Our Top Ten Successes of 2011

It’s become a tradition for us to highlight our successes from the previous twelve months.  It also helps that our “Top Successes” posts are among the most popular on our site!  So without further adieu, please find below our top client successes from 2011.

10. Recruiting Grasstops Volunteers  – Every week the average Representative in Congress receives 10,000 email messages, far too many to process.  Yet many organizations continue to focus on the quantity, rather than the quality, of communications they generate to elected leaders.  We were pleased to have the chance to work with a national patient advocacy organization that sought to build a network of high-level, politically connected volunteers.  Over an 8-week period, we identified and recruited 78 A-list volunteers from 43 states.  We’re now working with the organization to engage these volunteers in state policy initiatives and the 2012 presidential campaign.

9. Bringing in Bucks & Building Support – ADHD affects millions of kids in America, but some still consider it a “made up” disease.  We worked with patient advocate Natalie Knochenhauer and her group ADHD Aware to develop a funding proposal for a national public awareness campaign.  We were thrilled when a major industry partner decided to fund the organization in the weeks leading up to ADHD Awareness Month in October.  During the awareness month, we reached more than 1.125 million people online with our messages and increased ADHD Aware’s Facebook supporters by more than 350%.

8. Raising Public Awareness – In 2011 we developed awareness campaigns for both the Alliance for Aging Research and the Amputee Coalition.  For the Amputee Coalition, we developed a campaign that will be launched in early 2012 and seeks to educate Americans with diabetes on how to avoid a lower-extremity amputation.  For the Alliance, we developed a campaign to build support for the Healthspan initiative, which will also launch in early 2012  For both we conducted strategic planning sessions, developed key messages, identified target audiences, created communications tactics and an implementation plan.  We look forward to reporting on the success of these campaigns in our Top Successes of 2012!

7. Training Future Generations – In the summer of 2011, I taught Grassroots Communications: Mobilizing the Masses to more than twenty Georgetown graduate students.  Grassroots communications is key because they allow any organization – not just those with huge budgets – to generate conversations and action on the issues they care about.  These conversations are far more persuasive than email or advertising and can more easily cut through the 3,000 marketing messages we process each day.  Teaching at Georgetown provides an unparalleled opportunity to share these strategies with a new generation of communications professionals.

6. Achieving a Regulatory Milestone – In mid-2011 the US Preventive Services Task Force announced it would review the effectiveness of screening for lower-extremity atherosclerosis.  Securing a favorable review from the Task Force has been a top priority of the Vascular Disease Foundation and its allies for more than three years.  We’ve been working with the Foundation the entire time and are thrilled to see that our analysis, messaging and lobbying has begun to pay dividends.  We’re now partnering with the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association to stress the value and importance of this life-saving preventive test.

To be continued next week….


The 11 Social Media Mistakes: Are you Guilty?

In a recent issue of Mashable, ClickZ reporter Sundeep Kapur, had a great piece on the 11 mistakes brands continue to make in social media. Surprising as these may be for those of us who’ve been doing social for a while, the list is thoughtful and applies to nonprofits as much as it does to brands.

Nonprofits spend less time and money on their social media, presumably for lack of resources. But as this article attests, you don’t have to have a lot of money, buy a lot of widgets or have a to have an engaging presence.

The trick to success on social media is the same trick for success in friendship: be nice, respond when spoken to and have something interesting to say.  Here’s the list of social media mistakes, pared down for nonprofits:

1. Run specials all the time. In a struggle to keep the consumer engaged, brands tend to keep offering consumers special deals. This all-out effort to discount and lure tends to have a negative impact by devaluing the brand and devaluing the relationship.

2. Wait for people to come. Brands set up shop on social media sites and simply wait for the consumer to come and find them. They do little to engage via dialogue or by trying to market along other channels. They have simply set up shop and expect that it is good enough to drive consumers in.

3. Run contests and games all the time. Gamification is the new buzzword for engagement with many brands investing significantly in games to engage their consumers. Additionally, brands tend to run multiple contests, which results in severely diluting their engagement to conversion metrics.

4. Block negative feedback. Many top brands tend to either block or ignore negative feedback. If you put up a comment on their site they either take it down or have a defined strategy to push the bad comments as far down as possible. This strategy diminishes the value of the positive comments.

5. Launch press releases on social media. Do you pay attention to more than 300 characters or watch long video clips? Brands tend to forget the conversational nature of engagement on social media sites – short, interesting stories are a much better way to engage.

6. Wait 24 hours to respond. Some brands take a long time to respond because they only check “social feedback” twice a week. Other brands take a long time to respond because they have to get approval before they can respond. The problem is that if you take too long, the consumer will probably call your brand for an answer or move over to someone else.

7. Not connecting your channels. Always a classic with the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Just two weeks ago, a major travel company sent two types of incentives – a gas discount card by email that shaved 10 cents off each gallon and a gas discount offer via social media that offered a five cent discount. It took a direct mail piece to fix the issue.

8. Just rolling along. Some brands feel that it’s OK to reach a certain critical mass in social media after which their sites can just “roll along.” The snowball can roll the wrong way and hurt brands.  Focus on “likes.” A blind focus on driving up “likes” has led to the “like” button being devalued and resulted in significantly lower ROI.

9. “Wait” to get started. Believe it or not there are still brands, especially in the financial services area, that are waiting for the social media “fad” to end.

For the complete article go to:  11 Deadly Social Media Sins for Brands by Sundeep Kapur

4 Strategies for Recruiting A-List Volunteers

We need influential advocates!

Many groups would like to have a “grasstops” network of volunteers – those with significant expertise and political connections – but few have successfully built one from scratch.

Late last year, we helped build a team of A-list volunteers for a national patient advocacy organization.  We recruited 78  volunteers from 43 states with significant health care and political experience.  Their goal is to deliver the organization’s message to key decision-makers in their state.

We focused on four things when building our Elite council.

  1. Developing Application Criteria – We started by asking, “What do you want people to do?  What skills do they need? ” These questions formed our application.  We also asked, for example, how far applicants lived from their state capital.  That’s because we want them to meet with state officials, like the governor, so being close to the capital is key.  Diversity and educational attainment are also important, so we asked that too.  All told, our 20 questions were answerable in about 5 minutes.
  2. Finding the Influentials – We also wanted applicants who are influential in their community.  So we asked a series of 12 questions modeled on those developed RoperASW research firm.  The questions are designed to identify the 10% of the people in a community that “convinces the remaining 90%” how to vote, shop and give.  By finding local connectors, we can work with their connections to reach public officials. Continue reading

Nonprofit Social Media Tips Same After 3 Years

Social Media Expert, Jason Falls

Social Media Expert, Jason Falls

I try to read social media expert Jason Falls whenever I can squeeze in the time. He is a no-nonsense, data driven type who hits the nail on the head when it come to social media strategy. I hate bells and whistles. He hates bells and whistles.

This is why his article, Three Keys to Nonprofit Success in Social Media is still applicable today, despite the fact it was written THREE years ago.

The intro is a bit long, but his thesis is great. The keys are:

Have a compelling story to tell.
Make a specific ask or establish a specific goal to reach.
Make it astonishingly easy to give.

He also speaks about calls to action in content, the need for the emotional connection in your ask, as well as the critical need to have a strong communications plan around your giving goals. (Without this last one, Falls said, it’s like building a McDonald’s in the Sahara Desert. It’s certainly needed but no one will know about it! )

Here it is in its entirety. Happy reading!

Three Keys to Nonprofit Success in Social Media

How Obamacare Helped Me

In April 2008, I stopped drinking alcohol. When Mimi left her job, and her group health insurance plan, in November 2009 I suddenly became one of the 50 million uninsured Americans. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act – or “Obamacare” if you’re of a particular political persuasion – I now have health insurance coverage.

I have a family history of alcoholism and in 2008 decided I wanted to stop drinking. But it was harder than I thought. So I decided to visit my primary care physician and she prescribed Lexapro, an anti-depressant medication. After one dose, I lost my craving for alcohol. After thirty days, I stopped taking it and haven’t had a drink since.

Good news, right? Not if you want to purchase health insurance on the open marketplace. When we gave up our group health coverage, our insurance company declined to cover me citing my past history of “substance abuse and anxiety.” Fortunately, I was able to continue coverage through COBRA temporarily; that company dropped me after a payment was 3 days late.

For the last 18 months I’ve been without any health insurance coverage. After much prodding, our health insurance company did eventually offer me a policy that cost $1,500 per month with a $10,000 out-of-pocket deductible. I declined, hoping that the health care reform law passed by Congress in 2010 would kick in before I suffered any grave medical problem.

And that’s exactly what happened. This summer, I learned about the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) that was created as part of the health care reform law. Organized by the states and federal government, it provides coverage to someone like me who’s had difficulty getting coverage in the past. It’s not free, but at $168 a month it’s affordable.

I’ve worked in health care for nearly 20 years. During that time I’d heard from many people with diabetes, epilepsy and cancer and the difficulties they’d faced in obtaining health insurance. But losing my health insurance because I stopped drinking alcohol? I never thought in a million years my life would be at risk for making the (seemingly) right decision about my personal health.

So the next time you hear people decry “Obamacare” and how it’s taking away your personal liberties, think again. You just may be in my shoes some day.

Good Facebook Ad Tips Are Hard to Find…Not to Use

I guess it would be obvious that Facebook would have a great marketing webinar series. But what amazes me is that many people do not know this. And granted, it is not that easy to track down.

But I have learned a ton from this series and it is easy to use, and find key webinars, once you know where to look.

While it is mostly for ad campaigns and ad performance, it has other side benefits as well, especially when it comes to word usage, testing, and calls to action. See what you think and let me know.





Colorado Education Advocates Unveil New Tactic

By Tim Hoover of the Denver Post….

Supporters of an initiative that would ask voters in November to raise taxes for education are using an online, grassroots strategy to gather signatures that could revolutionize the petition process.

“It is the first time that I have seen this kind of tactic,” said veteran ballot-issue consultant Rick Reiter. “I’m watching it closely because I could learn a lot.”

Great Education Colorado Action is the political arm of Great Education Colorado, a group that urges more spending on education, and it has sent e-mails to supporters and turned to social networking to jump-start a signature-gathering drive for Initiative 25.

That proposal would, for five years, raise state sales taxes from 2.9 percent to 3 percent and hike the state’s income tax from 4.63 percent to 5 percent. If voters approved it, the proposal would generate an estimated $3 billion for K-12 and higher education.

Supporters say the tax hikes are needed to offset three years of deep cuts to education spending.

Critics say Coloradans are in no mood for a tax increase and the proposal would kill jobs during an economic recovery. Republicans have been the most vocal critics, but many Democrats have been silent on the proposal, and Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has repeatedly said Coloradans have “no appetite” for a tax increase.

The initiative filed by state Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, doesn’t have the support so far of the state’s major business or education groups. That means the six-figure sums that are usually required to hire companies to conduct petition drives may not be forthcoming.

So supporters are trying a strategy that uses social network websites to ask people to sign the petitions. Supporters have set up a website that allows people to download petitions and then volunteer to gather signatures.

The kit includes instructions on how to gather 50 signatures to fill each petition and even how to properly staple the pages. It instructs volunteers to seek out a notary after gathering the signatures and then to return the signed petitions to supporters in Denver.

Every petition must bear an individual number, and the website where they can be downloaded assigns each one a unique number.

“The conventional wisdom is you need a lot of money to get something on the ballot,” said Lisa Weil, spokeswoman for Great Education Colorado. “Well, we don’t have that. What we’ve got is tens of thousands of education supporters who care about schools and affordable higher education.”

Instead of standing outside a supermarket, Weil said, volunteers can seek signatures on a more personal level. This closer-knit connection also will allow volunteers to better educate others about funding cuts for schools and colleges.

The hurdle to get an initiative on the ballot isn’t small. Supporters will have to gather the valid signatures of 86,105 registered Colorado voters, a benchmark that usually means circulators aim for as many as twice that number of signatures just to be safe.

“I think that the structure of what they’re doing has potential here,” said Reiter, the consultant, “but like all these things, when you need 11,000 people engaged in it, the management and the direct contact with those people will dictate whether this works or not.”

He added: “Hopefully 11,000 people have staplers. Because if you don’t staple it right, you’re done.”

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