Friday, December 19, 2008

Doing Good at the Holidays

This will be my last post until I get back from my vacation. I'm journeying to the frozen north - Rochester NY- and I will be staying with a friend who has dialup service - so doing anything more than checking email will be close to impossible. And I'm deliberately cutting ties by leaving my laptop at home where it will get a much deserved rest.

The last week has been filled with many interesting stories of giving. We've had our own donors step up and make highly generous donations. And the people I work with have all told their own stories of trying to make a difference this year.

One woman and her family make a vow to do one thing each of the 25 days - whether it is buying a sleeping bag for a homeless man on the streets in SF or giving some coins to a bell ringer. Another picked cards off the giving tree and bought warm coats for some teenagers. Another worked at a fund raiser for her daughter's school. Everyone is doing what they can.

I applaud the good that everyone does at this time of year and remind you that given these economic times we should all strive to do something good for someone every day. It is by working together that we will come through these difficult times.

Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Newsletter Creation - Out of Office Notes

Sending out a newsletter is always a tricky thing. Not the building the content, doing the editing, or dealing with an internet connection that's up and down like a yoyo. No, it's making sure that I don't go over my email limit with bouncebacks. Bouncebacks are the things that come back to my mailbox every time I send out the newsletter. These aren't undeliverable - these are the little notes that come back when someone is away from their desk and want me to know why that is. I used to just delete these notes without reading but then I realized that some of those bouncebacks were giving me new contact info that needs to be updated so I started reading them. And I got hooked

Why did I get hooked? Because some people just have to go beyond saying Out of Office Dec x to Dec y. Some people go a step beyond. Here are a few of my favorites from today's round (and some I get all the time). Names, companies and product names have been changed to protect the innocent

I will be out of the office starting 12/17/2008 and will not return until 01/05/2009.I will be out of the office from 12/17/2008 until 1/5/2009.For immediate assistance for Admin issues, please email Seth with your issue, CC Dave Smith and myself. You can also sametime Dave Smith. Dave Smith is my Admin backup. For other urgent issues please see the backup list below.Admin, and Support - Dave Smith, Admin Access - Jane Smith Manage Trouble Tickets - Contact me via cell Approvals - Contact me via cellI will have my cell and laptop close throughout the holidays. If you need urgent assistance you may contact me at my cell. I will respond within 1-2 hours, please leave a message if I do not answer.

Seriously - is this person actually going to get any vacation?

I'm away from the office with access to email. My response will be slower than usual but I will try to respond to urgent requests within 2-3 days.

Urgent and 2-3 days don't really seem to go together do they?

hello! my computer is with IT this afternoon and i won't have it back until thursday morning. i will reply to you as soon as possible. thank you,

Since the email that generated this response was sent on Friday morning things are not looking good with this person's computer.

For emergencies during the week of December 15th, please contact my manager.

This assumes we know his manager and how to get in touch. Not always a good assumption.

Vacating for the holidays. Back in the office on Monday, Jan. 5th. Best wishes for a restful season and Happy New Year!

I love that she's vacating. And you can tell her thoughts are on restful.

Out of the office currently. I will respond to email when I return, for urgent issues please call my cell phone
May the force be with you.

I love working with technologists.

Have a Happy Holiday

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Year End Giving

One of the great challenges of non-profit life is the year end giving push. Budgets are reviewed, expenses are tallied and non profits turn to their constituencies and ask for donations. Not only do I get the asks from charities I currently support and the ones I supported in the past - but this year everyone I know is sending me the asks from other organizations saying - hey I got this you might want to see it.

They are all sincere, heartfelt asks and I find myself wondering how people make their decisions. For myself, I give to organizations that I know do good work in my community - groups that do meals for the homeless; diseases that have impacted myself and my family; animal organizations; gifts for children and anyone who will take my old clothes and donated items. The thought of children saying please give me a blanket for my bed breaks my heart as we had temps in the 20's last night and that child's blanket may not be delivered for another week.

What I don't like are the people who call me. I find that very intrusive and most importantly I don't trust them. How do I know that those callers really work for the police department? And the man who called from one organization I had supported already this year was really aggressive and made me worry about just who had my contact info at their organization. Since I spoke to him every time I think of that organization I get an uneasy feeling and that makes it much easier to toss away their asks.

So I guess it is all about feelings. Who makes you feel good when you give? What words or images create a feeling that says I must do something now? And what makes you feel like just for a minute like I'm making the world just a little bit better for at least one man, woman, child or animal?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blog Outreach

This week I received an inquiry from a PR person representing a CEO. She wanted to know if my CEO would interview her CEO and write up the interview on her blog. Interesting. Blog outreach is something I have done tentatively - mostly with bloggers that already know ABI. But this is a whole new concept, reach out to a total stranger and request an interview and a write up?

And with it I realized that I needed to develop a process for handling this sort of request. Here's what I came up with - first off I spoke with Telle to see how open she was to doing interviews. She was actually very interested. Next step, research the CEO. I sent her rep and inquiry asking for a more detailed bio and I began doing Google searches. What I found was that while the business was outside my awareness (online Memorial sites) that in fact this is becoming big business. And that the site the woman had launched was generating revenue and was quite interesting. I found myself moved to tears at the heartfelt memorials people posted for their loved ones. And, in keeping with our non profit heart, there was a giving component where people could link to the "instead of flowers" donation sites.

My final step was another talk with Telle and then going back to confirm that she would do the interview. Now we just have to find a time that works for two busy CEO's. But that's a whole other story.

Monday, December 15, 2008

What Every Marketer Should Do in these Tough Times

I was recently asked what advice I had for other marketers in these tough economic times. There are so many things but I narrowed it down to five items.

1. Network, Network, Network - This could be all five items in itself. But constantly building and expanding your professional and personal networks is crucial. You never know when you are going to find yourself out of work and your network is how you get a job. You need references, connections, introductions - and that comes from your network. I recommend LinkedIn - it is absolutely the best for helping you find people from your past life and reconnecting you. I have friends from 15 years ago writing me references.

2. Learn Social Media/Web 2.0 - Companies hiring marketers are often filling one job with many roles. And Web 2.0/Social Media is a big component of what they are looking for. So your first step should be to go out and build a Facebook Page for yourself. Set up a Twitter Account. Create a blog (like this one) where you are putting yourself out there. Also, start following leaders in your market's blog, twitters, and build reciprocal links. This will put you way ahead of people who are solely focused on traditional marketing.

3. Learn something new every day. This is an old adage but an important one. Keep yourself from becoming board by reading and learning new things. You never know when new knowledge you've picked up can help your organization. I have Google Alerts coming in for about 20 topics and I review them all each day to see what is going on in tech and what opportunities there are for my organization.

4. Review your vendors. You are at year end and you are probably dealing with slashed 2009 budgets. So take a look at your vendors carefully and see what can be renegotiated so you can do more with less. I had one vendor under monthly retainer which we could not sustain. Instead I determined when would be the times next year when they would be critically important and negotiated a consulting agreement with them for those times. We saved about 50% but they'll be there when I need them.

5. Reality - what a concept. Make your plans realistic. The greatest challenge I see is people write unrealistic plans or goals and then struggle and ultimately fail to execute. Create a plan you can live with and implement. If you can maintain that focus you can achieve a lot. And make sure to refer back to that plan when you meet with your manager. You need to be flexible but marketing is often about momentum building - so make sure they realize that changes can derail that momentum.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Press Releases - the value of a word

Working for a non profit means dealing with tight budgets - so tight that on some days you are looking at your press release, not as a wonderful means of reaching out worldwide to the media and your audience, but as the enemy. All those words. Up to 400 words costs x but for each word over you have to pay. And that's when you end up in negotiations with yourself and your budget that can make you crazy. That's when you wonder - should I include the quote from the woman in Nigeria who is helping school children learn about computing? Or should I include the other quote from someone else who's equally good and her quote is 4 words less. It's a juggling act - quality vs quantity vs cost. Of course you know you need to include the high value items - the keywords that will get you picked up by search engines and the company names that the financial press will pick out to highlight on their site. It's a challenge. And I wish I had an easy solution. But instead I try to carefully craft the press releases I create so that they meet all of the objectives - to create an impact, to be picked up by the media , to meet the budget and of course to survive the review process.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Craft Fairs- where has all the creativity gone?

Ok, I'll admit it. I am a holiday fair junky. With my trusty friend Marina by my side we've spent the last three holiday seasons going from church to high school to people's houses exploring all the ways that people do different crafts. And before this year we had a lot of fun. But something has changed in 2008. I'd like to say its the economy but the events are still taking place and the crafters and vendors are all still there, but somehow I've gotten bored. I'm not seeing anything new in the way of holiday crafts and it makes me a little sad. Three years ago when we started really going full tilt at the shows we were always enraptured with the crafts on display. The jewelry sparkled, the santas made us smile and we happily paid $4 or $5 for a unique little stocking stuffer that would be just perfect in someone's stocking. But this year from the very first show things changed. It was all the same. The crafts were exactly the same as last year and just how many times can you give holiday potholders and tea towels, cute little snowman dolls and bead jewelry.

That's not to say all sales disappoint. As we discussed this problem the other night we identified two shows we'd enjoyed and gotten gifts at and plan to return next year. The others we'll let pass. So my advice to all those crafters out there - change things up. Try new yarns, new fabrics, new techniques. Innovate. Don't rely on doing the same thing over and over - the time of the useless stocking stuffer has passed. People are spending less and want more value and more creativity.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nominating for Awards

One of the great challenges of being a Public Relations/Marketing Professional is nominating executives or other members of your organization for awards. While I've completed award nominations in previous years, they were mostly for products. Can that new media server get best in show, best product of the year? Some awards are very rigorous with evaluations, site visits, and large submission fees. Others are barely a page to write up. Here are some tips that I use when evaluating an awards process:

1. Bang for the buck (or minute) - weighing the positive publicity from an award vs the amount of time and money it will take to complete the submission. And how sure you are of the worthiness of the nominee. ABI offers its own awards - Women of Vision and the Anita Borg and Denice Denton Awards. And these awards are definitely worthwhile with promotion before, during and after the events. We've found those awards raise the visibility of the recipient and can help accelerate both their primary career and the secondary career as a speaker. One winner now charges thousands of dollars to do a speaking engagement. So yes it is worthwhile. Some awards however cause barely a ripple. It's best to research previous winners using Google to see the impact of the award before and after.

2. Make sure you have the time to write the very best application you can with detailed justification of their qualifications.

3. Be sure you can complete the process - some apps require letters of recommendations and those take time to get - don't wait till the last minute to do a submission. Procrastination is not your friend. A percentage of submissions we receive each year are incomplete. So set aside the time to make sure you have thoroughly completed the application.

And remember that marketers can win awards as well. Make sure to submit your own work for awards. And if your PR firm or Design agency submits your work be sure to put it on your resume if it wins.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Newsletter Creation - Updating the Database

Every time I send out our newsletter (or cfa) I go in to see who has signed up for our newsletter. I am always amazed that there are at least 40 or 50 people, who, in the course of two weeks found us and decided that yes I want to get that newsletter. Of course at least 5 or 6 are spam - with incredibly annoying names like hotsexhotsex. But my last step is to go into our salesforce account and pull out the new registrants and upload them into our constant contact system.

And of course after every newsletter goes out there are a few readers who decide they don't want us to continue bugging them and they disconnect. Since I need to respect their privacy I can't do what I would like, which is reach out to them and say why? Why don't you want my newsletter anymore? Are there too many articles, too few? Have we annoyed you in some bizarre way? Did you not like that we asked you to donate money? You do know we're a non-profit don't you? Was it that one typo I missed that turned you away? Have we somehow become irrelevant to you? What changed? But alas, without infinite hours of spare work time those questions go unasked. But the next time you turn off a newsletter you might want to drop the person writing it a little note and let them know why. We really do want to know.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Newsletter Creation - a monthly challenge

Twice every month I put together a newsletter. Or I should say a newsletter and a CFA. The CFA is a call for action - a document used to highlight our upcoming programs and all the deadlines, due dates, etc that require the reader to take action. The newsletter is supposed to be a bit more of an article driven document - with articles created by our staff, advisory board members, volunteers as well as myself. What has happened over the course of this year is that the two publications have slowly merged with articles appearing in both and our programs definitely becoming a focus. Communicating with our constituency once a month about our programs is just not enough.

When I was working at a telephone company in Lancaster PA in the 90's I also generated a newsletter, though on a quarterly basis. For one month I would gather and edit articles, eventually taking them to our printer (who was also our designer) who would lay out the articles. Then I would proofread it, he would make the corrections and off it would go to the printing press. They'd then be driven to our mailing house who would affix the mailing labels and postage and off they would go to our readers. And they were readers. It wasn't often they got a newsletter, especially from the utility. And I had learned that by offering special deals and at least two contests a year I could pretty much guarantee readership. Each holiday season, we called it Christmas in the heart of Amish country, we would offer a sumptuous prize - a giant christmas stocking filled with toys one year and a brand new hand made Amish sled from Intercourse PA's best sled maker. The fits our parent company had when it learned the sled had the word Intercourse on it was quite hysterical since of course no one outside our area could win the sled and everyone frequented Intercourse for its Amish quilt, pepper jam and chow chow. It took numerous calls to calm their nerves (they'd seen the newsletter with its picture with the word proudly displayed).

Today, I begin gathering articles about a week before the newsletter comes out, often receiving them the day I'm putting the newsletter together. I use a software called Constant Contact - a wonderous system that allows me to simply type in the articles, yes I do write some of them on the fly, or cut and paste them from the emails of my contributors. I can arrange and rearrange the articles to my hearts content and then with a simple push of a button I email it to my co-workers for proofreading. The next day I make the edits and off it goes. To a list of over 9000 worldwide. And the cost - a mere $40. A paper newsletter today would cost $4500 just for the postage alone.

If you'd like to receive the newsletter go to the Anita Borg website -

Monday, December 1, 2008

Getting a new blog started

Recently I had an article published in Positively Magazine - the result of a co-authorship between myself and my CEO Telle Whitney. Creating an article for a publication is just one of many tasks that I carry out as the Director of Marketing for a non profit in Silicon Valley. This blog will share my experiences over the past 20 years as a marketer. What I've learned, what's worked and what hasn't worked. I'm hoping this will prove useful to my readers and I look forward to documenting everything I've learned.

I love feedback so if you want to send some my way I look forward to seeing it.