hootville seeks attention through advertising

Icon for Post #1987

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.

Tagged , , ,

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

Icon for Post #1980

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.

Tagged ,

Advice for developing a new website

Icon for Post #1966

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.

Tagged , , ,

Hootville alumni take over world

Icon for Post #1960

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?

Tagged , ,

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 ,
Page 28 of 35« First...1020...2627282930...Last »