Non profits

Are You Repeatable & Retweetable?

Guest post by Sam Horn

Are you preparing an important communication? Whether it’s a report to your boss or board, [annual report, or donor thank-you campaign], its success depends a lot on whether people can remember what you said.

Because if they can’t, all the [time] you spent [researching], organizing your thoughts, and crafting your copy, video, or presentation just went down the drain.

The good news is I’ve developed a step-by-step process for shaping a repeatable-retweetable phrase-that-pays. Here it is:

Step 1. Condense Your Main Point into 10 Words or Less

What is a change you want people to make? An action you want them to take? Condense that into a single sentence with a verb to prompt people to take the desired action. Follow Elmore Leonard’s advice and “leave out the parts people skip.” You know it’s perfect when you wouldn’t change a word.

Step 2. Use Word Play to Turn that Sentence into a Phrase-That-Pays

What’s a phrase-that-pays? It’s a crafted one-liner that is repeatable and retweetable. You want it to resonate—”to have extended impact beyond that which is apparent”—and for people to be able to repeat it after hearing it once. …If they can’t repeat it, they didn’t get it. And if they didn’t get it, [they won’t take the action you want.]

Step 3: Put Your Rally Cry Into a Rhythm

In one sentence, what do you want people to do differently? Write it down even it doesn’t sing. See those words as a jigsaw puzzle. Right now, the words probably don’t fit. They may feel awkward or sound clunky.

Start talking out loud and experimenting with synonyms. Try different word combinations. Keep playing with variations until the words fall into place. Your ears will tell you when you’ve found the perfect mix because there will be a rhythm—a cadence—that sounds right.

For example, say, “If you see something, say something.” “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Feel how easily those words roll off the tongue?

When a phrase is fun to say, people voluntarily share it which takes it viral. This Week Magazine reported that “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is “one of the most recognized ad campaigns in any industry and has generated billions of dollars in additional revenue.” That’s just one example of why crafting a rhythmic rally cry isn’t petty word-play, it’s a bottom-line pay-off.

Step 4: Use Words That Start with the Same Sound

Have you ever put one of those cardboard insulating sleeves around a hot cup of coffee so you didn’t burn your fingers? Entrepreneur Jay Sorenson saw an opportunity. He knew it’s hard to build a business around an unpronounceable name. So, he played with alliteration, came up with Java Jacket, and cornered the market.

Jay says, “Customers who meant to call our competitors call us instead because they can’t remember our competitors’ name.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have people calling you because they so vividly remember what you said? Increase the likelihood of that happening by using alliteration to craft a name, tagline, [or message] that is music to our ears.

Step 5. Use Rhyme So You’re Remembered Over Time

The U.S. government was concerned about the number of injuries from car accidents. So, they launched a public service campaign to convince people to wear their safety belts. “The original tagline? “Buckle Up for Safety.” Yawn. No one noticed. No one cared. No one changed their behavior.

Back to the drawing board. Second time around, they incorporated rhyme and rhythm and came up with “Click It or Ticket.” That intriguing phrase not only got people’s attention, but compliance also went up and injuries went down.

What does that prove? That a well-crafted phrase-that-pays can change behavior. It might even save lives.

Step 6. Pause and Punch Your Phrase-That-Pays so It POPS

People often race through high-stakes, high-pressure communications. They’re so nervous, they are subconsciously trying to get the presentation over with.

The problem? People can’t remember our content if our words are a blur.

Arthur Levine, editor at Scholastic of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, came up to me at Maui Writers Conference after watching me emcee and said, “Sam, I like the way you speak. You put space around your words.”

When I coach clients, we craft a repeatable, retweetable call-to-action for their big idea.

Then, they rehearse putting space around their words. To prevent “rushing and blushing,” they practice putting a three-beat pause before … and after … important points so people are more likely to absorb them and imprint them.

So, what’s an important communication you’re preparing? What do you want people to remember? What action do you want them to take?

Do you have your pithy, profound one-liner to reinforce that point? … If not, use this process so you’re the one people remember, your [organization is] the one they talk about, and…the one whose words make an enduring difference.

Intrigue Agency founder Sam Horn is on a mission to help people create quality communications that scale their impact for good. Sam and I share a passion for getting attention: In her book Got Your Attention, she reveals what it takes to connect with others clearly and compellingly.

Categories: Non profits

I'm Back

After four years of working as a "permanent" full-time Executive Director, launching a start-up nonprofit, and only taking a few short-term consulting gigs from existing clients, I am once again available for new opportunities.

So, what have I been doing these four years? I took on the challenge of being the first Executive Director of Recovery Cafe San Jose. And, yes, there were many challenges and frustrations, but it was also one of the greatest experiences of my professional life.

RCSJ is a healing community for those traumatized by addiction, homelessness, and mental health challenges. Through support groups, classes, community meals, and social activities, members build their recovery capital, recognize their self-worth, and achieve their personal goals.

When I arrived, the Cafe had only been operating for about one year, and was only open three days each week, and serving four meals. Of those meals, only one was prepared fresh in-house; the others were delivered by another partner organization. They are now open five days each week, and serving seven meals, all created in their own state-of-the-art, commercial quality kitchen.

In 2015, there were only had about 50 members who were actually participating in their Recovery Circles regularly. There were no consequences for missed Circles, and not much direction for what was expected of members besides showing up.

As I leave,  membership is over 160, with all members actively sharing in Circles and a number of other activities, and holding themselves (and their peers) accountable for being present and participating. When they're going to miss a Circle, they call in to make sure they don't lose their valued membership.

In 2015, the Cafe had a handful of Circles, and a few drop-in activities. Now there is a full schedule of Circles, a robust School for Recovery curriculum, and a Community Participation Program that uses one-on-one kitchen and barista training to build self-esteem and social skills, as well as job skills.

Then, the Cafe had not yet lifted any members up to be peer leaders. Now 30% of Circles are peer led, members have created School for Recovery classes, taken charge of the coffee bar, participated in a planning retreat and program committee meetings, and taken on other leadership roles.

Along the way we also did a $1.2 million renovation of the Cafe itself, financed through CDBG funds, and all the delays, bureaucracy, endless meetings, and hard work that implies. Not to forget operating programs at a different location while managing the construction at home base.

Even with all that, much of what we did in the last four years was behind the scenes. When I walked in, basic things like Worker's Comp coverage were lacking, the financial reports to the board had the same wrong figure in the "balance forward" space month after month, there were no policies on holidays, time off, or benefits, etc., etc. Needless to say, that was all corrected, and they are now in full compliance legally and with best practices of proper financial systems and reporting, and have completed several successful audits.

In those four years, I took RCSJ from being barely recognized or understood, to being held up by our peer organizations as a crucial part of the local effort to end homelessness, including being recognized by the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Board as a "2017 Agency Community Hero."

But what I am most proud of and grateful for is the opportunity to have been a part of the lives of the Cafe members. It is their strength that kept me going and kept me humble. It is their example of striving for something better that inspired me to hold on to the highest ideals of what the Cafe can and should be.

It is sad to end this chapter of my career, but it is time to move on and apply these lessons in the next big challenge.
Categories: Non profits

Avoid this Marketing Don’t – “We Need Your Input”

That’s the subject line of this morning’s email from our local Jewish Community Center (JCC), asking for my input on its member survey.

My immediate response was to delete it because it’s all about the JCC’s needs and not about what us members need. At least that’s what the subject line conveys!

Has your organization ever alienated its audiences doing something like this, something totally narcissistic?

Here’s what’s really annoying: The JCC folks do get it right in the first sentence of the email itself: “There is only 1 week left to take our online JCC feedback survey. Please take a few minutes to complete it. Your opinion is extremely important as it helps us focus our improvement efforts on the areas that matter most to our community. We hope to hear from all of you!”

But that’s the only sentence in the entire wordy email that speaks to serving members’ wants and needs. The problem is that most folks won’t even get there because the subject line is so JCC-focused.

Let me say it again—it isn’t about you and your organization. The engagement you crave comes only when you identify, understand, and speak directly to the wants of your target audiences in language they’ll connect with. 

If anything, I recommend you over-emphasize your audience focus! My suggestion for a far more effective subject line is this: Pls take 5 minutes to tell us what YOU need. The same request flipped to address member needs. Huge difference!

P.S. Boost audience engagement with more tools, tips, templates & case studies delivered to your inbox!

Subscribe to Getting Attention email updates.

Categories: Non profits