Get right with copyrights, part 2

Sometimes it feels as if you can’t do anything without stealing some copyright owner’s material. Don’t worry, you can keep communications fresh, beautiful, and smart without becoming an intellectual pickpocket.

We’ve already considered whether it’s right to use someone else’s work without their agreement, how much wiggle room our organizations have, and what creative output is covered by copyright law. Let’s go more deeply into that last item and discuss how to go about communications legally and ethically.

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[Webinar] April Spark Session: Ask the Experts!


For our April Expert Q & A Spark Session, we asked you to send us your questions about anything marketing and communications. Our experts who responded included Kevan Kjar from Arrowhead 3 Consulting, Sarah Johnson from Spotlight Liberty, and Corey Burns from eResources. (Learn more about them and other members of our experts council here.) Here are some highlights from the session.

Kevan Kjar responded to a question about how to engage someone who does not already agree with your policy. The best way to convince such a person is to tell a strong and meaningful story, one that is emotional to the buyer, differentiated from the competition, and stars a credible real-life hero.

Sarah Johnson shared advice with us on how to make your trade show booths more engaging and interactive. You need to do extensive research on your audience and really zero in on what message you want the attendees to go home with.

Corey Burns discussed the pros and cons of developing a phone application for your organization. Before jumping into the vast app market, consider: How much will it cost to create the app? Is your app new? Innovative? Why would people download your app if you already have a website?

Spark Freedom’s own Nicole Williams provided insight on how to develop a marketing plan for a market that seems to be constantly changing. Your plan should consist of goals that are grounded in change yet can be measured in terms of success. For example: “We want to change the way people are talking about liberty.” Such a goal is implicitly dynamic because it presumes the way people talk about liberty will keep evolving. But you can influence that change in the right direction, and you can create measures to determine that influence.

Listen to the entire April Spark Session to find out:

  • How should a company approach developing an app on a budget? Are apps worth the costs?
  • How do you avoid having a bad looking website on mobile phones?
  • 5 tips from Kevan Kjar on writing a successful story
  • 7 strategies from Sarah Johnson on having an attractive trade show booth



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Use Verbs to Increase Engagement


“When the weather is nice you should get out and hike the great outdoors.”


“Hike the great outdoors.”

Which one is the most effective? Sentences that start with verbs are more convincing and promote an action from your readers. With verbs, it is clear what you want your readers to do! In fact, verbs are the part of speech that generate the most shares on Twitter.

Give this a shot on social media and see what happens to your engagement and click throughs.

Connect With Your Target

Capture your target audience’s attention by articulating your ideas clearly and concisely. Avoid dreaded technical terms and use words like “review,” “why,” and “advice” instead.

You can start by writing down everything you think needs to be included the copy. Then remove words that don’t directly contribute to your core message.

Infographic | The Six Insider Secrets of Contagious Content

To increase the visibility of your marketing efforts, consider these six drivers of contagious content: social currency, triggers, emotion, observability, practical value, and storytelling.

For example, emotions play an enormous role in viral content.

“People are more likely to share some content over others because the arousal—whether it be anger, awe, or humor—evokes us to pass it on,” according to the following infographic by WhoIsHostingThis.



6 Ways to Enhance Your Call To Action

Think of the last time you responded to a marketing or fundraising communication. What made you do it? Was there an incentive, or a chance to win something? A good call to action (CTA) takes a lot more than asking or providing a link. We argue that CTAs should be included in each and every  lead generation efforts produced by your organization — social media updates, emails, blog posts, press releases, and the list goes on. Whenever you want to ensure that your team is creating an effective piece, ask yourself “What CTA are we using to drive our audiences’ behavior” and “What do I want them to do after they have read or seen this?”1

Here are five tips to enhance your calls to action and increase your audiences’ response.2

1. Repetition

Within your messaging, whether direct mail, email, or a newspaper ad, zero in on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and state that message. Be clear, and repeat the message. People are more likely to remember something—as well as take action—if they’re presented with the option multiple times.
Within each marketing piece, make sure that your CTA is repeated multiple times throughout. Also, try multiple marketing mediums with a cross promotional campaign – for example, reaching out via print, online, and email.

2. Clarity of Intent

This one can’t be overstated, and it works the same for both print and online: Your CTA has to be clear. There’s no room for vagueness in a CTA. Make the next step obvious, and give a specific time frame for completion.

3. Design

Size matters, make it big. For online CTAs, you want your  button to be large enough to stand out without overwhelming the design. Give the CTA room to breathe specially – but not enough so that it seems like a separate element altogether. And place it above the fold (no scrolling necessary) and in the top and left position. Test it out — and don’t always place your CTA in the same place. Readers will become desensitized.

A contrasting color and font also helps increase engagement — consider your overall design, if red is a dominate color it won’t work well for your CTA (most likely). Directional signs like arrows also creates flow and helps the reader prioritize the information.

4. Personalization

Personalizing your CTA tells consumers you understand that they are unique. Add a handwritten sticky note, use their name in your greeting, or personalize emails to match their interests.

5. Use a Widget

In the marketing world, a unique element makes your message stand out among the other messages in the same medium. In direct mail, this would be anything that isn’t paper: car keys, credit cards, and casino chips. These widgets add weight to the mailer — helping it stand out from other items in a mailbox and draws attention to the message.
On the web, use an interactive game instead of a generic capture form. Well-designed imagery and unique colors will make your communication stand out from your competitors’ efforts.

6. Offer Prizes

Offering prizes of some kind— like gift cards or iPads —can help you build a relationship with a consumer beyond just the CTA. Of course, you don’t simply want to pay your consumers to interact with you. Put some thought into the prize and make sure you’re still going to earn ROI on your marketing.

Make sure to track the results; what worked for one group may not work for another. A/B test your idea, or at least test the idea against similar campaigns you’ve done in the past. Pick one variable to change and track how it impacts the results.


6 Public Speaking Tips — That Help Your Marketing, Too

Just the thought of public speaking can make even the most confident professionals break out into hives. The basic tenants of successful public speaking and marketing aren’t all that different. And, guess what? You never have to give a speech to do it.

Here are some best practices for public speaking – that also translate to the marketing world.

      1. Credibility

        Public speakers are faced with the task of developing credibility with their audience by proving they are a reputable source. For instance, someone giving a speech on the negative impacts of high sugar would have their argument taken more seriously if he/she was as a dietician.Similarly, an organization that has established credibility is much more likely to gain buy-in from its target audience.

      2. Emotional Appeal

        Telling a friend that your family member has passed may create sympathy; however, showing them a photograph of you and that family member in the hospital and telling the story about your last exchange of words will likely have a much more significant emotional impact.

        The language and imagery used to convey your message has the power to strongly appeal to the emotions of your audience. Just think of the sad songs and weepy animals in the Sara Mclachlan commercials for the ASPCA. You have two options when “Angel” comes on: Turn the channel or break out the credit card (and definitely some Kleenex).

      3. Logical

        People need to believe that the facts presented to them are the truth before buying into them. You first have to establish credibility (#1 above). Then cite credible sources and give statistics to back up your claims.

      4. Brevity

        “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” ― Mark Twain

        We’ve all been in a situation—a meeting, a conference, or some other occasion—where the speaker rambles on much longer than needed. These messages are almost always ineffective, because the audience’s interest level tanks – and fast.

        Marketers rely on brevity just as much as (and maybe more than) public speakers. In today’s mobile environment, you have about 15 seconds to catch someone’s attention before they have moved on.

      5. Visual Aids

        Always ask yourself whether the visual adds or detracts from your message. There is  a right way and a wrong way to use visuals.

      6. Practice

        In marketing, practicing a speech is equivalent to market research and testing. Before you jump into a campaign, test it: Whether that’s pulling together focus groups to gather feedback or experimenting on fellow staff members, testing your marketing ideas before implementing them can save you from being the embarrassed speaker who forgot his/her speech halfway through the presentation.

        In speaking, as in marketing, practice might not make perfect, but it certainly doesn’t make you worse.


This is a summary of a post by MarketingProfs. To read the full version, click here.

Video Game Developers Attempt To Rock The Vote

The November election is going to be a big one and it seems like everyone is finding some way to get involved, even from such unlikely places as video game development studios. Two such developers, Ubisoft and Epic Games, made announcements today about how their game products would have a tie-in to the Rock The Vote campaign in an attempt to help get more voters registered (and sell more games).

VOTE!!! by Epic Games

The maker of the Gears of War and Infinity Blade franchises are taking a few steps away from the gritty games they typically create to make something a little more fun and light-hearted. Enter VOTE!!!, where players can take control of either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney and settle their differences the old-fashioned way. Who will win this November? Well, you get to help determine that…in more ways than one: the game will allow you to register to vote after you are done playing.

“VOTE!!! is everything a great game should be – challenging, rewarding, super-fun – and players will find themselves laughing the entire time,” said Donald Mustard, Creative Director, ChAIR Entertainment. “We’re excited to join forces with Rock the Vote to help emphasize the importance of voter registration and encourage gamers to become more involved in the political process.”

“VOTE!!! The Game” will be available as a free download from the App Store and is a universal app. The game is compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPod touch 3 (16GB+), iPod touch 4, iPad, iPad 2, and the new iPad.

For all the latest news on “VOTE!!! The Game” follow @playVOTE on Twitter and ‘Like’ “playVOTE” on Facebook at:




Assassins Creed III by Ubisoft


This upcoming Xbox 360 and PS3 game is set in Revolutionary War America, so its creators decided that a tie-in with the November election seemed to fit well (Super Tuesday and the game’s release date are also only a week apart). Gamers who register to vote at select Rock the Vote events will have the chance to play the game before its official release date.


A traveling exhibit of various Assassins Creed III artwork dubbed, “Art of the Assassin” is also planned. Proceeds will benefit Rock The Vote.






It’s very intriguing that game companies are going so far to help cultivate the youth vote. What do you think? Is this a shameless attempt at self-promotion of their product or virtuous attempt at helping others fulfill their civic duty?




This story is cross-posted from Liberty Live

Optimizing WordPress: WP Super Cache

Would a link from a popular blog bring your website down? If you have not thought about it, the answer is most likely yes. There are simple steps you can take now so that when the time comes you’ll be ready.

If your website runs on WordPress, there are several easy-to-install plugins which will make your server more responsive and better able to handle large loads. This is the first of a series of posts I’m going to write about the best of these plugins.

The first plugin I’ll mention is WP Super Cache. Every time somebody browses to your WordPress site, a PHP script is run which accesses your database and then serves the requested page. After the WP Super Cache plugin has been installed, the first time each page is requested, the result is cached. When the same page is requested again, the cached version is served up, no PHP will have to run, and the database will not be accessed. Not only will this equip your site to handle a much larger load, but it will also make pages a little snappier under normal conditions.

You can find the WP Super Cache plugin, along with installation instructions at There are a few more steps to installing WP Super Cache than most WordPress plugins, but not many, and it’s well worth the effort.

I’ll trade you: my premium content for your e-mail address

In most organizations, particularly non-profits who are working to get their message out to the masses, growing the organizational contact list is a huge priority. The all important e-mail list is a critical measurement of how well a group is doing at swelling their ranks. There are many ways of growing your e-mail list, but there is one in particular you may not be utilizing – trading your “premium” content for an e-mail address.

It’s as simple as it sounds. Let’s say you are a non-profit, research organization. If you have a website where you post research, ideas or commentaries, then you are already providing readers of your website with a content, and you’re giving it to them for free. That’s ok; after all, you are a non-profit, and you want to make your life-changing message accessible. But there is another level of content that you might not be providing, and when you do, it’s worth something a little extra.

Consider a recent real-life example. I saw an ad for a free eBook from (an occasional web stop of mine). In return for being able to download this eBook, with exclusive content I couldn’t get anywhere else, I simply had to sign up for the e-mail list. Done deal, a real no-brainer. I mean after all, I’m interested in the subject and I know I can always unsubscribe down the road if I want to.

The thing is, I haven’t unsubscribed, and now I’m actually reading and clicking through those e-mails that come through, plus I have the great eBook they gave for me signing up. Imagine the list gains elitefts must be getting from making this premium content available for only the “price” of an e-mail.

You can do the same thing. You probably have some “premium” content already. It could be a publication you usually charge $2.00 for at events, it could be access to a searchable database of state spending, or it could be something you have yet to create. Just remember, as an outreach organization, nothing is more valuable to you than a growing audience, and giving folks premium content in exchange for adding them your list gives you tremendous growth potential.