Author Archives: Brett

free stuff for community groups

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emcee sydney

Just think - Brett may have written a Lowdown on this very desk.

Please help Hootville declutter and attain peace by taking away this useless (to us) bunch of office equipment and furniture. Everything is free to a good home – preferably a small, poor community group. You’ll have to pick up the booty from Prahran, Melbourne.

 

 

We have four of these desktops (above) each measuring approximately 180cm x 60cms and ranging from good to very good condition. They sit unattached on the pair of bases. The bases each have a shelf which can be removed to accommodate a desktop computer tower. We only have two pairs of the bases but the desktops sit equally well on two-drawer filing cabinets. Get creative. How about stacks of unread annual reports?

media trainer in melbourne
Ignored, depressed, purposeless.

This mobile magnetic whiteboard is actually rather good. It can accommodate pads of butchers paper from the two black screws you can see at the top of the contraption. It has arms that can extend either side to display extra information, sits on castors, has a little tray for markers and works in most languages.

Just to think – Squiggle first brainstormed the corporate governance structure for Dachshunds Without Leashes on this very whiteboard.

Here’s the deal – please email brett@hootville.com through your request with your telephone number and a brief explanation of your group. We’ll gather the first half a dozen or so and give it to who we see as most worthy. Zero correspondence will be entered into. You’ll need to get them out of our site ASAP.

copywriting advice for social media, online and old fashioned print

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During last week’s Copy Savvy webinar one question posed by all participants was more or less this: “How do we write appropriately for online communications – website, social media and eNewsletters – as compared to print? What should we do differently?”

This is a logical concern which implies that writers should write differently for different media as they have different qualities. This is true, though we think it misses one consideration that is even more important: audience.

We’ve included some tips for online writing below but here’s our point:

The tone you use, the issues you raise and the content you publish should be primarily influenced by your purposes and the audience at which you are aiming; not the medium.

Let’s compare writing a brochure for your broad-based disability service and writing online copy. The brochure will end up in GP waiting rooms, on the trestle table at community expos and on your reception desk. Yes the fact that it is a brochure will influence how you write. More influential though, should be the broad audience to which you are speaking, which has very little awareness of you and very little demonstrated commitment to you. This audience is largely chancing across your information so write accordingly.

People visiting your website are there by choice. You can presume some interest in your content, some connection to your cause albeit fleeting. Depending on the page they are visiting you may be able to assume that they are people with a disability looking for a service, carers of people with a disability, people looking to work at your organisation or prospective donors. Each audience should be addressed with a different tone. Changing tone for each audience is more important than changing tone for the medium.

Look at your website. Does the tone change from section to section to reflect the audience? There should be no one single audience for your website.

Progressing from websites to more social media such as Facebook, eNewsletters or Twitter the audience changes again as much as the media. People who choose to befriend or befollow* you have demonstrated an active interest in you. To some degree these audiences share your concerns, so talk to them in a manner befitting a friend or colleague. You can expect some support, some emotional connection.

social media training example

The Council of Adult Education’s Twittering shows great understanding of the medium. It is fun, personal, helpful. Kudos CAE.

That said; of course there are some rules of thumb to apply to online writing.

Online attention spans are minimal so copy should be shorter. That said, Google likes 600-800 words a page as it believes these sites to be more genuine, more worthy of reference.

Search engine optimisation is key so write with your researched keywords in mind. (More about this in SEO Savvy 101 Thursday October 27). Use them early and often.

Use more images to bring your copy to life.

Change tone based on the section of the website for which you are writing. Are you trying to connect to donors, volunteers, job applicants, service users?

Utilise the ability to link to other articles and audio.

Why wouldn’t you utilise the ability to embed video?

You need to be genuinely committed to creating an ongoing flow of copy over time in the style of a magazine as we’ve written about previously.

social media training

This displays zero understanding of the specific medium.

Social media copy should be the most personal, passionate.

Your copy should read as if it come from a person not an organisation.

Social media is all about sharing content of mutual interest. Not shameless plugging.

*there is no such word

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hootville seeks attention through advertising

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We at Hootville are far from digital fundamentalists which is why we’ve recently invested in some magazine inserts to promote our training (see below). Have they worked effectively as a promotional option? Yeah, we think so. Infact they probably work better then the direct mail we’ve recently invested in which proved significantly more expensive, messy and resource-intensive. 

media training in Sydney

We selected one benefit to emphasise. From so very many.

Using iStockphotos for imagery saved us time, money and opened options. Using Sam at Evoco Design is always a smart move. He also designs for Our Community.

We like that we’ve struck upon a look and feel that can be consistent but adjusted as required. This saves time and concentrates the brain when conceiving up each new flyer.

It’s strange how constraints – in this case the use of silhouetted images, the need for a witty remark from a dachshund and limited copy space – actuually speeds up the creative process.

media training melbourne

Did we mention we're running webinars?

 

We think we’ll continue this series for a while yet. We would like them exhibited at the Guggenheim upon our death.

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God, man, religion, ignorance and aid. Enjoy.

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Items humbly offered for your perusal:

A new website along the lines of My School may be unsettling for Australian charities according to this Daily Telegraph item. The comments section reveals the seething mass of distrust towards charities and ignorance of fundraising methods in working class Australia. It makes for depressing reading. We guess it’ll be up to nonprofits to come together, organise, campaign, explain and educate the donating public. Oh dear.

 

media training
Radio National keeps out the riff raff. One of only three Australian radio stations not to have a ‘Battle of the Sexes’ segment.

An interesting discussion on Late Night Live with Phillip Adams on ABC Radio National about overseas aid and the role of religion-based aid agencies. According to one guest most of Africa’s entire health budget is financed by western Christian aid organisations. Make thyself a beverage and have a listen.

Life Matters interviews Carole Renouf the newish CEO of National Breast Cancer Foundation. Her thoughts on the required consolidation of charities makes it worthwhile.

pr training and advice

Something for everyone. The sick, the concerned, the worried well...

Background Briefing gives this insight into the corporate-driven lobbying age, focussing on they way drug companies market pharmaceuticals. Brett once met a publicist who had just left a job as a PR manager with a bona fide member of Big Pharma. Her specific role? PR manager for contraceptives – domestic animal contraceptives. Who knew that you could make a living generating positive spin for kitty contraceptives? Who knew cats read reviews?

So how do you market against ignorance?

 

 

Also – if you don’t already feel engulfed by despair at the depth of human ignorance in 2011 read this piece from the LA Times about why many Pakistanis refuse the polio vaccine.

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Advice for developing a new website

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One key inspiration for our perpetual grumpiness is the appalling state of many nonprofit websites. Too many are simply too bad. Why? Lots of reasons but first is that nonprofits do not correctly brief, select or work with their developer.

Hootville Communications is very dubious about website developers which we declare  despite making part of our living developing websites. Developers are privileged in that they know soooo much more about websites than their clients which can lead to…less than optimum performance.

Over the next few weeks we’ll help you keep website developers honest with some savvy questions. Otherwise you’ll get the site they want to build for you – the quickest, fastest and most profitable. 

And yes, dear developers, in future future weeks we’ll tell nonprofits what they are doing wrong.

Q2. What features would you recommend?

A. The developer better have some strong recommendations or you’ll end up with a boring online brochure. Chief among the smorgasboard of ideas: social media sharing technologies such as Sexy Bookmarks, eNewsletter such as MailChimp, online payment, bookings and donations systems, embedded video, Google Analytics, Google Maps of key locations, embedded Twitter feed, pop-up banners, integrated Facebook, easy SEO options such as HeadSpace2 to enable Google-friendly page names and tags. You want lots of suggestions based on the developer’s experience. You needn’t utilise them all but you are paying for their wisdom. Are they wise?

web developers offer buffet of options

You want a buffet of enticing options; including some you've not had before.

Why do you want all these features? Because having and utilising them means your site is worth visiting more than once. It turns your website into a 24/7 employee and that the money you invest gets a better return. We’ve all been trained by some companies to interact with them via the web; perhaps to book an appointment or pay a bill. In fact we often prefer this. Your site should do the same. Without features your site is likely to be feeling pretty lonely, pretty soon.

Let’s say you want to offer online bookings on your new site. If you use a well-established CMS (see question one below) you will have a range of options for this purpose. This is similar to the range of apps you have for your smartphone which all offer largely the same thing, such as choosing a restaurant. Each app is competing for your custom and is reviewed online by nerds. Read and consider these independently of the developer. The more you know, the smarter your questions; the better your choice.

In a way this is a trick question – you are asking this to see if you the developer will supply more than technical know-how.

 

Q1. What content management systems do you work with and why?

A. Your content management system (CMS) is fundamental to how your easy or otherwise your site is to build, maintain and expand in the future. You use the CMS to present your words and images on the web as a working website. It will determine how many options you have for features such as online payments, online shopping, booking systems or social media sharing. The CMS will determine if your site remains cohesive with ever-evolving technologies. It will also determine the mental health of your web editor.

website developers

These guys think their suits are sooo special.

A website is not like a Saville Row suit – you don’t benefit from having it handmade from scratch by one artisan. Think of it as a quality car, assembled from dozens of tested, proven parts from various specialist manufacturers, enhanced by some (relatively minor) choices you make, all under the experienced eye of one car company which takes ultimate responsibility and most of the profit. (We hate car-analogies but in this case it’s a valid one.) 

Hopefully the developer will answer “WordPress” or another proven CMS such as Drupal or Joomla! though we cannot vouch for these platforms. If they talk of their own special CMS which only they develop and maintain, walk away. Run away if they explain that their system is superior to say, WordPress which drives 19 million sites. Slam the door behind you if they start explaining that you must pay ongoing fees for use of their CMS.

You can save yourself from a whole lot of wasted meetings by clarifying this straight away. Developers will generally have a preference. This is their preference, not yours. Don’t be swayed without great reason.

Do some homework by asking owners of great (not good) websites about their CMS. You may be surprised at the passion of the responses. And be sure to ask the person who actually updates the site – not the boss or the techie.

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Hootville alumni take over world

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October 10. Quite a day.

Sue White from Inner South Community Health Service speaks to ABC Radio National’s Fran Kelly about a program that helps street sex workers find new lives.  It’s the 6.35 story. We trained Sue.

media training

One of three big, fat national hits.

Kathleen Maltzhan of Project Respect features on 4Corners in a remarkable story of murder, illegal prostitution, sexual slavery and human trafficking in Australia. The real story is about deliberate unwillingness of our ‘authorities’ to investigate. We trained Kathleen.

Caz Coleman, director of the Asylum Seeker Project at Hotham Mission was part of our very first Media Savvy 101 session the best part of a decade ago. Anyhow – we’re claiming her too.

Oh did we mention we offer training?

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nonprofit copy and slogans – is yours boring?

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Citizens of Hootville will know that we detest the boring and the bland. We despise copy that fails to acknowledge that your audiences have other (though not better) things to do with their time. 

 

copywriting advice

Would you donate to Nicole? Brrrr.

We regularly witness boring and bland headlines, eNewsletter subject boxes, merchandise copy and organisational slogans. This leaves us cold – Nicole Kidman cold.

Good copy is infused with the spirit of your organisation – and it ought to be a spirit worthy of attention: one that inspires, empathises and distinguishes.

At the heart of most nonprofit communications is a desire to gain support of readers – membership, donations, assistance to lobby, volunteer and the like.

We don’t know about you but we are rarely inspired to help some bland organisation, which may be why we don’t go out and volunteer for a bank.

Volunteer? Hell; we fail to switch banks or even use the extra services of the bank we do use*; despite the billions spent on advertising. Why? Because they rarely reach us on an emotional level. Emotions are key to inspiring action so aim for them. 

You need to write copy that makes punters feel something. Put into words the feeling might be: “They know how I feel. They get it. These people are onto something. These are people I want to help. These are people who can help me.”

Yeah; stop freeloading you non-members.

Professional sports teams understand this. They live and die on membership and thus invest hugely on recruitment and retention. The vibe is jocular, exciting, militaristic, missionary. Everything is infused with: “We’re in this together. Get with the strength. There’s strength in numbers. Let’s be a part of something together. Non-members aren’t part of the family.”

It’s not quite: “You are with us or you are a big fat loser,” but close.

Wow - that's a lot of bogans.

It’s hard to argue with a nonprofit membership marketing campaign that gains 70,000+ people willing to fork out hundreds a year. In no small part members join to feel a part of something bigger. The marketing understands this. Everything is aimed at sparking an emotional response leading to an action. 

So are ‘real’ nonprofits aiming at our hearts and minds? Two positive examples come to mind.

nonprofit marketing

Don't you want to stick it to the bad guys? We do too. Go Amnesty.

We think this Amnesty t-shirt is a fine example of a nonprofit presenting itself less like a worthy issue and more like a team worthy of support. It displays humour, pride and plays on dozens of corporate slogans that use the same structure: [Company name] [doing something] since [enter year]. Eg: Hootville Communications. Grumpily self-promoting since 1999. Amnesty is aiming at our sense of justice. Bravo.

nonprofit marketing advice
The people reading this are just the sort of people who believe in standing up. Good copy.

“Yeah – we need to fight the bad guys. Thank God someone is. Go Amnesty.”  

We also like Environment Defenders Office Victoria’s slogan. They are a band of lawyers aiming at better environmental outcomes by fighting for law reform and occasionally taking bad guys to court. No one else does this. The slogan? EDO Victoria: The Environment’s Legal Team.

 

We like it – again it’s confident, battle ready, explains EDO’s point of difference and plays on a phrase we know, ‘legal team’.

“Yeah –  at least some of the smart lawyers are on the environment’s side. I’m sick of the big guys hiring the best lawyers and screwing the environment. Go EDO!” 

Good slogans and good copy all display chutzpah. (Look it up Christians.)  

If you’ve read this far you should read this.

*Hootville uses Coutts and the Reserve Bank of Australia.

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PR tip # 435 Select your case study well

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The wrong choice of case study hurts campaigns.

A recent 7.30 report about the insufficiency of the Newstart Allowance was a major national media hit, adding further momentum to the push to significantly increase the benefit.

Find the story here; scroll down the selection on the right and look for Unemployment Benefits.

This story didn’t happen by accident – a nonprofit pushed it to reporter Stephen Long.

7.30 is always a great hit to get and like so many stories, it revolves around a case study  bolstered by various experts. Experts are easy to find – what gets you more success more often is a compelling, case study. They are vital. Supply good case studies and you can befriend many a journo.

A good case study truly personifies a circumstance. It wraps up a complex problem and represents it to the public in a simpler, sympathetic light.

Maria is not such a case study. Maria is simply not a sympathetic, nor particularly representative case study. She is a poor selection.

Let us be clear – this is not a comment on Maria or her circumstances or the issue. This is a comment from a campaigner’s perspective on how smart a choice she was by the publicist behind the pitch. This is a judgement on how she serves the campaign as a whole.

Maria is being forced to move from the Carers Payment which she has been on for over a decade and on to Newstart at a loss to her of $200 per fortnight. She will be expected to actively look for work like any other jobseeker.

Naturally Maria is unhappy but many viewers will not be particularly moved by Maria’s claim that she cannot work due because of her age (62) or her poor English skills (she migrated here in 1976). Her knee injury is not demonstrated.

Moreover Maria doesn’t want to work and as such is A) more difficult to like B) fails to represent a sizeable percentage of those on Newstart who do want to work C) reinforces every stereotype about CALD and unemployed people on benefits. 

Imagine being on miserly Newstart and genuinely not being able to find work despite your best efforts – would you have been happy with this representation?

That said; the story is remarkably sympathetic. In fact the reporter was entirely derelict in his efforts counterbalance the debate. (It’s also poorly edited as we get a line repeated but we digress.)

We hear little about solutions to help these people find work from experts. It’s just a case of raising the Newstart benefit which opponents will hear as: “More money, more taxes, more money, more taxes!” It comes across as very welfare, very 70s, very charity, very whingy

A much more constructive case study would have been an individual who actually WANTS to work but cannot due to a lack of training options, disability employment services, a sympathetic employer, age or gender discrimination. Anyone who actually genuinely wants to work but genuinely can’t would have been better. A sense of entitlement rarely wins over swinging voters on any issue.

Good case studies:

Must be slam dunks; giving no fuel to your opponents.

Personify a situation.

Don’t need to be experts in the issue.

Can fully articulate their own particular experience.

Want the same outcome that you do.

Are vital to getting story ideas over the line.

Are happy to be restricted to offering a personal perspective.

Will appeal to the ‘swinging voter’ not just those who are sympathetic.

Meets a negative perception of your audience head on. 

Are sympathetic people – not just nice people. There’s a difference.

 

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Headline writing advice #1 be very interesting

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We used these examples in our Copy Savvy 101 webinar to show how easy it is to write a lazy headline when interesting content lies within.

These headlines are actually subject box copy for eNewsletters but the fundamental truth remains: be interesting or go unread.

Subject box headlines for eNewsletters are more important than regular headlines as they will be a major factor in the decision the reader makes to open or not open your work.

We know it ain’t easy but headlines are there to entice, intrigue and cajole. Why not segment your list into two and test two subject box headlines – one straight, one not?

It’s a crime to have your words go unread.

 

headline writing advice

 

 

 

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New subscriber bonus for October

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Five calls will be patched through.

Why the hell not? Every new Hootville Lowdown subscriber in October goes into the draw for one of five free 60m telephone consultations about anything in the world PR marketing, media and communications.  

Interested? Fill out this form.

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