Vote for the Best Nonprofit Taglines of 2008

Vote for the Best Nonprofit Taglines -- 2008 Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards

Place your vote today for the first Getting Attention Nonprofit Tagline Awards. These tagline finalists have been carefully culled from the more than 1,050 taglines submitted to the recent Getting Attention Tagline Survey. They're all fantastic, but they all can't be the best.

The organizations behind these taglines have done a fantastic job in putting eight words or less to work to build their brands. Now it's your turn to select which are the best in class.

Vote today – Getting Attention blogger and e-news publisher Nancy Schwartz ( wants to know what you think. It'll take you 7minutes or less; polls close Friday, June 20th.

P.S. Please spread the word to colleagues; the more votes, the more accurate the results.

June 4, 2008 in Message Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Using Maps to Deliver Your Message

I had the opportunity to attend the Planning and Conservation League's annual Symposium this past weekend. There were many sessions to choose from but one in particular caught my attention. The topic was using maps to persuade and mobilize. The presenters were Larry Orman and Tim Sinnott from GreenInfo Network and Rebecca Moore from Google Earth Outreach.

Larry Orman started off with a great point: we're overloaded with geographic information. We've got access to road maps, mash ups, interactive maps, climate change maps, election maps, and geotagged photos. But Larry pointed out that mapping is about having a point, not just about showing data.

Why are maps a popular choice for displaying cross-sections of information? One reason is that data is not an obstacle. It's available and much of it is free. Also, computers and mapping software are less expensive. And new generations of folks are map-savvy.

GIS (geographic information system) is one mapping tool that marries data and places. GIS can be used to analyze information, such as land use, commercial development, pollution impact, and to define alternative outcomes.

Maps, in general, can be used to tell a story or convey a message. Mapping tools let you unfold data in layers to reveal parts of the story. It is important, Larry emphasized, that you think about mapping as communications. Technology is whizzy and great, but it is still critical that you have a good story. You need to know who your audience is, what your message is, how much time people will have to view your map as well as at what distance and in what context.

Rebecca Moore reinforced that maps can be very effective for telling a story or delivering a message, particularly when you don't have much time to deliver it. She noted that maps can change an abstract concept into something personal for people. When done right, maps can show what is at stake instead of just telling what is at stake. They can inspire action, influence decision-makers, reach the media, and impact public policy.

If you are interested in using maps as part of your outreach strategy, there are a number of tools to try:
-- Google SketchUp
-- Google Earth
-- ArcExplorer
-- Interactive mashups
-- GeoPDFs

While there are many examples, two in particular you may want to view are:
-- Ocean Conservancy's "A Preventable Tragedy"
-- Appalachian Voices' "I love Mountains" campaign

And finally, if you want to read more, try these resources:
-- Google Earth Blog
-- ESRI Conservation Program

Happy Mapping!
Bobbi Russell

January 16, 2008 in Communications Skills, Environment, Media Training, Message Development, Network Advocacy, Organizing, Technology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Could commuters be your mobile messengers?

I was taking the Metro home on Tuesday evening and happened to get on a 4 car Blue Line train in the middle of rush hour. If you don't live in the D.C. area, I should note that this is a real pain in the neck as it typically means overcrowding and delays due to folks trying to jam into the closing doors. This doesn't happen as much when Metro runs 6 or 8 car trains. Still, on this super hot day, I was lucky enough to have a seat and a very entertaining train conductor.

Many riders were cranky and were complaining loudly about the overloaded train. Our cheerful conductor used humor to try to soothe the masses. When one passenger asked him why a 4 car train was being run during rush hour, the conductor made an announcement to the entire train. It went something like: "You know, I'm not sure why we're running this 4 car train at the peek of rush hour. I'm just the driver but I recommend that you go home and email someone about it. Go to and tell someone what you think."

He said this a number of other times during my 20 minute ride, suggesting that if Metro received 3,000 emails -- one each from everyone on the crowded train -- maybe they would make a change to the service.

Now, I couldn't say exactly how many, but a portion of the riders were tourists. They don't care about long term Metro crowding and are likely not going to send an email to Metro when they get home from vacation. But the rest of us daily commuters were really an engaged audience. We looked around to one another, smiled and even laughed at the conductor's attempts at humor. We bonded. And I thought to myself, I will send an email about this issue.

I was on my way to dinner, so by the time I got home later that night, I didn't think to send that email. But if in the moment when someone was stepping on my toes and the person sitting next to me elbowing me while applying her poppin' lip gloss, I would have sent a text message. If our conductor announced text instructions instead of a website address, I would have sent a text to Metro from my cell phone right then.

The experience made me think that maybe nonprofit organizations should think about the use of print ads in Metro trains, in Metro stations, on buses, at bus stops that encourage people to text about particular issues or donate to an organization through their cell phone provider. Give commuters something proactive to do while they're waiting for the next train or en route to their next destination.

Then the next day here at GMT we explored mobile advocacy a bit more in a training session hosted by Katrin Verclas of MobileActive and NTEN. She gave many helpful tips about how nonprofits can use cell phones, particularly text messaging, in their outreach campaigns. We talked more about how groups can use text messaging and different kinds of mobile messaging to deliver their messages and calls to actions to members and supporters. We asked her for some impromptu rules for writing interactive and effective text messages, keeping in mind that texts to your constituents need to be interactive and stay within the 160 character limit. She says:
1. Be clear about what very specific action you're asking in the text.
2. Test and retest so you know what messages work; consider testing two different messages at one time (an A & B trial)
3. Consider your audience and whether you should use emoticons, slang, or shortened words in your message (i.e. using "u" instead of "you" and "4" instead of "for").
5. If sending multiple messages with multiple asks, be sure to have a good sequence & flow (test the process so your asks make sense to your audience).

Check out Katrin's blog post about LiveEarth's SMS campaign at

--Bobbi Russell

July 12, 2007 in Message Development | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

How to Make Pitch Calls Less Boring

Every month, Jason Salzman of Cause Communications and organizer of the True Spin Conference, sends out the Progressive PR Jobs Newsletter. It has great PR tips and a list of jobs in the PR field. You can subscribe to it here.

In March's newsletter, Jason wrote, "A big problem with PR is that pitching reporters can be so boring and degrading—even if it’s among the most important jobs in the progressive movement. What to do?"

To answer this question, he asked several people for their solutions. They gave some great tips:

Danielle Lewis, Senior Account Executive, Spitfire Strategies, wrote:

My attitude on this is that it’s only degrading if you let yourself be degraded. That means if you come in contact with a nasty reporter who treats you like a PR hack, letting it roll off your back. I’ve certainly been insulted and screamed at while pitching, but for every rude reporter there’s five who are genuinely interested in hearing what you have to say. And if you give respect – by not overselling, by being honest, by choosing your timing carefully, by knowing who you are pitching and what they care about – you usually get respect in return.

The other thing that can make pitching torture is being forced to sell a bad story because your boss or your client just wants to see their organization’s name in print. There needs to be a change in thinking higher up in social-change organizations that you only pitch when you truly have a good story – something actually newsworthy – and when the goal is not just to get a lot of clips but rather to use that media coverage for some greater strategic goal.

Andrew Posey, Vice President, Hershey/Cause, wrote:

I think pitching reporters should be neither boring or degrading...and that if you have a good story, are using data correctly, and you are targeting publications correctly, it can be a breeze compared to what folks in the corporate sector are required to pitch. We, in this sector, are actually fortunate in our ability to pitch causes that are both important and newsworthy. One of the issues is the single-mindedness (we are right, this IS a story) of advocates who fail to address media and those audiences that aren’t in their camps, with messages/efforts that look at the issue without really seeing/framing the story they want covered based on self interest/POV of others.

Also, I’ve found that just because you are an advocate, even a smart and informed one, doesn’t mean you are cut out for the cold calling (really, the sales aspect) required in media outreach. Some folks are better behind the scenes.

Tony Newman, Drug Policy Alliance, wrote:

Pitching is CRUCIAL!! With the flood of emails and faxes going to reporters, the personal call becomes even more and more important!!

It is not uncommon for us to make 50 calls when we are pitching a story! After a while you can end up getting in a good rhythm! You can’t get discouraged if you end up leaving lots of messages or even talk to people who are not interested. If even 3 reporters out of 50 end up doing a story, that is a huge success!! Those 3 stories may reach hundreds of thousands of people!!

Sign up for the newsletter to get more great tips!

-Yvonne Archer

April 2, 2007 in Message Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Create an Effective Message, Jargon Free

Every organization needs to develop a message before interacting with the media. This message needs to be reiterated each time you communicate with the press and should stay the same everytime. Make sure that it is clear and easy to understand, and includes the problem at hand and your solution to that problem. If your message is about the excessive pollution of the Susquehanna River, don't stop there. Include your solution to this problem and the actions people need to take.

Use your organizational messages as the foundation of all campaigns or projects. They may have their own 'sub' messages, but should be arteries to your main road.

Also remember that your message shouldn't contain scientific or technological jargon. You understand what you are saying because you work with it everyday, but the general public may not. Your key message may get lost amongst the definitions and terminology. Keep it plain and simple.

A great example comes from Amy Kostant of Environmental Media Services ( You could have your message be: POPs are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. With the evidence of long-range transport of these substances to regions where they have never been introduced and the consequent threats they pose to the environment of the whole globe, the international community has now, at several occasions called for urgent global actions to reduce and eliminate releases of these chemicals.

Or you could decide this is more to the point: POPs are the worst chemicals in the world. 120 countries have agreed to ban them.

Which is more eye catching and effective to you?

If you want additional help, download Bullfighter from This software finds and eliminates jargon from your documents, in either Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. Download it here:

August 16, 2005 in Media Training, Message Development, Working with The Press | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (4)

Messenger Matters: Ask the Baby

Good message and new messengers save lives in the outreach to African American community. Andy Goodman does a really nice overview of the impact culture, race and messengers can have on the effectivenes of message delivery. The core message... put infant children to sleep on their backs to save them from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) did not change but by playing around with the communications campigns saved lives.

The communications message "Back to Sleep" is nice and catchy slogan but saving your baby from death is a pretty strong motivator especcially if all you need to do is remember to put them on their back. The more direct litature and and campaign carried the message more effectively. Andy really hones in on the messenger aspect which played a role but I think the new campaign just carried the core message more clearly. I would guess finding more effective "channels" to the target audinece was hugely important and the final image and messenger shifts made the materials comfortable to distribute and peaked interest.

started distributing brochures (including the one pictured here) that emphasized “safe sleep for your baby,” a phrase that avoided possible confusion. Images of black mothers, fathers, and infants were
used liberally. African American parents were very receptive to the revised campaign ...

Disparities in death rates between black infants and white infants still exist, but the gap has narrowed. Between 2000 and 2003, the number of black infants dying from SIDS dropped 17%, and the more culturally sensitive outreach conducted by NBCDI and other groups undoubtedly helped.

Andy's letter is always worth the read.

August 2, 2005 in Message Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stories within the Story: A Look at Frames and Stories Used in the Media

Here is a really interesting article on the ways reporters struggle with the presentation of news stories. It is particularly note worthy on the use of anecdotes toward the end of the story and the way the anecdotes stick or hang the rest of the narrative.

It's an exercise. These activists want to more effectively present their messages to the media. I'm volunteering to listen, to ask them questions as if this were a real press conference.

Unfortunately, their presentations deconstruct into a gyration of language; most are too muddled to be written into a story.

I'm struck by how hard they have worked, spending half of a sunny Saturday to thoughtfully shape press releases on issues they care deeply about -- politics, the environment, social services.

So much effort to reach us, the media.

Sounds like many media training gone bad. (look over a sample of the environmental movements' press releases to see what you think)

The question is how do the stories and language we use paint an image of environmental work? Are we reinforcing perceptions of loss and powerless by talking about the loss of species and environmental quality? Is the movement way to wonky and unremarkable?

Where are the stories that stick on environmental issues that tell the power of planning and repercussions of positive and unintended positive side effects created by environmental protection.

Stories worth retelling like Alabama Dune Mouse, The Story of the Wolf in Yellowstone or the hundreds of stories about river protection efforts saving homes from being flooded, clean air efforts protecting children from asthma or smart growth efforts revitalizing lost communities.

July 22, 2005 in Advocacy, Environment, Good Reading, Media Training, Message Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (8)

Communications Toolkit: Cause Communications Book

Here is another great resource for the desk. It is smart and free!

Cause Communication’s newest book, entitled Communications Toolkit—a guide to navigating communications for the nonprofit world can help nonprofit newbies, veterans, and anyone in between find the resources they need to wage more effective communications campaigns.

Based off of national qualitative and quantitative audits of what nonprofits need in the area of communications, the book offers an overview of all the possible tools used to develop smart communications.

This comprehensive guide offers practical information in virtually every area of communications—from how to develop and budget a communications plan to what tools you need to help raise awareness and funds.

The book was made possible by support from The Annenberg Foundation, The California Endowment, The James Irvine Foundation and The Marguerite Casey Foundation.

Make sure you order your free copy and let us now what you think.

July 13, 2005 in Advocacy, GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Media Training, Message Development, nptech, Online Press Rooms, Organizing, Working with The Press | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (9)

SPIN Project: Strategic Communications Training and Guide

The SPIN folks have published a useful collection of tools and guides to help in planning and organizing a communications plans. Holly Minch (on the GMT Board) continues to do great work and contribute to the field of advocacy communications like few other groups.

The creation and adoption of a strategic communications plan represents a significant step for any organization. For many organizations, the adoption of such a plan represents a cultural shift toward communications and a clear recognition that all the organization’s efforts have a communications element. Public education, grassroots organizing, research, public advocacy, direct service and even fundraising are all, at their core, communications tasks vital to the health and success of a nonprofit organization.

At the SPIN Project we firmly believe that a strategic communications plan has the power to transform an organization: both in terms of your credibility and status in your community, and in terms of the way you work together as a team to achieve your mission and vision for your community.

July 11, 2005 in Advocacy, GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Message Development, nptech, Working with The Press | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Follow the Money Running Your State

If you haven't already been to the Institute's Web site,, I would urge you to do so. They have the most comprehensive set of state-level campaign-finance data in the country, and offer it all for free via the site. They added a custom search query, under 'more search options, that lets users build their own SQL queries of any subset of data.

The Institute uses its multi state, multiyear databases to research trends in political giving, examine how contributions drive public policy debates in the states and the nation, and see how special interests give across state lines.

Poke around with the data for your state. Dig into the state giving of donors to your opposition and find out why legislation gets stuck in committee.

September 16, 2004 in GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Message Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)

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