Budget in need of spending

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A smart, gung-ho member of a large Sydney nonprofit’s communications team called us with an enviable dilemma. She’s compiling her communications budget for the upcoming year and the task has just been made more interesting. Her boss has commented that there are some extra dollars available – if she can find smart ways to spend them. 

She wanted suggestions for new ways to spend money to improve media coverage and communications generally. Here’s what we came up with:

eNewsletter: establish, design and send. This of course actually saves money, not spends it.   

training, training, training: with Hootville, Hootville, Hootville. Enough said.

large scale introductory mail out to media: we’re talking a box (they get opened more readily than envelopes) with some merchandise, an introductory letter explaining the organisation and what it offers media, annual report, an invitation to a one-to-one familiarisation tour of the nonprofit’s impressive facility. The familiarisation would also include meetings with the CEO, researchers and some adorable kids.

research / survey / data: hire someone to create some data – a survey, a study, an analysis of existing data that could form the basis of some media coverage in coming months.

Polling creates media coverage.

Rush to the polls.

Newspoll: pay Newspoll or something similar to include a question on its regular weekly poll. Again the results become media fodder.

Speaker: fly in a speaker or case study. $10k in airfare, hotel and event costs may score you tens of thousands in media coverage and new relationships. Create an itinerary of public meetings, discussions with pollies and policy makers and of course media engagements. We like this tactic a lot. 

What are your suggestions?

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Nonprofits and branding: a Gruen lesson

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branding advice for nonprofits

Seen one, seen them all?

Hootville’s leader Brett de Hoedt is a small man in many ways. He refuses to watch The Gruen Transfer for one. Why? He’s too jealous of the host and panellists to tune in. He did however catch a few minutes of last night’s episode which he felt were valuable.

Condoms were being discussed when host Wil Anderson wondered aloud why more condom commercials didn’t simply highlight the benefits of condoms – mainly that they stop unwanted pregnancies and disease.

One panellist responded: “Well all condoms do that, so a commercial promoting those features would be a commercial for the whole product category – not the specific brand.” (Yes we are paraphrasing a tad.)

In other words unless a brand (Durex, Ansell) stakes out a particular position for itself – thinnest, most natural, funnest, sexiest – it does nothing to distinguish itself from other brands in the category (condoms). That would be a big waste of money.

Hmmm…how many nonprofits do a good job of distingishing themselves from other brands (Beyond Blue, Mental Illness Fellowship Australia, Sane) in the category (mental illness services)?

Example #2: Does Wilderness Society separate itself from other brands (ACF, Greenpeace, LandCare) in its category (environmental organisations)? Or are its efforts just vaguely supporting the category?

Goodness – have a look at your efforts and send us your observations.

And puh-lease don’t write some bollocks about how nonprofits are too precious to be considered ‘brands’ in a ‘category’ and that any publicity is good for us all etc. It’s time to grow up and beyond that.

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Conference emcee role for Brett in Ballarat

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Brett de Hoedt will again act as emcee for the Community Case Managers Conference which will this year be held in Ballarat on November 24 and 25. The ambitious event brings together case managers working with a range of people including those with aquired brain injuries, the elderly and the disabled. It’s Brett’s second turn as MC for the event.

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bad media releases gain media coverage

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Greg Baum is a prominent sports writer for The Age in Melbourne. He’s a columnist, more than a reporter so he has a longer leash than most. Greg filled his July 30 Final Word column with several hundred final words of scorn for the PR folk behind the launch of the new domestic 20/20 Big Bash cricket league.  They deserved it. Read his piece to gain an insight into how smarter journos see publicists. Here’s how to avoid creating similar responses.

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social media policy

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We don’t believe in policies at Hootville, particularly for social media so how about some rules of thumb; guidelines, rules of engagement instead?

1. Use social media as a cheap, quick way to communicate.

2. Get together for one hour and agree on the topics about which you will and won’t post content. Hint: content should not be about your issues and audiences; not just you.

3. In the same one hour agree who can and cannot tweet or post to Facebook directly and who needs to get a quick OK before going live. Yes – you MUST have several people who are cleared for approval-free access to Twitter and Facebook.

 4. Add some humour and humanity – this should no be optional but a POLICY. Those who think that is not possible for their issue should get over themselves. You don’t have to be doing knock-knock jokes – just sound like a person. Check out the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ recent efforts. Gold.

5. Be interesting and useful. Similarly, this should be a POLICY.

6. Deal with public criticism via social media networks via your social media networks.

7. This is how the unauthorised should get approval. “Hey boss I want to post a link to this article about the NDIS and ask people for comments. Is that cool?”

8. If someone writes something totally inappropriate delete the content ASAP and explain to everyone why the content was not Kosher.

9. Wait for sky to fall in.

10. Book Online Savvy 101.

Brisbane media training

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Hootville Communications’ Brett de Hoedt will be delivering social media training and serve as conference emcee at the 2011 Family Relationship Service Australia conference to be held in in Brisbane November 2011.

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Copy Savvy 101 class takes shape

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We already have Victorian Youth Mentoring Alliance, Surf Live Saving NSW, Family Relationship Services Australia, Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health, Diabetes Australia Victoria and YMCA Victoria joining us for our first public Copy Savvy 101 webinar.  Et tu Brute?

The first 10 registrants to our copywriting workshop have the first option to have their copy reviewed (mauled) by the group. With the anonymity provided by the web, the feedback should be full and frank so be quick and take up the opportunity.

As of August 16, we are just about full, so quicksticks if you want in.

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Listen and learn

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We’ll be reguarly posting reviews of media performances with a break down of what is good and what ain’t. Our first is Peter Stevenson chief policy adviser to the UK-based Compassion in Farming which advocates for the end of cruel and inhumane practices that form the bulk of our farming (aka food production) today. He’s good talent. You’d be at least this good if you booked a Speak Savvy 101.

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Advice for facilitators

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With conference and AGM season approaching we’ve assembled a collection of do and don’ts for those of you who may be called on to facilitate a discussion session. This is often a part of our Speak Savvy 101 workshop.

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Don’t ditch the pitch

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PR advice for building media relationships

Patch yourself through now.

The number one reason publicists fail to score media hits is due to lack of media relationships. What’s the number one way to build media relationships? Pitching well packaged, relevant stories to journos via the telephone.

Human contact is awkward. Who wants to risk direct rejection when it is so easy to send an email? That’s one reason too many publicists prefer to send masses of email to journalists as opposed to picking up the old fashioned telephone. Sure time is tight but frankly we suspect the true cause is the rejection.

The problem is this: the phone is a far, far more effective way to pitch a story idea. We’ll be posting more on pitching shortly. Pitching practice is one of the best parts of Media Savvy 101. Anyhoo; here’s some thoughts on phone vs email.

1. Use a combination of email and telephone calls.

2. Create an A-list of your most desired journos. (You know what we mean, stop being silly.) Our A-list might stretch to 24 journos for national stories though often it is less. Surely 24 calls is a reasonable number of calls to make? If you haven’t got the details of the A-list make this your top task.

3. Call the A-lists before distributing the email. Then email the rest.

4. Create a culture in which it is accepted that the PR team will block off time and close doors to make a bunch of calls from time to time. It’s no different to being in a meeting.

5. For long lead and important stories you may wish to use – steady, steady – mail. Yep. We think that a mailing to VIP journos for VIP stories is worthwhile. Tangibility increases your chances of being noticed.

Telephone is superior to email because it gives you the chance to build a relationship. Even if you fail to seduce the journo you may get a better understanding of what does appeal to the journo. You might learn that a particular outlet really wants a regional angle or that they might be more interested in your issue in four months time.

Like this? Spread it round. You might even consider booking a Media Savvy 101.

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