Monthly Archives: October 2011

nonprofit copy and slogans – is yours boring?

Icon for Post #1947

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.

Tagged , , ,

PR tip # 435 Select your case study well

Icon for Post #1939


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.


Tagged , , ,

Headline writing advice #1 be very interesting

Icon for Post #1911

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




Tagged ,

New subscriber bonus for October

Icon for Post #1927

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.

copywriting, social media, eNewsletter and SEO webinars

Icon for Post #1814

It’s official. The internet is for more than just online shopping and pornography. It’s also for training. For the first time we’re offering a smattering of our training via webinar for everyone, everywhere:

Copywriting Savvy 101: write copy worth reading. We ignore spelling and grammar to look at writing in the real world. Improve your releases, letters to editors, opinion pieces, appeal letters, CEO columns and more. How? Well how about getting to know your audiences first, developing a copywriting brief and getting those in charge to adhere to an editorial code of conduct? Plus we’ll work on quotes, headlines, captions and more. (New additional session) Thursday October 20 at 12.30am. Read more…

SEO Savvy 101: Help your website meet friends and influence people as it rises to the top of the Google heap. Nonprofit-related search terms are (relatively) uncompetitive – page one is there for the taking. Our achievable, inexpensive, minimally-nerdy ways to improve your search engine results can be actioned immediately. This is aimed at anyone wanting more from their website – marketers, fundraisers, volunteer co-ordinators and CEOs – not techie types. Thursday October 27, 10am to noon. Read more

Social Media Savvy 101: move from using social media to exploiting it. Learn to battle Facebook’s EdgeRank system and discover ways to build a cult-like Twitter following. Also: finding and deciding content, dealing with negative comments, when to post. We’ll look at nonprofits using social media to its best advantage and yes, we’ll overview Google+. Thursday December 1, 10am to noon. Read more…

eNewsletter / eMarketing Savvy 101: eNewsletters aren’t sexy but they reach more people, more reliably creating more response other options. Save thousands of dollars while reaching thousands of people. Agenda: moving from Outlook to a genuine eNewsletter system, creating and building databases, analysing statistics, finding the right content, trigger emails, tricks of the trade. Thursday December 8, 10am to 12.30pm. Read more…

Of course you can always commission a webinar or workshop for your group. Dozens do and and they’re all getting smarter than you courtesy of: Media Savvy 101, Marketing Savvy 101, Speak Savvy 101 and Online Savvy 101.

Webinars and workshops are backed with notes and follow-up coaching. Glowing testimonials, details and bookings at www.hootville/training or call Brett de Hoedt, Mayor of Hootville Communications 03 9017 1062.      


Tagged , , , , , ,

Welcome to the Lobbying Age

Icon for Post #1818

Updated October 3, 2011

Lately, Brett’s been banging on about the rise and rise of the lobby group in Australian public life and policy. He didn’t expect to get confirmation from one of the nation’s most influential lobbyists Mitch Hooke, chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia who recently told the Australian Financial Review:

…over the period of the past four years, there has been a profound shift in the manner of public policy development and implementation. The new paradigm is one of public contest through the popular media more so than rational, considered, effective consultation and debate. 

Mitch is right. Welcome to the Lobbying Age when; more than ever, issues will be prioritised and dealt with in direct accordance to weight of the lobby group that brings the issue to the attention of our politicians. The Minerals Council spent $17 miliion fighting the original mining tax.

Lobbying campaigns are on the rise

Lobbying campaigns are on the rise and rise.

Big interests have put away the gloves – look at slick national campaigns by the mining, tobacco and gaming industries. These huge anti-government policy campaigns will become standard issue in years to come.

This is entirely in step with American developments where citizens have the “right to petition” enshrined in their constitution. We don’t but that doesn’t mean a thing. The biggest, most threatening lobby will win. Good policy be damned.

The best organised, financed and connected will benefit. Right now that means mining, media, gaming, pharmaceutical and banking are winning. You don’t necessarily need disposable income to be a powerful lobby – the Christian lobby has huge influence in issues such as marriage equality and equal opportunity law exemptions despite miniscule church attendance. They just know the right people.

Some groups have no formal structure – Western Sydney is an obsession with our politicians. It makes its ineloquent presence felt through junk radio and television. Boat people? We don’t think so. Gay marriage? We don’t think so. Carbon tax? We don’t think so.  Flags worn as shawls. We think so.

So how effectively do the education, aged, disabled, secularists, youth and community sectors make their presence felt? Not so good, though the NDIS announcement was a massive feather in campaigners’ caps. Environment rates better. The best mass campaign of recent years was the ACTU’s Your Rights At Work campaign – mind you they had a lot to work with including Work Choices and a out-of-favour government.

The pro-carbon tax lobby has just put this out. And how about this pro coal seam gas number? Pretty authentic, no?

Regardless; we need fierce and independent peaks ready to campaign as relentlessly as their opposing forces. Seriously – do you think things are going to get better otherwise?

Tagged ,

Astroturfing and fake twitter accounts

Icon for Post #1920

This ABC Background Briefing report confirms what we all know – PR types are full of lies and have no ethics. Oh – and all those hot chicks who are following you on Twitter? They’re fake. It’s all pat of creating fake grassroots movements to make clients look more influential than they really are. It’s called AstroTurfing. It’s a good listen. We wonder if the Public Relations Institute of Australia ex-communicated any members who appeared in the story?


That lucky farmer will soon be able to set his water on fire. Cool. Thanks Big Mining.

AstroTurfing (the practice of creating fake grassroots movement) has been around for a long time but the interweb has made it more effective than ever.  

For instance, have a look at this website that argues in favour of coal seam gas mining. Not exactly AstroTurfing but a classic example of how, in the lobbying age, the big guys are always willing to spend their dosh to create the appearance of a groundswell of support.

Tagged ,

Emcee Brett de Hoedt again judged short of perfection

Icon for Post #1891
emceeing Australian INstitute of Company Directors


Having recently attained a score of 4.85 out of 5 for his conference emceeing in Brisbane, Brett de Hoedt was granted 4.44 out of 5 by the tribal chiefs (otherwise known as nonprofit directors) at a recent Australian Institute of Company Directors event in Melbourne. 

“I guess that’s a downward trend,” observed the media trainer and emcee who used the term “bollocks” twice in his AICD presentation about nonprofit marketing but declined to utilise PowerPoint.  

“Still; at least I have something to aim for,” he said. “I’m refusing all non-carbohydrates until I can find the extra .56 that separates me from perfection.”

The link between carbohydrates and public speaking remains unclear.

Jennifer Bate from the AICD ignored Brett’s request for pasta but added; “We have had some fantastic feedback. I hope you feel the effort was worthwhile; it certainly has been from the audience and the institute’s perspective.”



Tagged , ,

Plotting how lobbyists do do their voodoo

Icon for Post #1879

We think this diagram could be equally as relevant to tobacco, gaming, healthcare and other big-lobbying industries. 


This plan seems to have worked swell so far.


It’s the work of Riley E. Dunlap, regents professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University, and Aaron M. McCright, an associate professor of sociology at Michigan State University.  At least now we know what they do all day.


Page 2 of 212