Archive for June, 2012

Communications Doesn’t Take Summer Vacation

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Nonprofit Organizations Must Communicate All Year Long

By Joseph John Summer CommunicationsYes, it’s summer — it’s

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time for vacations. People you’ve dealt with for most of the year are disappearing for long stretches of time. It seems like there’s a period of two or three months when we seem to lose touch with each other because of the numerous directions summer vacations take all of us. But here’s a word of caution — or a couple of words, really: Don’t let your organization’s communications take a summer vacation. You really can’t afford to lose touch with your membership and major donors during this long stretch of period. It’s important to continually thank the donors, and inform the membership of current news. But, most importantly, it’s just good business to make sure that all of those folks your organization has touched over the year, remain in touch. How? Communications takes all forms:

  • Send out email newsletters. Newsy news. It only has to be “sound bite” news. News that will just reinforce the fact that your organization is remaining in touch.
  • Tweets are cheap. Now, do
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    you really want to talk about “sound bites”!?

  • Use your Facebook page, or get one set up. Guaranteed that more than 50% of your membership has a Facebook account. Many members of your organization, taking summer vacations, are already posting pictures of their vacation on their Facebook page. What a perfect opportunity to remain in touch, post pictures of something that’s going on at the organization.
  • Continue your blogs on your website — more newsy news. If you don’t have a blog site, create one. Then, seek bloggers to contribute articles to your site. More newsy news.
  • Write postcards. Yes, it might be old-fashioned, but there are still plenty of people who send postcards from their vacation sites. Well, the organization can do the same thing. Send a postcard or two during the vacation period let membership know what’s going on during those long stretches of summer vacation. Sort of like a “Wish You Were Here” postcard. Communications doesn’t all have to be
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  • Stay in touch with your local newspaper or community newsletter and contribute newsy news to the print media. They’re always looking for news and they too are looking for news during the down period in the summer.

And while all of the printed and electronic communications is taking place with your membership, don’t stop there. The organization should also get involved in the community by friend raising. Get the organization invited to speak in community groups and other nonprofit organizations. There are many local groups that are always looking for speakers for their monthly or weekly programs — all year long and, of course, during the summer vacation period as well. Create your ten or fifteen minute fast-paced, high-energy presentation about the great things your organization does for the community it serves. If your organization doesn’t take a communications vacation, the payback will surprise you: more friends, more members, more community involvement, and ultimately, more donors.

Four Social Media Techniques to Target the urban white-collar professionals in china

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

By Huan Chen and Vijay Krishna

Chinese white-collar professionals have gained significant consuming power. Although the social group accounts for only 1% of the Chinese urban population, it owns 10% of the effective buying income. So how do you market to the affluent Chinese white-collar consumers who dominate the consumption of luxury products and online purchases?

social mediaOur research shows that the social media platform is a highly effective tool to reach this particular group. With increases in access and efficiency through online connectivity, more and more of this influential group are taking to the new medium online. Meanwhile, as traditional advertising remains highly cluttered, advertisers are looking to different nontraditional marketing communication tools, such as product placement, to communicate with their target audiences.

Research shows that product placement lends itself well to the social media platform and its users. We suggest the following four rules to effectively communicate with the Chinese white-collar consumers using product placement in social media:
1. Promotional brands should fit the environment of the Social Networking Site (SNS), facilitate the multiple functions of the SNS, and enhance Chinese white-collar users’ experiences in this particular medium. Placed brands should help users to launch, develop, maintain, and strengthen their social bonds, both in the virtual community and in the offline world. For example, a user should be able to launch an online or offline theme party, such as Starbucks Summer Passion, through the SNS (social media) platform to facilitate and strengthen Chinese white-collar users’ social relations. In addition, marketers should position promotional brands as a way for users to exercise control, obtain information, have fun, and gain a sense of belonging. One way to do this is to sponsor an online forum in the SNS, such as VW automobile care, to offer specific and relevant information to users.

2. Marketers should actively and constantly adapt the format of placements to better fit their brands into the particular modules of particular SNSs in order to enhance users’ experiences. For example, for product placement embedded in the module of social games add more entertaining, funny, and interesting elements, integrate online promotions and offline products, and find appropriate timing to place brands. These elements allow users to better engage and thereby enhance the effectiveness of this promotional technique. For example, if a dairy company wants to place its brand in Happy Garden, a popular social game in the Chinese SNS, it may want to come up with a creative kicker to the brand name, such as “MooMoo” milk for the famous Chinese dairy brand, Mengniu; then the users should have an opportunity to get the “MooMoo” milk in the real world as a result of their experience playing in the Happy Garden; and with regard to timing, the “MooMoo” milk has the high likelihood of positive evaluation if it is placed at the time of reaping rather than planting.

3. The promotional brands should conform with Chinese white-collar users’ social identities, especially in terms of their social roles as white-collar professionals, and adapt to their consumption concepts and behaviors. For instance, white-collar workers tend to pay attention to and follow the consumptive trends among their social group. Therefore, marketers should position the placed brands as trendy products or services that are popular among Chinese white-collar professionals. A recent popular trend among the Chinese white-collar professionals is “group-buy,” wherein the online consumers form a group to negotiate better deals with companies on various products. Given the popularity of “group buy,” brands and products should co-brand with “group-buy” platforms through the SNS to promote brands and boost sales. Similarly, placed products and services should also match with the perceived brand image of the SNS among its users. For the Chinese white-collar professionals, national brands and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) rather than international or local brands and other product categories are most appropriate in the context of SNSs.

4. Marketers should integrate product placement and user-generated content (UGC) in the context of

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social media. In Chinese SNSs, a popular type of product placement is the placements generated by users, such as reposts of local businesses’ websites. However, this kind of product placement has relatively low credibility among the Chinese white-collar users. Therefore, marketers who plan to use consumer-generated product placement as a communication tool, should focus on enhancing the message credibility. One way to do this is to combine online and offline word-of-mouth strategy. For example, if a local coffee shop in Shanghai wants to promote its brand though reposts in the SNS, the owner should offer customers the opportunity to “like” it in the SNS and ask every customer to spread the “good word” among their online and offline friends.

The popularity of social media (SNS) among Chinese white-collar workers is unquestionable. The SNS is an attractive platform for marketers to reach this powerful market segment. Jenny, a white-collar worker in Shanghai, captures the impact of social media, “If it was not through Happy Network (a popular Chinese SNS), I wouldn’t pick Lohas juice when I went to supermarket. I actually have tried it to see whether it is tasty or not.” Smart integration of social media and product placement has become a powerful and efficient marketing tool to reach the Chinese white-collar professionals; marketers cannot ignore it.

Huan Chen( and Vijay Krishna (


Communication Training for Non Profit Board Members

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Be Proactive. Train Non Profit Board Members to Communicate with the Public

By Joseph John

My associate, Neil Kuvin, recently wrote an article entitled Media Training for the Thought Leader. In his article he says “Even the most seasoned spokesperson – including the CEO – needs media training and regular refresher sessions.”

As I read his article, I began thinking that while Neil’s statement is 100% accurate in the for-profit sector, it’s just as right-on in the non profit sector. Why? May I say “too many communication neophytes on a board?” Let me explain.

Consider the vast number of board members who join a board, and now become an extension of that non profit organization. The board member represents the organization in public venues — repeat — public venues. WOW!

Now, ask yourself, how many countless thousands of non profit board members across the country are talented enough individuals to speak publicly?  Can they present their organization’s “story”? Can they make an annual appeal presentation? Can they present their belief and lift statements honestly? AND —shuddercould they be proactive in the event of a potential public relations “situation?”

No matter the venue — large or small — there exists the potential for an “inadvertent comment” being made about the organization.  The result? Miscommunication resulting in misinterpretation. Why?  Because the board member said something about the organization in some context without thinking about the white lines of communication established by the organization.

And that’s the key to board communications: What are the white lines? Is there a document that has been written to establish and lay out those communication guide (white) lines? Have they been shared with ALL board members at a meeting designed specifically for communications training? Does that document state what you can say, what you can’t say, and what you must “defer” in any public forum, no matter how large or small?

Too few non profit boards have communication preparation sessions. What a shame. They spend more time on fund raising then they do on how to communicate (or NOT to communicate) with the public.

A communications training session should begin with the “basic” 15-minute presentation that is typically presented to groups informing them of everything your organization stands for from History, Vision, Mission and so forth.

Preparation, practice, understanding “typical” questions asked in public forums should all be part of “communications basic training.” But the white lines need to extend beyond the basic group presentations.

Mr. Kuvin states “… as a thought leader your role is as important for messaging in every way you can.  The most successful sound bite is the ability to provide responses in a comprehensive yet concise manner.  That takes practice.”

Practice. Non profit boards need a “thought leader” to coach and manage ALL board members in the proper method of communications internally and externally — from friendly presentations to “damage control.” Lets face it — in today’s cyber society, comments can go viral almost immediately. Oh, the awesome power (positive and negative) of social networking and other modern communication processes.

Communications Prep sessions are not only designed for proper delivery and practice, but to ensure that the board members say is what they’re  supposed to say, mean what they’re supposed to mean, and not to say what they’re not supposed to say.

Let me leave you with a thought or two for you to consider. Why have interview and communications preparation?  Just imagine that your annual fundraising campaign has just been completed. A reporter from a local paper determines that he has a possible story about your organization. He seeks out board members and asks the following questions to every single board member he interviews — and separately: “Why should people contribute to your organization? Just what do you do with the funds from your annual campaign? How much did you make? Is there transparency so anyone who contributed can see where their money goes?”

What are the correct answers? And just HOW did your non profit board members answer them? And what answers will “appear” in the newspaper or local TV station?



They’re Coming for the post office!

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

By Neil Kuvin

post officeThere is a plan out there to close 250 post office processing plants, on top of plans to shutter 15,000 of the nation’s 32,000 post offices and slash 225,000 postal jobs. Those of us in the publicity, PR and promotion business may be exceptionally handicapped if this were to happen.  I am guessing this may do nothing but hasten the Postal Service’s downward spiral.  Fortunately, recently we learned the “plan” has been put on hold.

Thoughts: Until the Post Master General & President Obama get together on this crucial decision, maybe The Postal Service should reduce the $12 billion worth of business its outsourcing to private companies.  Postal employees could do much of that work.  Slower delivery times, making people travel further to a post office, and eliminating Saturday delivery will force people to seek alternatives like private mail companies and the Internet. Revenue declines will accelerate, necessitating even deeper cuts, until there’s nothing left to cut. And it’s all so unnecessary.

The so-called “crisis” we’re witnessing is a manufactured emergency; a strategy of “shock and awe” designed to finish the job started in 1970, when the Department of the Post Office was turned into a government agency that was supposed to act “like a business.” The ultimate goal seems to be privatization (or at least “liberalization”) of the postal system, the path taken by many European countries. The biggest advocates of the current push to downsize are stakeholders in the bulk mail industry — for whom lower U.S.P.S. operating costs mean lower postage rates — and other businesses (like FedEx, UPS and pre-sort companies) that stand to gain a bigger piece of the mail industry pie.

It seems the way to save the Postal Service is for the President and Congress to consider a major overhaul of the requirement that postal employees pay $5 billion a year to pre-fund retiree health care benefits for the next 75 years.  Let’s see a return of some of the $75 billion surplus that those workers have paid into their retirement funds, and give the Postal Service the opportunity to expand its products and services — particularly those that will benefit the vast majority of Americans.

We in the publicity, PR and promotion side of business growth & communication deal in a lot of mailings and not just e-mailings;  We rely on the Postal Service and private delivery companies to get our mail and our “stuff” to its proper destination.

And rather than rationalizing the downsizing by pointing to “excess capacity,” could the Postal Service reduce its outsourcing to private companies (which now get $12 billion worth of business)? I still feel that much of that work could be done by postal employees.

Radically downsizing the Postal Service will not save the post office — it will destroy it. These heartless cost-saving measures will do irrevocable harm to the families of thousands of postal workers and thousands of communities across the country. Wake up, America. They’re coming for the post office.


Managing Expectations

Monday, June 4th, 2012

By Neil Kuvin

Disappointment is the natural result of badly managed expectations.  I can attest to how many disappointments I’ve been through in several decades.  First was managing several TV stations in large cities (NY, Boston, Atlanta) for about a total of 10 years.  And then after leaving the world of network TV,  20 years of managing a small business, right up until today.

Maslow - Managing ExpectationsHave you ever read anything by the legendary motivational psychologist Abraham Maslow?  He and others have helped me transform disappointments and successes in all of my relationships—personal and professional. We often forget—especially in today’s high-tech world—that a company is simply a collection of individuals. Employees are looking for meaning. Customers are looking for a transforming experience. Investors are looking to make a difference with their investments.

When you think about it and you apply the principals of faith, hope and patience, corporate transformation and personal transformation aren’t all that different. You can address a problem head on by just remembering that many times, you’re just not in control.  You haven’t lost it.  It’s that your demand for control of every situation just isn’t going to happen.  Therefore you need a forced sense of reality and acceptance to calm you down and get you restarted in another direction.

So, if you can aspire to that actuality, why can’t companies aspire to this peak, too? Companies often spend too much of their time focused on the base needs of relationships—but it’s the peak experiences that foster real success. Most of us spend our lives focused on what is, but there are many reminders for us to focus way more on what could be.  That’s the difference between living in the past and ordering our lives and our business expectations by past experiences.  And then there’s vision. What a grand idea!  Will there be disappointments?  Sure.  It’s all in the way you hit the wall, turn around and start again.

This transformational perspective on managing expectations is just as relevant to a company as it is to an individual.


Meet me in E-mail!

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Can we have an e-mail inbox meeting?

By Neil Kuvin

Are you frustrated with e-mail and how you, your clients or your employees use this very important mode of communication?  Why is it an important & valuable tool for you to find ways of improving how you use e-mail to improve your employees’ inside and outside contacts and especially how to serve your clients?

e-mailStart with the basics.  Do you have a company name in the e-mail address and your logo in the body of the message format?  Those two secondary PR messages go out with every one of your employees’ e-mails. No matter how you work to improve the secondary message that is part of the format, e-mail continues to get a bum rap. But e-mail is not the problem; it’s the company’s e-mail culture that needs to be addressed and dissected. If you peel back the onion of e-mail overload to get to its core, you’ll find bad habits, poor etiquette and a lack of training in who uses the company e-mail and how. When you deal with these issues, you’re close to solving the problem.

The number one e-mail exchange mistake is to not respond.  That says to the sender, “I don’t have time or an interest in what you have to say.

Number two: respond just to the writer, not “Reply to All.”

Three:  Not acknowledging the writer’s concern or key issue.

Other issues:  demeaning someone in your company when you send a message to several others.  Remember your digital message can be sent to others by others.  And don’t send too many specifics in an e-mail to several people.  You can detail more specifically once you’ve identified those in your group whom you want to know more.

One solution to e-mail lack of privacy: get rid of the Reply to All command.  For example, one of the worst bad habits, and the No. 1 e-mail pet peeve, comes from internal company e-mails.  You can reduce e-mail overload significantly if you eliminate or severely limit the use of the “Reply to All” command. Set parameters and start requiring employees to send messages on a need-to-know and individualized basis only.  Make this known, talk about it in meetings and call people out on it when they do it.

Poor e-mail etiquette adds to the load. For instance, look at what happens when you open an old message and reply, but discuss something totally unrelated to the subject line.  The recipient is totally confused since the subject matter you’re replying to has nothing to do with the message being sent.  Later, you (or the recipient) will waste time looking for the message and won’t know which one it is.

You can identify bad habits and poor etiquette and make improvements, but training also needs to be a priority. E-mail eliminates phone tag; delivers the right message; reaches everyone you need at once; establishes a paper trail; and connects to your calendar, tasks, contacts and notes with the click of a button. If you learn how to use your software well, you’ll manage e-mail better and save time every day.

On a side note, if a company is serious about improving employee productivity and reducing stress, stop requiring workers to attend useless, back-to-back meetings and let them meet using their inboxes instead.