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)

The Third MobileActive Guide Released: Mobile Phones in Fundraising Campaigns

MobileActive is announcing the third MobileActive Guide, profiling strategies and civil society organizations using mobile phones in their work to make the world a better place. The MobileActive Guide focuses on using mobile phones in fundraising campaigns. It features case studies from around the world, strategies for using mobile phones in fundraising, and a how-to section for organizations considering using mobile phones to support their causes.

Download the Guide here. You can also download the previous guides.

Mobile phones have become a powerful emerging tool for participation in civil society. This five part series looks ways nonprofits have used mobile phones in their campaigns and the effective strategies deployed, and shares lessons learned.

March 27, 2007 in Organizing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Making Media Connections conference in Chicago

Making Media Connections, Wednesday, June 7 and Thursday, June 8 at Columbia
College Chicago Film Row Cinema, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.
The Midwest's best conference for bringing community and media together to
promote news that matters.

* Hear what journalists look for when they cover nonprofits * Learn from
national and local experts about nonprofit communications * Share
communication successes and challenges with peers

Last year's attendees said:
Julie Somogyi, Girl Scouts of Chicago: "The opportunity to meet journalists,
editors and reporters, face to face is still the number one reason I attend,
year after year."

Susan Mason, Jennifer S. Fallick Cancer Support Center: "Wonderful
speakers-very insightful and inspiring..great meeting spaces, meals, etc.
It was hard to choose from all the great workshops."

Who should come?
Nonprofit communicators should attend to hear from a mix of local and
national journalists--from the Washington Post to the Naperville Sun-- and
national nonprofit experts like Marnie Webb from TechSoup and Lisa Witter
from Fenton Communications will present on effective media relations and
outreach. Other highlights: the SPIN Project's one-day media boot camp,
advanced news release writing, what's working on the Web, and more.

Capping the conference at 3 p.m. Thursday, June 8 is a free, open-to-
the-public roundtable discussion on "The Power of Radio" will highlight how
immigration reform proponents have used the medium to mobilize supporters,
how the African-American community uses radio as a public forum, and the
surge of news-talk formats as a vital force for democracy and community.

Cost is $195 for the conference (bring colleagues for just $95 each), plus
$195 for full-day and $95 for half-day pre-conference workshops.

Visit, for updated panelists and presenters at Making Media
Connections Thursday, June 8 and to learn about pre- conference workshops
Wednesday, June 7. You can also register on-line at the Web site.

The Workshop has a limited number of suites available on first-come,
first-serve basis at University Center, the two-year-old 'super dorm'
seven blocks from the conference site, at a discounted rate. Call
312-344-6400 for more information.

May 4, 2006 in Organizing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Katrina Zone: Maps of Potential Sources of Environmental Contamination

This looks interesting and useful for groups doing outreach on Katrina and environmental damage work. Also check

Link: GridSphere Portal

The GIS maps on this site depict demographic and infrastructural data as well as potential sources of environmental contamination and storm damage data in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Dynamic GIS information will be found in the Aerial Imagery and GIS Data Layers application. These pre-formatted maps are intended to support the environmental health community's efforts to address the uncertainty of risk of exposure to the contaminants entering the environment as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

December 20, 2005 in Current Affairs, Environment, Organizing, Science, Technology | 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)

Evaluating Non-Profit Communications Initiatives

Evaluating Non-Profit Communications Initiatives is a wonderful paper by a lot of heavy hitters in communicaiton and communication theory folks. The paper is very interesting ( I really like the focus on "media trigger events") in context of "awareness communicaitons" . The frame work falls short in that it does not look at communicaitons campaigns "in battle" with an opposition campaign (most of the work we do). However, it is definately worth a read.

This Working Paper suggests that evaluating media campaigns is often a multi-phase effort, with no single "roadmap." However, numerous guideposts can be observed, as detailed here.

The paper’s objective has been to give foundations and non-profits a realistic set of guidelines to use as they evaluate communications efforts. It is important that members of the evaluation community have a realistic overview of what can and cannot be expected as they seek to assess communications projects in the non-profit arena.

The next steps will be for CCMC to work with interested foundations and non-profits to apply these guidelines to assess ongoing communications efforts. This will enable CCMC, foundations and the non-profits to judge the effectiveness of the guidelines suggested and to modify them where necessary.

Kudos to CCMC for pushing evaluation, communicaitons theory and communicaitons strategy to a new level.

May 6, 2004 in Advocacy, Good Reading, Media Training, Message Development, Organizing, Working with The Press | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (7)

What's a Blog, and Why Should Nonprofits Care?

What's a Blog, and Why Should Nonprofits Care? by Zafar S. Shah

Another interesting push for the nonprofit community to consider the value of making more of the thinking and learning of the organization available to staff, friends and the public. while the topic is not new and there are old blogs and rants on the nonprofit use of the blog as a tool in their work, Zafa makes a contribution to the chorus pushing nonprofit staff to be more transparent through use of the blog as an easy content tool.

Related Post:
Weblog Strategies for Nonprofits
Blogs as Training Tools
Going Beyond The Internet: Blogs from the Front
Web Dominance No Longer Tactical Strategy for Campaigns

My favorite clips from this new article:

When she encouraged her staff to blog about their work, Sisnett recognized another benefit of nonprofit blogging: She could now easily keep up to speed on her staff's work and the progress of various, concurrent projects. Soon, between the executive director, the technical staff and volunteers, Austin Free-Net had three staff blogs full of updated and archived information that could easily be incorporated into strategic plan updates, VISTA reports, press releases, newsletters and grants. When a colleague, a sponsor or even a journalist needed information about a project or issue, Sisnett could refer the interested party to a blog.
blogs with an "internal focus" have made it easier for organizations to capture the knowledge of teams and support their collaboration. "Rather than only a linear discussion list for a team," she points out, "individual and collaborative blogs make it possible to see ties among team members and issues they are working on."
While blogs entail a requisite amount of timely attention and care, the work you put into them is not "just blogging," Sisnett adds, thinking about how the research and learning behind her blog have improved Austin Free-Net's projects and partnerships. "That work affects all of your organization's work."

March 27, 2004 in Advocacy, GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Media Training, Online Press Rooms, Organizing, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (5)

Lessons from the Presidential Campaign Email / Formats

Email is the primary connection most users have with the web. Millions of people only use the Internet to access email. The problem has been that many of the advocacy organizations have put too little thought or strategy behind message targeting, development and use of email as a mass communication medium.

Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox for February 17 is now online. Jakob is a guru of useability and does great research work. Basic findings:
* E-newsletters that are informative, convenient, and timely are often preferred over other media.
* Most email newsletters are not designed for scanability and should be since that is how they are read.

Green Media Toolshed actually purchased Jakob's study. (my opinion the price is not worth it for advocacy groups. It has lots of screen shots of the email letters Jakob studied. However, we are really happy with his newsletter and books).

Key lessons:
1. A good subject line with actual important content. (NOT NEWSLETTER #3 -GMT or IMPORTANT NEWS type subjects)
2. Keep it short
3. Write for scanning - Jakob has all the statistics to say folks don't read the newsletter they scan it. You should write so scanners "get" your core message. I Love this quote from the summary This implies the need for layouts that let users quickly grasp each issue’s content and zero in on specifics. It is kind of the general challenge for all advocacy.
4. Newsletters should be timely and informative about events, dates, deadlines.
5. Do it right or people will unsubscribe (worse they will stay subscribed because they are afraid of your unsubscribe process and come to resent you for spamming them)
6. You must convince folks that your regular email will be simple, useful, and easy to deal with.
7. Don't abuse your relationship. Be predictable and not too aggressive.

There have been a few folks really working in this space and special kudos go to Michael C. Gilbert for his work in the field. He has inspired me to take the email strategy question much more seriously. His site is worth reading and his blurbs on email are provocative and smart.

POLITICSUS has a great collection of campaign mass emails. These email messages seem long but they are a quick scan and tend to catch the readers attention pretty quickly. These messages go to more than 100,000 readers.

Take a close look at the format and style used in these emails and let us know what works for you.


OneNW is also a leader in the nonprofit use of email and worth digging around their content. search for "EMAIL" on their search bar for a bunch of great content.

February 17, 2004 in Current Affairs, GMT Tips and Tricks, Good Reading, Network Advocacy, Organizing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (6)

View Case List

This is a great example of ways to harvest ideas from members and friends.

View Case List

We are continually adding examples of innovative tactics to our tactics database. To get a feel for the kinds of tactics included, browse through the list below. Click on a headline to read more about each one, then read what others have to say and share your comments. If you are looking for a particular type of tactic, please use our search features.

Kudos to

February 15, 2004 in Advocacy, GMT Tips and Tricks, Network Advocacy, Organizing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (4)

Google's Role in Ocean Protection

An interesting new fight has emerged in the ad censorship arena. Much like TV, radio and newspapers, Google has stepped into the ad censorship business. Oceana's campaign is based on irrefutable facts. The ships are not designed to treat human waste nor do they claim that they do. The method of management of the waste is to dump it in shipping lanes. Oceana's campaign is targeted to put pressure on the industry to stop dumping waste overboard.

Google is making the distinction of critical vs. factual and seems to be on the wrong side of the issue. The advocacy movement can not afford to be filtered from Google ads.

Ask Google Why They Canceled Oceana's Ads Google shut them down. The reason? The ads, they said, linked to sites that contained "language critical of Royal Caribbean" and "language critical of the cruise industry"! So what are you allowed and not allowed to say in a Google ad? What companies are you prohibited from criticizing? Who knows?

Oceana has provided a tool to respond to this censorship and target Google Founders and their Corporate and Consumer Public Relations team.

The google choice is difficult to accept in this case. Although, I am not sure that the typically underfunded, non-advertising advocacy movement wants to see ads next to searches on group names or critical issues like environmentalism, forest protection, etc. I can think of lots of ways those industries that could afford ads could use this as a message shooting range in a way that really hurts the movement.

February 13, 2004 in Advocacy, Current Affairs, Environment, Organizing, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

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