What’s your style?

I love Claire Kittle’s Talent Market emails!

SPN AM_gift bags2_2016-10They’re clever, well-written, and illustrated. Each contains a message beyond “here are jobs,” a message that inspires. Mind you, I’m not even looking for a job.

Each piece of outgoing text, image, or sound conveys more than its elements; it also broadcasts what sort of organization yours is. It says either, “This is from us” and is worth reading, or it says, “Yeah, I threw this together, but you need to join our effort, anyway.”

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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”

How to prepare a killer speech

Guest Post by John Tsarpalas

John is a political candidate and public speaking coach. He is the former Executive Director of the Illinois Republican Party and President of the Sam Adams Alliance. John’s expertise includes campaign and organizational planning, and public speaking coaching. John hosts a weekly podcast that “Trains Those Who Understand the Benefits of Limited Government to Win Elections”. You can find him at www.commonwealthy.com.


Why Do Less Than Your Best?

Are you the type of speaker who puts together a few notes on the plane and wings it (pun intended) when you arrive at your venue. You don’t need to prep; you’re good enough. Why did you bother to travel all this way if is not important enough for you to rehearse?  If you wanted to be half-assed, why not just set up a conference call? What could you have accomplished if you had taken a little time to practice and – better yet – run through with a small group who could give you some feedback? Quit fooling yourself and short changing your organization, your clients, and your coworkers.

It doesn’t take much time to dial your speech or presentation to a 10. Just a little practice and forethought.


Questions to get answered before you even start to put together your notes:

What is my topic?

What is my goal for the speech?

Why was I chosen to speak on this topic?

Why have I chosen to do this presentation?

Are there key points my hosts asked me to make?

Who is the audience and why are they here?

Why is what I am about to say important to my audience?

What are the time constraints?

Are others also presenting?

Who is speaking before me?

Who is introducing me and what will he or she say?

Will there be further interaction with the audience, such as Questions and Answers?

Are there other speakers following me and what are they talking about?


Questions to ask yourself as you prepare:

How can you capture the audience’s attention from the very first moment?

Why is the audience going to stay interested in what I am saying?

Do I have good stories to illustrate my points?

What feelings and emotions am I trying to project?

Can I inject humor? Can I pull it off?

What is my body language projecting?

Are my gestures and movements in sync with my words?

Am I keeping eye contact with the audience?


Questions to work through in rehearsal:

Is this presentation the right length?

Does it fit time constraints?

What should be eliminated, tightened, or emphasized more?

If I have to fill a time slot, how do I break this up into smaller, memorable segments?

Do I have a strong closing?

Does my closing review and sum up key points?

What is my call to action?

Is your call to action going to bring down the house?

Or will it at least get the proper response?


Now that you have put in the time, gotten feedback, and worked your presentation through a few times, you are going to kill it. Just think how much more you can achieve!

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 nicole@sparkfreedom.org with comments or if you are interested in setting up a coaching package for your organization.

Read our president’s article on branding in “SPN News”

Spark Freedom’s president, Nicole Williams, wrote a featured article in the May/June edition of State Policy Network’s SPN News. This article highlights examples of the ways that building strong brands and messaging can benefit liberty organizations.”Strong brands, human connection, and brand discipline are crucial to furthering our organizational missions. By investing time to create a strong messaging and engagement plan, think tanks can move the needle further and faster toward a free society.”

When you’ve seen one man in a gold lamé jumpsuit…

…You’ve seen them all. Oh, is that not how the saying goes?

Well, we’re just a day in (and not even a full day) and I’ve seen enough characters to last me a whole South by. And yes, there was a grown man in a gold lamé jumpsuit. And no, I didn’t get a picture. There was also the equally aged man weaving in and out of traffic on a Segway, five people wearing virtual reality helmets, and countless techno geeks sporting wearables and hipsters donning vintage. I left DC as the sun was just appearing on the horizon and set out for Austin. Dressed in a sweater and jeans, the near cloudless 80-degree day in Austin hit me hard, but seeing as the last few weeks in DC have brought little more than rain, snow, and ice, a little heat was surely welcomed.

If absence makes the heart grown fonder, it also forgets about the insane amount of traffic congestion during SXSW. I had the best of intentions to make it to the session “How to Build a Following Around Your Idea” but just couldn’t make it from the airport through the traffic in time to find parking, get my badge, and get to the session. I was able to make it to the session “How Beautiful Tools Make Sense of Complex Data.” It seemed perfect to learn more about the increasing effectiveness of infographics and other visual tools and how we can best use those to explain heady policy issues in an engaging and informative way.

Unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to get into the presenters or their message. The description of the session was far more informative and interesting than the session itself. The key to democratizing data across an entire organization so all teams can utilize it is to make data insights more understandable. For ultimate data literacy and actionability, beautiful, simple and interactive data visualization platforms are absolutely necessary. The session was more focused on the tools to create extensive 3D-type models of data visualization than it was on what makes data beautiful and effective. So, as I learned last year, you have to know when to pick up your things and hit the road. There is far too much going on at SXSW to be stuck in a session that doesn’t pan out.

I’ve heard quite a bit about MyEdu and headed over to the session “Well-Designed: Creating Empathy-Driven Products.” The presenter, Jon Kolko, talked about the steps he took in creating MyEdu and what it was like to be purchased by Blackboard. Kolko listed ways to identify opportunities in the marketplace, design for innovation, and produce products that have lasting emotional impacts.

The focus of the lecture was definitely on creating tangible products, webpages, and the like – but it made me think about the way we view policy solutions and reforms, and how we market those ideas to our communities. Aren’t these ideas simply products? How would you market them differently if they were, in fact, products?

Kolko spoke of two considerations when creating a product: Product/Market Fit and Behavioral Insight

Product/Market Fit includes the broad technological and/or political infrastructure in which the product (or reform) wold launch (here I think of companies like Uber, Lyft, or AirBNB), social precedence (cultural norms matter, think of the failing of Google Glass or the acceptance of marijuana in certain states), and the opportunity for engagement by the purchaser (the choice they make to align with your brand (or your mission).

Behavioral insight aims to deep dive into your target’s psyche to determine their wants and needs. What do they value? Where do they find their identity? What would provoke that target to rethink the status quo?

When we create new policy solutions or set out to educate on legislation that impacts lives we should think about product design and behavior. In fact, Kolko later went in to what makes a good product manager, and I dare say these are the very qualities needed to be successful at getting policy solutions taken up. You need to sell, engage, learn, and listen, and get the whole team excited to do it. You need to be a good storyteller. Great product managers can tell a story about a user, what he is doing in his life today, and what he would be able to do in the future if we just got him the right product.

Photoshop: Video Tutorials for Beginners

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The industry standard for photographers, designers, artists, and casual users, Adobe Photoshop speaks a language all its own, and can be confusing, baffling, and downright frustrating. I’ve learned everything I know from asking designer friends or my local printer and, well, searching Youtube. But, how does that saying go? “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I argue this saying has never been more true than with this software. To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of 10 videos that will help beginner Photoshop users start down the right path.

This video is great if you’ve really never opened Photoshop before. You’ll leave with a good sense of where to find the most useful tools and menus.Layers are where everything starts in Photoshop. But new users can get confused, fast. You’ll get an overview of the toolbox, and a drawing explanation of how layers work.If you have a little extra time – or just like certificates on your wall – this is the course for you. Adobe taught by Adobe – and it’s free.

Follow the link here to access the course. You’ll just need to put in your email address in order to register.

Heartbleed Bug – What Is It? What Should You Do?


A bug known as “Heartbleed” is making major headlines. Here’s what it means to you and the steps you can take to minimize potential harm.

What is Heartbleed?
“Heartbleed” is a security flaw that affects “OpenSSL” technology used to encrypt websites (these sites usually begin with “https” and have a lock symbol next to the URL). The Heartbleed bug could give attackers access to information entered on a website, including user names and passwords.

What websites are affected?
Roughly 2/3 of active sites on the internet use Open SSL and could be vulnerable to attacks. However, most major sites acted quickly to fix any vulnerability and ensure the safety of their website and customers. If you’re wondering if a particular website is safe or still vulnerable you can check using this tool, which has been recommended by security experts: https://filippo.io/Heartbleed/.

How to Protect Yourself
The best thing to do is to confirm that a website is safe using the tool above, and then change your password. Yahoo, Google, and Facebook are just a handful of the sites that have urged users to change their passwords.
To be safe, it’s best to change all of your passwords. Thought time consuming, it’s a great time to set up a password manager which will save you time in the long run. Companies like LastPass and 1Password offer secure password management that can be used across platforms and devices.

More Information

USA Today
Security Expert Bruce Schneier

Measuring Social Media Success

Many nonprofits are finding innovative ways to communicate their message and further their mission through social media. Even better, these groups are finding whole new audiences online and are discovering unique ways to interact with them.

However, the question that we’re asked most often, coming even from veteran social media marketers, is “how do you accurately measure success with social media?” Ask that question and you’ll get a multitude of answers, but most organizations we work with clearly are searching for a baseline with which to begin their measurements.

I recently came across a blog post that does a great job of highlighting the most important social measurements and goes the extra step of showing why each is crucial. Blogger Avinash Kaushik shares why he believes every social media marketer should focus on four metrics that rock:

Conversation Rate

Amplification Rate

Applause Rate

Economic Value

Since we operate in the non-profit sector, Economic Value takes on a slightly different meaning but is still a useful consideration. Ultimately, it is intended to guide you to make the highest-value decisions on which platform you use and you can still make those choices without adding a dollar sign.

Read Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value

Avinash has some great advice and I highly encourage you to check out his article. If you have a few extra minutes, you should also ready Eight Silly Data Things Marketing People Believe That Get Them Fired. After reading it, I knew I probably should’ve been fired a couple times. Would you?

When Targeting The Right Audience Works

If you are part of a non-profit, chances are you host events on at least a semi-regular basis for a variety of reason. More often than not, they are likely based around a topic or speaker that appeals to your donating membership. However, every non-profit is on the outlook for opportunities to increase the amount and kinds of people that hear their message, although doing so is often a challenge. Events, when done the right way, can provide just such an opportunity. Case in point, the Freedom Foundation’s Greg Glassman event.

The Freedom Foundation recently hosted an event featuring CrossFit founder Greg Glassman at an event on Seattle’s University of Washington campus. It was amazing.

Over 550 people from the Washington area, the vast majority of them CrossFit members, packed into an auditorium at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall, eagerly anticipating their chance to glean some wisdom from their hero. As I learned from the event, the CrossFit community is a dedicated and tight-knit bunch, and they hold their Founder’s words almost as sacred. It’s really no surprise, as CrossFit often dramatically impacts the people that sign up for it; not only because it becomes a lifestyle, but because it has brought them out of unhealthy situations, mentally and physically.

Glassman spoke on a range of topics from fitness to business, and even touched on government. He spoke about how his desire for excellence drives his business and molds all of his decisions. He emphasized that he values his members and affiliates (gym owners) above all and is concerned more about helping them succeed than he is maximizing his profit. In fact, he gave a very specific example in which, with a single business move, he could increase his own share of the business by $60 million. However, he felt that by doing it, he would be pursuing greed instead of excellence and betray both his own philosophy as well as the people he’s invested so much in already. He also shared about CrossFit for Hope, a charity movement he started to help build schools in Africa.

There is so much more that Greg talked about that bears mentioning that I don’t have space for here, however there is a fantastic write-up from another one of the attendees that I highly recommend you read. You can find it here.

The Freedom Foundation found a personality and a message that resonated with a very specific audience and was able to leverage it to introduce themselves to people they likely never would have reached normally. How did they do it?

1. They narrowed their focus – From the very outset, the target was CrossFitters. They knew that people in the CrossFit community would love a chance to see their hero and that his message of Free Enterprise would resonate well with them. They put out invites to their current members as well but, as expected, few of them showed up. However, that was fine, because getting them to come wasn’t the goal anyway; there will be other events for that.

2. They reached out to influencers – Rebecca Phillips, the event coordinator, assembled media kits and personally delivered them to the CrossFit affiliates. She also kept them regularly updated via email when new details about the event were revealed. By establishing and strengthening those relationships, she guaranteed that the most influential people for her target audience would be telling them about the event.

3. They maximized their opportunity – Glassman didn’t simply share a few thoughts at the evening event and go on his way; the Freedom Foundation kept him busy all day. They spent time conducting a personal interview with him to get footage for future video projects. They hosted a special VIP luncheon so Glassman could connect individually with his affiliate members (and so Freedom Foundation staff could as well). They got Greg in front of a group of student entrepreneurs from the University of Washington. They found all the angles were it would make sense to create value out of Greg’s visit and made them happen.

4. They took it online – They used social media to engage their audience before, during, and after the event. One interesting idea they used was to take a picture of the crowd from the stage at the beginning of the event, post it immediately to Facebook, and encouraged the crowd to go to their Facebook page and tag themselves in the photo. You can see it here.

The event was a resounding success that allowed the Freedom Foundation to connect with over 500 new people and built a solid relationship with an outstanding business that exemplifies the principles of Free Enterprise every day. Your non-profit can do the same. Target an audience, discover what makes them tick, and build strong relationships with their influencers with everything you’ve got.

Full disclosure: This author also works for the Freedom Foundation and contributed to the marketing of the event.