August Spark Session: Ask the Experts

In our August Spark Session, Scott Graves (LibertyLab), Kevan Kjar (ArrowHead3 Consulting), and Spark Freedom’s own Nicole Williams tackled a whole sombrero full of your questions about marketing and communications. This session is so chock full of information, be sure to watch the whole recording or download the audio for your listening pleasure!

Here’s this session’s roadmap:

What do I do if I can’t find stories to support our marketing or policy message? (2:45)

How do I even get started with our 2017 marketing plan? (5:45)

Recently, our Facebook page views have dropped dramatically. What strategies work now? Should we move to a different platform? (7:35)

How can we persuade people we know are opposed to our policy proposal? (14:20)

How do I tackle objections? (19:15)

What social media platforms should we be on, and how often should we post? (24:50)

What is the appropriate length for a YouTube video for a policy idea/message? (29:50)

We’re thinking of doing a podcast. Do you think podcasts are still a good marketing tool? What tips do you have to make them successful (e.g. length, frequency, content)? (34:00)

Do you think social media is more important than your website? (39:05)

How can you effectively market on a very small/no dollar budget? Do you have good examples of that you can share? (41:05)

Any advice for making videos on a dime? (46:15)


Download the audio (right-click > save): Spark Session August 2016 – Audio


Our next Spark Session is September 22. Save the date!

To catch up on past Spark Sessions, visit the Archives.



July Spark Session: The DNA of Story

This month’s Spark Session centered on the DNA of storytelling. Spark Freedom’s Nicole Williams and Kevan Kjar of Arrowhead3 Consulting discussed what it takes to create winning stories that further your policy or organizational message.

Great stories, stories that people are moved by and become invested in, consists of three parts:

  1. Mission: What problem are you trying to solve? What issue is your policy addressing?
  2. Hero: Who are you solving it for? This should be someone with a real story to whom people can relate.
  3. Conflict: What stands in your Hero’s way? What obstacle(s) need to be overcome?

Once you’ve established these three components and crafted your story, how do you get people to listen to it? To capture your audience’s attention, you’ll need a great log line. A log line is a one-sentence summary of what your story is about using the three key elements in your story, i.e. the central conflict, the hero, and the mission. A log line should have an emotional “hook” that stimulates the audience’s interest. Be sure to watch the recording for examples.

Of course, you can’t create compelling stories and log lines that appeal to everybody, so you’ll want to focus on your strongest audience. And, while not all people in your audience are going through what your hero is going through, your log line should elicit a strong sense of empathy from them for your hero. This will get them invested in your message.

Finally, don’t stop with one good story. If one person is facing a certain issue that your policy is trying address, there is a good chance that other people are, too. The more stories you can tell of people dealing with the problem you’re trying to solve, the more compelling your narrative becomes.

Watch the entire Spark Session to learn more, such as:

  • How to appeal to different audiences
  • How to humanize your story
  • How to get people to care about your policy
  • How to write a successful log line (and what a log line is)
  • Examples are also provided for reference!

You can also download the slide deck from the session: The DNA of Story.



Spark Freedom Interns: Meet John Nagle!

Hi, I’m John! I was born and raised in San Diego. However, when thinking about applying to colleges, I wanted a place where I could pursue my interest in politics. American University, with its Washington, DC location and public policy focus, was a perfect fit. I look forward to graduating with a BA in political science and a minor in economics in May of 2017.

My family consists of my mother, father, twin brother Jimmy, and older sister Katie. Jimmy currently attends the University of Nevada, Reno and my sister is teaching abroad in Australia. Despite the fact that my brother and I are fraternal, on the first day of kindergarten we accidentally “switched places” and attended each other’s class for the day.

Some of my interests include: reading, hiking, listening to podcasts, fencing, and cooking Italian food. What I like about fencing is the combination of physical quickness and strategy. You always have to be thinking on your feet, literally. My favorite Italian dish to make is spaghetti and meatballs.

In seventh grade, I read my first political book. It was Milton Friedman’s 1962 classic Capitalism and Freedom. It inspired me to learn more about my political beliefs and helped develop my interest in promoting a free society.  One quote from the book spoke to me deeply: “concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”

I am excited to work at Spark Freedom because I believe strongly  in the cause of liberty but recognize that many people in the movement struggle to articulate our principles in an appealing way that is accessible to the general public. It’s great to see an organization dedicated to making our message resonate. In particular, I look forward to working as a development intern so that I can explore that field and assist in getting more people involved in Spark Freedom’s mission. After college, I see myself working in the liberty movement, possibly in development, in order to bring about a more free, just, and prosperous society.

June Spark Session – Ask the Experts!

For our June Spark Session, we tackled another round of your marketing questions. We covered the basic rules of successful coalition building, the do’s and don’ts of email marketing, and how to manage your organization’s reputation on Wikipedia.

Spark Freedom’s Jonathan Haines started off the session by discussing how to build strong coalitions. Your most fundamental task is to get a diverse group of people to set their individual goals aside in favor of working toward a common goal. You need to create a strong message that transcends differences in viewpoints among your coalition partners and generates full buy-in from them. Once you have that message you can then devise a joint strategy to achieve your coalition’s goal.

Next up, Sarah Johnson from Spotlight Liberty had some great tips for making your email marketing efforts more successful. There are several factors you need to consider when trying to get the most out of your email list. One key piece of advice Sarah mentioned was to scrub your list every 6 months so that you’re only keeping your most relevant and interested users. She also provided a few great email marketing resources. Check them out:

What’s a good email open rate & click rate? [Benchmark data]

How to get your sales emails opened

Email opens trends on mobile devices in 2015

Lastly, Spark Freedom’s Nicole Williams gave some great tips for tackling “vandalism” to your Wikipedia page committed by your opponents. When you discover inaccuracies, you may be tempted to correct them all at once. However, Nicole recommended to address them in small chunks and over time to avoid a “wiki war.” Make sure you learn and abide by the Wikipedia’s community standards and editing guidelines. And when you make your edits, use credible third-party sources instead of your own website.

Watch the entire webinar to find out:

  • The process for creating a coalition from the ground up
  • How often you should send out mass emails
  • What email marketing metrics you really need to measure
  • Essential tips for staying out of “wiki wars”

Spark Freedom Interns: Meet Emily Orr!

My name is Emily Orr! I grew up in Southern California. For the past three years, I have been living in Logan, Utah while attending Utah State University. I am entering my senior year, majoring in political science and minoring in organizational communication

I love hiking, kayaking, going to the gym, political activism, cooking, brunch(ing), traveling, and watching those weird documentaries on Netflix. I also really love dogs. I don’t have one (yet), but I find myself spending (too much) time watching dog videos on the internet.

Last semester I was a Koch Scholar, which gave me the opportunity to fuel one of my greatest passions: reading.The purpose was to get students of different backgrounds to talk about issues in government and society.  As a scholar, my favorite book was “How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life” by Russ Roberts.

When I was a freshman in college I was introduced to the ideas of classical liberalism, and since then I have been absolutely smitten. I attended a club meeting called Aggies for Liberty run by a good friend of mine. I loved the ideas they were sharing, and I thought that they made a lot of sense and I looked further into them. I later became the president of Aggies for Liberty (which is an affiliate of Students for Liberty), which has allowed me to spread the ideas of liberty across the state of Utah. Since my introduction into liberty, I have become very passionate about Free Market Environmentalism (I started an FME club on my campus), freedom of speech and expression (especially on college campuses), proper fiscal policies, and the war on drugs. I am interested in all aspects of a free society, but these are the spheres that get me super amped.

I am very excited to be interning for Spark Freedom. After going through the process of becoming a Koch Intern, I discovered the job listing as a communication intern. I explored their website and was impressed with how many people they have worked with to help promote their stories of liberty. I believe that sharing your story is very valuable in such a connected world. I see so much opportunity for personal growth here at Spark Freedom, and I am eager to learn everything they throw my way! As a result of this internship, I hope to gain new skills in communication and development that will spill over into my professional and academic life. I am very excited about this opportunity and very happy to be on the Spark Freedom team!


Spark Freedom Interns: Meet Allie Harris!

My name is Allie Harris. I go to Miami University (the one in Ohio, not Florida). I’m double-majoring in political science and international studies with a concentration in international development. I’m also double minoring in French and business legal studies. Next spring semester, I’ll be studying abroad in Luxembourg for 5 months, and I can’t wait!

I am the co-chair of Miami’s College Republicans chapter. Guiding the organization through the crazy 2016 election season will be quite the challenge, I think. Actually, the RNC Convention this summer is taking place 20 minutes from my house. I’m looking forward to volunteering with the convention and being around the city during all the chaos.

I love reading biographies (specifically about our Founding Fathers) and historical nonfiction about America and influential people.

I’m so thrilled to spend the summer with Spark Freedom. I was looking for an internship where I would do more than follow someone around the office and make copies. I wanted a real, hands-on experience. The Spark Freedom staff has already entrusted me with completing big tasks. I’ve learned more in my few weeks of interning here than I have during an entire summer at other places.
When I’m not involved in politics, I enjoy being outside. I love hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, and sailing (although sailing on Lake Erie is not the same as sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, where I learned). I was a competitive figure skater in high school, but now I just skate for fun when I have time.

[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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[Webinar] May Spark Session: How to use humor to (re)connect with your audience

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As many of us have experienced first-hand, it is difficult to make policy interesting and fun. So how do we lighten the mood and engage our audience better?

That’s what we talked about with our guest Wayne Hoffman in last week’s webinar. Wayne has spent 25 years in a journalism field before he took the helm at the Idaho Freedom Foundation. He’s well known for his coverage of the West Memphis Three murder stories, and he even appeared in a documentary about that. He has been running the Idaho Freedom Foundation for 7 years, taking it from a kernel of an idea to a thriving organization doing great work in Idaho.

Here are some of Wayne’s insights from the webinar:

Q: What is the first piece of advice you would give someone who wants to integrate humor into their policy work?

Wayne Hoffman: You don’t have to come up with the greatest punch line of all time. Just start out by looking at your policies and finding ways you can lighten the mood a little bit.

Q: What do you do if you’re just not funny by nature?

WH: First, remember this: You’re not trying to have people go home and say, “Oh, that guy from the free market think tank was so funny.” You’re trying to get them to connect with you as a human being. So be yourself; don’t walk into a room and try to be a stand-up comedian. Even poke fun at yourself sometimes.

Q: What things do you need to keep in mind as you’re trying to integrate humor into your policy communications?

WH: 1) Know your audience and know your issue. Know your opposition. Know the constraints of what you can say and not say. You don’t want to come off as callous or flippant when trying to lighten the mood a little bit. 2) Practice, practice, practice. 3) Run your presentation by someone who can give you very constructive, honest feedback about what works and what doesn’t work.

Q: People seem to think we need to take freedom seriously to defend it. Will adding humor to the freedom debate work for us or against us?

WH: It’s absolutely going to work for us, and it’s the one thing that’s been missing from our side’s tool kit. No one wants to join a club of old, stodgy people who are constantly talking about how bad things are.

Q: Who is funnier, liberals or conservatives?

WH: I think liberals do a better job with humor right now, and I mean that sincerely. You only need anecdotes to prove your point. The Daily Show. Give me a conservative alternative to The Daily Show and I guess you’ll demonstrate that I’m wrong, but the liberals have done a very, very good job. Most of the narrative, the dialogues, and a lot of the late night talk shows promulgate liberal ideology, so we’ve done a very, very lousy job of either communicating in terms of wit and light hearted moments.

Listen to the entire webinar to find out:

  • How using a good prop can break through the discussion of cold facts and big numbers
  • How tax policy can be funny
  • How we can help people get a real grasp of a debate by presenting an issue in a humorous way that also resonates them
  • On-the-fly ways to get a chuckle from your audience
  • Why Wayne once took a liquor bottle to testify at the state legislature


May Spark Session_ How to use humor to (re)connect with your audience


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Also, check out our Spark Session archive.

Lessons Learned from Mr. Clean: How to hold true to your voice in times of change

Launched in 1958, Mr. Clean maintained brand consistency in its TV commercials for most of the product’s life. This Spark Session looks into Mr. Clean’s Facebook personality, starting in 2014 and continuing through the present day, to find out what went wrong with its brand consistency. More importantly, we considered how to avoid making this mistake ourselves. Two things that must already be in place in order to maintain brand consistency:

  1. Clear accountability for oversight of brand consistency, supported by a team and a clear process.
  2. A short, clear articulation of the brand’s goal, target audience, copy strategy, and brand character, understood by everyone in your organization.

Full Webinar: YouTube

Slide deck: MrClean March 2016

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Show notes

Topics Covered:

  1. A review Mr. Clean’s brand character and brand story
  2. A review of Mr. Clean’s facebook personality at its highest – when it earned viral interactions – and why this worked.
  3. A look at the present-day Mr. Clean Facebook – and what it tells us.
  4. Lessons we can learn from Mr. Clean.

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Review Mr. Clean’s brand character and brand story

Successful marketing is not rocket science, it’s discipline. We encourage all clients to go through this process in marketing and communications: DEFINE>ALIGN>LAUNCH.

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Spark Freedom Process

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This means that all communications campaigns are built from the key decisions made in Step 1 of the process. One of our favorite tools is to develop a copy strategy that must be incorporated into every bit of clients’ work. Among other good things, this process maintains brand consistency. It’s especially helpful in cases when clients depend on several content providers and vendors. Today, I’d articulate Mr. Clean’s copy strategy like this: “We will persuade middle-class women between 20 and 45 that Mr. Clean makes tough jobs easy and can clean anything in your home.” To be successful on Facebook, you have to build your brand story from your copy strategy. In the case of Mr. Clean, this brand story is his story. For many of our client organizations, the brand story (or StoryArc, if you use the ArrowHead method) is usually the tale of the people you help. Here is an example of what Mr. Clean’s brand story might look like: Mr. Clean Profile Notice that his brand story supports the three most important elements of a quality brand story. It is emotional, differentiated, and credible. [md_blank_space height=”40px” class=”” id=””]

Looking back to when Mr. Clean’s Facebook personality was inviting viral interactions – and why this was good

The trick, as social media has increased in its ability to reach and persuade people, is to translate the brand story – in this case of Mr. Clean – to a new platform. And it seemed to be going very well for the Mr. Clean brand in 2014. Posts were made regularly, they were engaging, they supported the copy strategy. Mr. Clean’s page manager was great at tapping into current events and bringing the message back to the cleaner. Most importantly, the content was:

  1. Emotional
  2. Differentiated
  3. Credible

For a deeper analysis, watch our webinar here. [md_blank_space height=”40px” class=”” id=””]

A look at the present-day Mr. Clean Facebook – and what it tells us

Between February 2015 and March 2015, something changed with Mr. Clean’s Facebook presence. The sterile corporate shoe dropped. If I were to guess what happened, either the brand manager changed, the social media vendor or employee left, or, as part of P&G’s massive offloading of brands in 2015, accountability over the brand changed. Whatever the cause, the social nature of the Facebook outreach for Mr. Clean changed at its core. The brand story now focuses on the product’s credibility and not on the emotional connection with Mr. Clean’s cleaning power. His sense of humor is lost, and he is no longer tapping into current events. For a deeper analysis, watch our webinar here. [md_blank_space height=”40px” class=”” id=””]

Lessons we can learn from Mr. Clean

  1. A strong brand story and copy strategy can see you through the long haul – over 50 years!
  2. Each advertising or outreach medium requires a different approach to be successful, but the core brand story and copy strategy should never change, no matter the platform. The only thing that changes is how you package your copy strategy.
  3. Story has long been king in reaching people emotionally. As you build your organizational brand, consider what your story is. Determine how to frame your brand in terms of the value you bring to the people you help. 
  4. Staying true to your voice in times of change is easy if you know the two things that must be in place to develop your strong brand story: 1) clear accountability, and 2) clear articulation of the brand’s goal, target audience, and copy strategy.

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Warning signs that things are slipping

  • Employees or vendors complain that they do not understand what the organization does.
  • Products don’t launch in a timely manner.
  • Higher employee or vendor turnover.
  • The communications editorial calendar runs behind.
  • Significant drops in donations, or other means of support for your organization (event attendance, web traffic, etc.).

Not everyone has a large outreach or marketing budget to get their message out. But if you take the time to set up a clear copy strategy and clear accountability, you can expand your reach to your targets by being consistent, engaging them emotionally, and keeping your existing supporters loyal.

Full Webinar: YouTube

Slide deck: MrClean March 2016

Nicole Williams is President of Spark Freedom and a strategic marketing coach. Reach her at with comments or if you are interested in setting up a coaching package for your organization.

A simple tool brings your marketing budget in line with your organizational goals

One question I often get from clients is: What should be our ideal ratio of marketing dollars to our overall organizational budget?

While this is what I am asked, the question I hear is: How can we make sure that our marketing investments will accomplish our overall business goals?

My first answer is, of course, the dreaded “it depends.” What is your organization’s long-term business goal? What is your most important target audience? What are your supporting marketing plans? Without answers to those key questions, you will have a hard time determining how many resources you should focus on marketing and communications.

Once you have those answers, try the following approach to create an integrated overview of how much to invest in marketing and communications, across programs and for the organization in general.

Create one calendar combining general marketing activities with marketing and support required for specific projects.

This calendar gives you an overview of how much you invest in programs vs. general marketing and communications. You get a side-by-side view of general marketing activities with current programs, projects, and events. The calendar also helps you make decisions about optimal timing, based on workloads, revenues, and cashflows. Most importantly, you can evaluate whether the marketing budget and activities are in line with organizational goals, and adjust course as necessary.

For example, say that in order to maintain brand awareness with your target audiences, you figure that you need to invest 5-10% of your budget in general marketing. This is just to maintain the status quo. But your long-term business goal is not served by the status quo. In fact, to achieve your long-term business goal, you have to grow your influence. An integrated marketing calendar will help you to align your marketing and communications investment for both maintenance and growth with your overall budget and your primary organizational goals.

To get you started, we’ve created a communications calendar template for you. Download it here:

Sample communications calendar.