen.  You need to decide what you will handle yourself, what you will delegate to staff, and what you will contract out to smart, hard-working people who can help you.

Best wishes to you for a prosperous new year.

Does your company make it to the prom?

Imagine a John Hughes movie, only this was my life: Senior year in high school. The 80s. Prom rolls around at my tiny high school. I can’t afford a dress. I don’t have a date. Some of my good friends also do not have dates. The question: should we go stag to the prom? Or skip it?

My decision: Take a chance and go by myself. Wear a vintage dress that was given to my mom by one of her clients. Hope for the best.

Result: I had an amazing time, probably better than if I had had a date. I danced with everyone, including two of my teachers. Afterwards, a group of us went out for waffles. Looking back, no regrets. I never had to say “what if?”

My friends’ decision: Stay home, watch television.

Result: Looking back, do they regret not having gone to their one and only prom? They sure do! (I know this for sure, because we are Facebook friends, and they told me so).

Lesson learned: Show up for your prom! Or spend the rest of your life wishing you had.

So my question today is this: is your business or nonprofit showing up for the prom?

I was reminded of my prom night dilemma three times this week when I heard three professional communicators talk about their approach to using social media.

One communicator (who doesn’t blog) tweeted a blog post by another communicator that you really shouldn’t start a company blog if a number of reasons apply to your company.

I read them. Valid considerations, yes. But no, no, no, no.  Not good enough to stop you.  Put your shoes on and go to the prom.

Another communicator opined in a meeting that you really shouldn’t have a company YouTube Channel if you don’t have a well-thought out plan of all the video you are going to produce for it.

I listened to his rationale.  Hmm, a plan is a good thing, I thought, BUT it’s 8 o’clock now, and they’re playing your song. GO to the dang prom!

Yet another communicator said to me this week (and at this point, I was starting to think about having some kind of mass intervention) that their agency was so busy with clients, that they just didn’t have time to get their blog off the ground, but would probably start that project in the next two months or so.  Maybe.

Wow.  While “maybe” was watching re-runs and eating m&ms in her pajamas, “let’s do it” was partying like it’s 1999 in a second-hand dress, and having the time of her life.

There is such a thing as over-thinking something.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I think careful planning is a good thing.  I get paid to help people plan their blogs, newsletters, videos, and other marketing tactics. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

But if what people refer to as planning so completely paralyzes you in a progress-sucking whirlpool of what-ifs and indecision…at that point, you need to put on any dress in the closet and go, because 9/10ths of the game is showing up.

And showing up today — in marketing terms — translates to showing up in search engine rankings.  It’s prom night, my dears!  You can show up in search engine rankings by starting a blog, creating a YouTube Channel, and putting your photos online.

You don’t need a designer dress — er, multi-thousand dollar video — to have a YouTube Channel. You can get some tread from YouTube even if you do not have any video at all to share.  Video is better yes, but it should not stop you from claiming your space on YouTube.  You have to step out on the dance floor.

I hear a lot about real-life obstacles — silos, budgets, time constraints, priorities, politics, and committees — how they interfere with progress being made on the social media front.  Or at least, how some important communications and marketing opportunities are missed.

If I were in this situation — and I can sympathize but I am glad I am not — then this is what I would do.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say. If the approval process is mired in the mud of “eventually,” then take some initiative yourself, as a marketing or communications professional, because this company or organization is going to hold you back from fully developing your marketing muscles and helping them when they are ready to move forward.

Take some time now and get trained. Buff your skills.  Hire a consultant, like me, to get you started and clear some of the brush, or draft a plan you can edit.

Or if the budget, staffing, or time are holding you back, just let me create your blog, YouTube Channel, or Facebook Page for you.  Please.  Really.

I will be your Duckie if you show up for the prom. I promise.

I do this everyday.

I like it.

I know how to do it.

I’m not afraid of it.

I’m good at it.

I’m cheap.  Okay, my business partner is making me say affordable.  Okay, now he’s asking me not to say affordable because that is not how he wants to position Fletcher Prince.  Fine.  Let’s just say this: budget will probably not be an issue for you, if you hire me.

I’m fast.

And I can show you how to do it, as well.  You can do this, and you will like it.  I highly doubt that you will have any regrets showing up for this prom.

At the very least, create something today.  You have something to say, so, start blogging about it! Life happens to you: photograph it.  Put it on video.  Have fun with it.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for your church.  Do it for your professional industry organization.  Get really comfortable with the medium, or ask me to help you learn about it.

I don’t think I could say this any more powerfully than this woman.  Watch this video, if you need a little motivation today.

Show off your micro business at the fair

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for affordable and fun ways to promote your micro business or nonprofit organization.  (A micro business is a small business that has ten or fewer employees.) One promotion technique is presenting your business or nonprofit organization at a local fair or festival.  This can be an affordable way to show off your business to thousands of people in your community.

Read the rest of this entry

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