Honk if you love SMO!

social media road map, SMO books, Noland Hoshino, Zan McColloch-Lussier, Ash ShepherdSocial Media rock stars Noland Hoshino, Ash Shepherd and Zan McColloch-Lussier just released the newest SMO book, Social Media Road Map. This little book is pure genius. Fun, straight-forward and actionable.

Among other bits of awesomeness, they recommend a fab messaging exercise:

“Create a bumper sticker message that reflects your brand, position, and personality. Your message should motivate and excite your audience so they show their support by ‘honking’ along with you.”

They’re recommending this in the context of social media. But this is a good exercise regardless of context. It forces you to get down to the essence of what you are trying to communicate.

Netizens are skimmers, not readers. And your donors, supporters, volunteers and fans are all Netizens. They are bumper sticker hounds.

If finding the right words feels daunting, start by asking yourself if there’s a way you can swap out one or two words so it better reflects your organization’s unique personality, what you stand for, and what you’re asking people to do.

Take, for example, these subject lines plucked from the flurry of emails I recently received on Seattle’s GiveBIG Day. On May 2, Seattle-ites were receiving dozens–if not hundreds–of emails from organizations asking them to participate in this community-wide day of giving. Every single organization and email had the same ask: Give to us today. Perfect opportunity to let your personality shine through, right?

  1. GiveBIG is today.
  2. Get ready to GiveBIG.
  3. GiveBIG. Here. Now!

#1 represents the vast majority of the emails I received. Nothing wrong with it. But it doesn’t have a lot of personality. It doesn’t make you want to honk.

With #2, you might be inclined to at least remind yourself where your horn is. (Seattle-ites don’t honk. It’s not polite, the rationale goes.) But you could easily get distracted by your radio once you found the horn and forget you were going to honk.

#3 reads like a moral imperative. It makes your eyebrows shoot up as you think, “Dang, I better get giving!”

Interestingly, #3 mainly stood out because of punctuation. Punctuation practically begs to be fiddled with–commas, exclamation points, em-dashes, colons.

Try it. Take your current tagline or boilerplate sentence and switch up the punctuation or switch out a word or two. Is there a way you can make it into a bumper sticker you’d be proud to slap on your car?

The bumper sticker exercise is one gem among many in the Social Media Road Map. At $7.95, this is one of the best investments your organization can make.

Benefits, Believers & Poetry

Last week, I had the great, good fortune of spending two days In Twisp, Washington with organizations from Central and Eastern Washington. Talk about inspiring! They were a dedicated group and stuck with me as we covered a whole lotta territory in record time.

One of the many topics we covered (which included, but was not limited to: birthdays, food, dates with babies, rowing and snake eyes) was talking about the benefits of your organization rather than the features.

This is one of those topics that is an eye opener every time it comes up at a training.

Here’s a short list of features and benefits:

tutoring | knowing how to read
family planning | access to choices
education | expanded opportunities and/or connection to heritage
theater | inspiration

Super smart dude Zan McColloch-Lussier over at Mixtape Communications asks the question, “What business are you really in?” For instance, the business of tutoring or of teaching people to read? Most organizations would say, “The teaching to read business!” And yet, when asked what they do, they talk first about tutoring and then about reading.

Tutoring is how you get to your why, i.e. you tutor kids so they can read.

We also had a breakthrough moment around Believers, Agnostics and Atheists. Really, seriously, you can’t convert atheists. (Here’s a short video for those that still think they can.)

This group was also full of poets, musicians and artists. (Happy birthday sounds so much better when there are some singers in the group!). Here is a poem by one of the students on the Inspiration Sector.

When you are at a party and the conversation pauses,
You tell people that you work for causes,
Oh…they say…you work for a non-profit,
You look them straight in the eye…and say stop it!

Solving issues is my nectar,
I work in the Inspiration Sector!

So glad I work in the Inspiration Sector and got to be inspired by this fantastic group of change agents!

Engaging in diffusion, differentiation and dissonance

This Wednesday, I had the pleasure of being in the room with some of Seattle’s leading thinkers on all things nonprofit, philanthropic and do-good-y. How’d I get so lucky? Well, late last year, me and my colleagues Peter Drury and Zan McColloch-Lussier kicked off something called The Lab. We decided it was high-time that super-smart do-gooders had an opportunity to think deep thoughts that would lead to great action.

The first time we met, we talked about listening. This week, we talked about engagement. We picked this topic because listening leads logically to engagement and yet the word engagement seems to mean a whole lotta things to a whole lotta people. Given its meteoric rise to ubiquity, we decided it was important to come to a shared understanding of this popular word (lest it end up on the Banished Words List!).

There were more good points and astute observations than you could waggle a mission statement at during our two hours together–these were my three favs:

  1. Diffusion: Technology makes it easier to engage. This is great in many ways; it also means individuals are bombarded with engagement opportunities. So, although it is technically easier to engage, it is more difficult to get people to engage because their attention is drawn in so many directions. Don’t let ease of access trick you into believing engagement is easy.
  2. Differentiation: Arcs, spectrums, ladders, pyramids. Whatever you call it, organizations benefit from thinking about how to differentiate their engagement opportunities by audience and then getting clear on how engagement leads to more engagement for each group. Be explicit. Be specific. Then you know where you want which folks to go and they know where they’re going. Happy, happy.
  3. Dissonance: We agreed that engagement is a two-way street, that both parties derive mutual benefit from engaging and have skin in the game. Engagement is active. All well and good. And yet organizations and individuals usually seek different benefits from the engagement. Or at least that would seem the case. Unless, of course, you can stay focused on the benefit you both care about: advancing mission. It was fascinating to see how this end-user vs. organizational-initiator dynamic played out in the conversation. Rigorous focus on mission mitigates dissonance.

To get more highlights and tidbits from the convo, check out #nplab on Twitter. Also, check out Zan’s great summary here. And last, but certainly not least, see what Beth Kanter (yep, THE Beth Kanter!) had to say about engagement when we interviewed her at Tech for Good, where she delivered a totally amazing training.

How do you like to engage and be engaged? How does your organization engage? What does ‘engagement’ mean to you?

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?