Should you stick with it or take a break?

humor, journey, arriving, lead

When it comes to messaging and language and words, it’s easy to get stuck. You’ve stared at the same set of words for hours. You want to yank your hair out. But the deadline is looming. You must stick with it!!!

Yes, you have to remain focused on your priority for the day. But maybe what you need is a good ol’ peregrination. Yep, some purposeful mental meandering might be exactly what you need to get you to your goal. 

Not sure what a peregrination is? Kick up your heels and find it in this week’s podcast. You just might find that taking a break gets you closer to arriving at your destination.


What karate taught me about marketing

courageWhen I was 19, I started doing karate. I quickly became completely and utterly obsessed. I trained 15-20 hours a week. It was fantastic. #OhToBeYoungAgain

Six years later, I moved back to Vancouver, Canada. I tried to find a dojo that felt like a good fit but nothing felt quite right. So I stopped training. Aside from the occasional back kick to close the fridge door, karate played no role in my life (save for watching Bruce Lee flicks, which isn’t quite the same thing).

Then about a month ago, I ended up with a running-related injury that was bad enough I had to stop running. I started doing some basic punching and kicking as part of my daily exercise routine because, well, punching and kicking is a good cardio workout and didn’t annoy my flamed out calf. I was instantly reminded of just how much I love karate and why.

Karate isn’t about beating people up–it’s about discipline and focus. These attributes come in really handy if you’re a marketer.

With spiffy new tools, ideas and technology coming at you faster than Jason Statham’s right hook, it’s easy to get distracted. You have to be extremely disciplined and stay focused on your goals and objectives. In karate, if you lose focus, you end up with a broken ankle and/or ribs (been there, done that). In marketing, if you lose focus you risk falling prey to Shiny Object Syndrome. Not quite as painful as a broken rib, but certainly sub-optimal.

If you’re 5’4″ (like yours truly) and your opponent is 6’4″, a roundhouse kick gets the job done better than a straight punch. Translation: If you’re not getting the results you want from your marketing efforts, take some time and make sure your actions align with your objectives. Not as fun as checking out your Facebook feed for the 47th time today, but effective.

I promise, Grasshopper, your discipline and focus will pay off.



Pitching Passion & Passionate Pitching

engagement, connection, marketing, fundraising, strategy
Engagement Cycle: know, understand, engage

Most people passionate about what they do have one of two reactions when someone asks about their work.

Reaction #1: In a blur of words and hand gestures, they share every single amazing tidbit of info they have in their brain about their mission, vision, values. The impact they are having. The change they are making. The awesome that they are unleashing in the name of making the world a better place! They pause only long enough to ask themselves: “How could someone not jump at the chance to be a part of something that is so, so, so, so fabulous?!!!!!!!!!”

Reaction #2: They give the most boring account ever of what they do and why they do it. No passion is present. It evaporates into thin air. Poof. Gone.

Both of these reactions happen for the same reasons: these poor people have fallen into the “elevator pitch” trap, which mushes three pitches into one, AND they don’t know how to channel their enthusiasm for their work. So they either over talk or under talk. Either way. It’s ain’t pretty.

If you want donors to donate, volunteers to volunteer, board members to serve, etc etc etc, you have to create a clear engagement path that is supported by a series of pitches. I went into this when introducing the #FixMyPitch contest I’m doing with Beth Kanter, so you can get all the details in that post. The bottom line is you need to divide your pitches into three categories: know, understand and engage. (Note that there is no ‘elevator pitch’ category. Like phones with chords, that category is a thing of the past.)

In the coming weeks, we’ll be revealing the before and after pitches for the contest winners.  In the meantime, ask yourself: “do I have a clear engagement path with supporting pitches?” If you don’t, read the #FixMyPitch post, watch for the before and after examples, and start structuring the passion in your pitches by divvying them up into three tidy categories, rather than mushing them into one extinct category!

Personas are people, too!


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What do I do with all these personas?!

Susan Howlett brought me a question her class had asked about personas that had “stumped” her. It takes a lot to stump Susan so I figured, if Susan’s stumped and her class is stumped, you might also be stumped. This post is an effort to de-stump-ify you if you are, in fact, stumped by how to handle personas.

Before we get to the question, let’s be clear on what a persona is. Personas help you decide how to most effectively engage with your believers. They are a fictional representation of your ideal supporters. They help you get into the heads and hearts of the types of people who would be part of one of your target audience groups. What do they care about? Where do they get their information? How do they engage with organizations online? (For a blow by blow on how to create personas, download this awesome resource from Hubspot.)

A very specific point before we move on: If we’re being honest, we rarely write a piece from the perspective of the reader. Instead, we use ourselves as a proxy, i.e. we sit down and write something that we ourselves would want to read. If we like it, won’t everyone like it? No. What resonates with you and hits your emotional hot buttons doesn’t really matter. (Sorry to be harsh, but it had to be said.) What matters is what matters to those supporting your organization. So you have to get out of your head and into theirs. Thus personas.

Now that you know why you need personas and how to create them, the question then becomes: “If I have a whole bunch of personas and each of those personas is motivated by different emotions and, therefore, different words, how the heck am I supposed to make sure my annual report/newsletter/blog post/speech resonates with all of them!?”

The short answer is: you don’t.

The slightly longer answer is: you can’t please all the personas all the time. If you did that, you’d end up with boring, bland stuff that no one would want to read because you’d be trying to appeal to everyone. The whole point of having personas is to be able to craft messages that hit the mark for that particular persona, right? If you try to hit on everything that might possibly, conceivably matter to all of your personas at the same time, it’d be like unleashing a blaze of arrows at the same time—they’d go hither, thither and yon while never hitting the bulls eye. So sad.

Here’s what you do: you optimize each piece for one persona.

Every time you sit down to write something, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the goal of this piece?
  2. Based on #1, which persona does this piece need to resonate with most in order to be successful?

Optimizing for one persona doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with other personas. It means it will resonate most with the types of people you need to connect with in order for that particular piece to be successful. For instance:

Are you optimizing your event materials for ‘Sue the Sponsor’ or ‘Fred the First-Time Attendee’? (If you want more help on the event sponsor front, check out Shanon Doolittle’s amazing event fundraising video series.)

Is your Annual Report optimized for ‘Erin the Existing Donor’ Or ‘Patty the Potential Donor’? Erin will be delighted to learn more about what her donation has done, but really what’s in it for Patty? Usually not as much as we’d like to think. Optimize for Erin.

Is your newsletter really, truly optimized for ‘Dawn the Dutiful Donor’? If, based on your research while building your personas, you learn that the Dawns of the world prefer hard copy newsletters, then sending it electronically, although less expensive in the short-term, might be costing you money in the long run.

At first, optimizing for one persona will feel scary. But try it a few times and, usually, the results will speak for themselves.

Quick Tip: Zan McColloch-Lussier shared this tip with me many moons ago and it’s a really, really good one. Whenever you sit down to write something, write down the name of the persona for which you are optimizing. Yep, like write it down where you can see it. You’ll be stunned and amazed at how much more on target your messaging becomes when you have a crystal clear mental image of who will, eventually, be reading it. (Cuz as we covered above, it ain’t you.)

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Raising money isn’t a goal

fundraising, non profits, marketing, goals, strategy, tactics
You raise money SO THAT you can make a difference.
Yesterday, we kicked off the latest Accelerator.

Setting goals is a BIG part of what we do on Day #1. Because if you’re not clear on your goals, you won’t get good results.

Raising more money is generally high on participants’ List o’ Goals. And so we always talk a lot about retention, acquisition, balancing the two, etc.

If, like them, fundraising is one of your goals, BEWARE! You’re risk of falling into a very tempting trap: believing that raising money is an end goal. It’s not. It’s a means to an end.

You raise money SO THAT…you can lessen summer learning loss.
SO THAT…struggling families can access life-changing resources.
SO THAT…we have forests to hike in and streams to play in.
SO THAT…small business owners can become financially fluent.
SO THAT…kids learn to express themselves through arts so they can thrive in school and in life.

In the day-to-day craziness of grant writing, donor stewardship, event planning and the like, it’s to forget that fundraising has a higher purpose.

Always finish the sentence: “We’re raising money SO THAT…”

What’s your SO THAT?

A tip from Bruce Lee

If you haven’t ever seen a Bruce Lee movie, stop reading this post and go watch one. (I’m a big fan of Enter the Dragon.)

Aside from being highly entertained, you’ll see the benefits of being at once fierce and fluid.

Bruce (we’re totally on a first name basis) encouraged people to “be like water”. Water can take on almost any form, but it always remains true to its essence. Whether it’s a crashing wave, a small pond, or a tiny droplet, it’s always water.

In the fast-paced world of mission-driven marketing, you want to be like water. You want to be crystal clear on who you are and what you stand for, while being able to fluidly adapt to new opportunities as they come along.

Be like water, my friends.



Marketing education & the environment

education, environment, marketing, mission
Education & environment may be different. How to market them is the same.

This week, I’ll give two presentations on how to market your mission–one at the Pacific NW Association of Independent Schools (PNAIS) Institutional Advancement Conference and one for the annual meeting of EarthShare Washington.

You’d think that your approach to marketing these two vastly different offerings–education and environment–would be vastly different.

It isn’t.

This is an important reminder–no matter what mission you’re marketing, you ask the same three questions to get you to a solid Marketing Action Plan (MAP).

  1. WHAT does success look like for our marketing?
  2. WHO do we need to reach to be successful?
  3. HOW can we most effectively reach the people who matter most to our success?

Can this get complicated? Well, sure. That’s why I created the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree. And why I created this short video to explain the approach. You too can become a lean, mean, mission-motivated marketing machine!

Don’t train for a marathon by biking

goals, strategy, tactics, marketing, messaging, leadership
Make your training support your goals.
At the risk of stating the obvious: when you’re training for a marathon, you run. You run a lot. You run so you’re ready for the marathon. So you’ll achieve your goal.

You don’t bike. (Aside from a little cross-training perhaps.)

If your goal is to retain donors, pick tactics that will help you connect with current donors. Don’t get distracted by engaging new ones.

Ditto for volunteer engagement.
Public awareness.
And any other goal you have.

Don’t do the equivalent of training for a marathon by riding your bike.

You’ll never get to the finish line.

Connection and Community in Record Time

I have a friend, Mrs. G, who is an incredibly gifted elementary school teacher. She subs regularly at our kids’ school. This morning, I heard her voice coming from one of the Kindergarten classrooms. It was circle time. I was intrigued to learn how she would navigate this important part of the day when kids transition from home to classroom. The teacher plays a key role in creating a sense of community and smoothing the transition. How do you create that safe space when you don’t know the kids?!

I stopped just outside the door to listen (yes, yes, I eavesdropped).

Sometimes, it’s the small stuff that really matters. Mrs. G did something that was so subtle yet so effective. She said each of their names, made sure she was saying it correctly and then said, “Hello, Jimmy.” One student’s name was Kate on the roster and the student said she preferred Katie. So Mrs. G said, “Thank you for letting me know which you prefer. Hello, Katie.”  In 11 words, or 60 characters, she created a connection and welcomed the student to the community.

What’s so great about this? Her goal was to create connection and community in record time. If she had simply called off their names to make sure they were present, she would’ve been able to check something off her to-do list (attendance–check!), but wouldn’t have achieved her goal.

We can do a lot without achieving a lot. Mrs. G did a little and achieved a lot because she was clear on her goal.

Are you clear on your goals?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?