Friday, March 5, 2010

Become a Publications Sleuth

Journalists have it down. Who, what, when, where, why and how. They get the scoop because they ask the right questions. These same questions can help you sniff out effective solutions to your communications issues. Many times clients will come and say, "We need a brochure." So I start asking questions.
  • Who is this for?
  • What organizational goal does it accomplish?
  • When and where will you distribute it?
  • Why will this particular audience care?
  • How do you want them to respond?
These questions are part of a creative brief, and having a form you fill out for each method of communication you produce provides a great roadmap to keep you on-track and on-budget. Here are a couple links you might find helpful:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It's a Two-Way Street with Vendors

Here's a very familiar scenario for my business: a non-profit gets a grant to improve their communications materials and promotional planning, so they come to me for help. We work together on establishing the organizational personality, write up a communications brief, and then work on design briefs for guidelines in creating a visual identity. Usually this process puts the organization on a learning curve, because if they'd already had a strong visual identity and website they wouldn't be needing the grant. But since most of us in the non-profit world are, by necessity, wearers of many hats, there's a tendency to want to understand and control all the aspects of the process and then, surprise, the money's running low and we need to make difficult decisions about how to spend what's left.

Two of the most important things about choosing a vendor are trust and respect. It's worth the time and energy to find someone you truly, truly trust and respect. And then let them do what they do. Listen to their recommendations and ask questions, but be willing to move in directions you hadn't thought of earlier. That's what they're there for: to guide you in a process that is their specialty. And yes, sometimes things don't go well with a vendor. But nine times out of ten, it's because the vendor was chosen hastily, not reviewed thoroughly, or, in an effort to save money, someone was chosen who's not qualified. ("My cousin's neighbor does something like that . . .")

I recently found this article titled, Turning Vendors into Business Partners that I think is worth a read. Check it out. Good vendor relationships will pay off in the long run, and are worth nurturing for the long-term health of your organization.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tips for Selecting Photos

So you just had a big event, and a friend who's into photography came and took some photos. A lot of photos. 10 disks worth of photos. Now you want to use some of those photos on your website, but how do you begin to go through them all and choose?

While I whole-heartedly advise hiring a professional photographer whenever possible, at the end of the day I'm also a realist. I know that budgets don't always allow for that, so I've compiled some tips on what to look for that will make going through a lot of photos a little less daunting. Once you know what to look for, the process goes quickly. You'll find that out of those 10 disks, you'll be lucky to get 10 really good photos that are worth using.
  1. Before you begin selecting photos, make sure you have a signed photo release from anyone who's face is recognizable. You can see a sample release form at Digital PhotoCorner.
  2. Look for good composition. It’s a bad idea to cut someone off at joints such as ankles, wrists, etc. Make sure all of someone is in the photo, or that the cropping is pleasing.
  3. Be sure photo is in focus, not blurry. If an artistic effect is desired, be sure it looks intentional.
  4. If faces are visible, expressions should match the desired emotion. Never use a photo that isn’t flattering to everyone in it. Look for eyes closed, tongues out, clothing bunched up, etc.
  5. The exposure shouldn’t be too dark or too light. If you absolutely love the photo but it’s a bit dark, considering hiring someone who can digitally alter it for you.
  6. There should be no ambiguity about what’s going on in the photo. If you were there, you might know what’s going on, but will someone who wasn’t? Arms in front of people’s faces, or caught in odd positions are things to look for. The viewer should know in an instant what’s going on.
  7. If photos are going in a brochure or on a website, make sure the photos are of different people. The same people in several photos gives the impression of cliquishness, or that there are “star” players. You want your photography to be welcoming and inclusive, as much as possible.
  8. Ask the photographer to weed out bad photos so you save yourself, and your vendors, the time and expense of having to going through them all.
  9. Be sure you get the highest resolution photos possible from the photographer. Printing anything on a press requires high resolution photos, which means 300dpi at the finished size you want it. You can always down-res something for the web, but you cannot go the other direction and turn a 72dpi photo into a 300dpi photo.
  10. If you dont understand item #9, you should hire a professional graphic designer to help you out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's About More Than Blogging

My friend, Karen Anderson, has a wonderfully informative blog called Writer Way, and her recent post, Way Beyond Blogs, is certainly worth a read.

One of the challenging things for businesses right now is to adapt to the changing terrain of communications. For decades we've been told that marketing and PR are vehicles with which to shape public perception of your business. But the truth about branding is that perception is reality, and the experience people have with your business has everything to do with their perception of your brand. Customers can sense very quickly if you have integrity, if you're being honest, if you're over-stating your case. We've gone from a demand for services to a demand for experiences, and are now entering a phase of demand for authenticity.

Way Beyond Blogs offers several links and tips to get you up-to-speed on ways you can deepen your brand through meaningful partnerships and participation in the communities around you. Never underestimate the power of good, old-fashioned honesty and integrity.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Strategy and Trust: A Map's Not Enough

Yesterday I received the GuideStar Newsletter, a monthly electronic newsletter that's always full of great advice for non-profits. The second article down caught my eye: "The Most Important Part of Your Strategic Plan."

What do you think of as the most important part of your strategic plan, or any plan for that matter? Goals? Objectives? Timelines? Those all answer the question, "What are you going to do?" But what answers the question, "How are you going to get there?"

I find so often we're focused on strategy and metrics and process, that we forget to talk about what really gets us there. Partnerships and opportunities come from relationships, and relationships require . . . trust.

Trust, and integrity, drive everything these days. We're in the midst of an era of mistrust and skepticism, and the companies that will survive and thrive will do so because of their ability to engender faith and confidence. These are the companies that value relationship-building and the web of efficiency and support that come with that.

So the next time you're looking at a plan, see if you can answer the question, "How will we get people to trust us?"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Doing Business on Facebook

To say that Facebook has become popular would be an understatement. Social networking is growing by leaps and bounds, and the current site d'jour happens to be Facebook.

More and more businesses are posting pages and events to Facebook, but before you do that you should have a look at Nick O'Neill's post, "10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know" on AllFacebook, a blog dedicated to issues about Facebook.

Protecting our privacy in this day and age of "viral" communication becomes more and more timeconsuming, but necessary. Read the fine print. And if you don't want that photo of you from college at a drunken frat party seen by your supervisor or employees (or mother), check out the posting at AllFacebook.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Promotion vs Marketing

Whenever I work with non-profits to help get the word out about their service or product, I encourage them to think in terms of a promotional plan rather than a marketing plan. There are a couple reasons for this. For one thing, traditional marketing is expensive. Direct mail, paid advertising, and color print pieces all cost a lot but may not bring the kind of return you're looking for.

Promotion, on the other hand, includes sending out press and calendar releases to local print and TV media, public service announcements to radio stations, creating an eNews that you can send out to your constituents, and the current "hot" item - social networking. Promotion is really about getting someone interested in what you do so that they'll do the "selling" for you. And at the end of the day, if you're able to articulate what you do and why it matters, it's a lot less expensive.

Very few people in the non-profit world like sales. Most say they know they need to market themselves, but don't want to appear self-congratulatory or toot their own horn. But there's another benefit of promotion: letting your clientele, who've hopefully had a great experience, toot your horn for you. It's much easier to speak passionately about someone else than it is to praise ourselves.

So start collecting success stories, keep a list of testimonials, and include those items where you can: on your website, in a brochure, in a press release. And remember that a balance of pride and humility will go a long way.