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While getting a jump on holiday food prep, I’ve been thinking today of what makes me thankful.

I’m thankful I get to work with organizations and people who spend every day trying to make the world better than how they found it.

I’m thankful to so many talented individuals whose ideas make me look good, and who have become friends. DP’s like Richard, Matt, Jim, Ben and Mark. Editors Jamie and Adam. Sound ops like Dwayne, AJ and Jonathan. Graphics gurus like Xi and Ed. Makeup artists like Kim and Barbara. Production support like Jay, Brenda, Sara and Pam. And all around techno wizards like Rich.

I’m thankful my husband got a great new job. And to those of you who reached out during all those months of looking.

I’m thankful my family is healthy and my kids are turning into pretty cool and interesting people.

And despite the shenanigans on Capitol Hill, I’m thankful I live here and not somewhere we have to walk miles to find clean water, or fear secret police will come knocking.

Have a great holiday and thanks for following my blog!

-Amy

More and more companies are turning to video as a way to communicate with customers, vendors and the general public. Often the CEO finds him or herself front and center. What can you do to make your leader come across better on camera? Here are five tips from my work coaching on-camera performances from a wide range of national and international leaders.

Hire a makeup artist.  Often makeup is an after thought or considered to be “only powder,” but a makeup professional—one who is trained for on-camera uses, not salon or theatrical makeup—can make all the difference in how your CEO looks and feels.  He or she also has tools to keep bald pates from looking shiny, can keep shirts from wrinkling, and ties from drifting. A good makeup artist is also a conversationalist, making your leader feel more comfortable before the camera. The $600 day rate is well worth it!

Have the CEO review the script ahead of time. Often whoever has written the script will keep it from the CEO until the last moment, trying to avoid a lot of revisions or politics. The result is your on-air talent is now not fully comfortable with the copy.  This tends to lead to more mistakes and copy changes while the cameras (and dollars) are rolling. Making sure your CEO has seen the copy and is comfortable with the style of language. Making the the verbage both accurate but also conversational and easy to say out loud will be critical to your success.

Choose clothing that works for Television. If your CEO is more comfortable in shirt sleeves, don’t make him put on a jacket. If she loves wearing bold colors, bring them on. But avoid tight herringbone patterns in jackets and ties, as these can cause a “moray” or shifting of the lights and darks back and forth when they conflict with scan lines on a monitor. Shooting in High Def can minimize this, but it’s best to be safe.

Use a Teleprompter…Sometimes. If your CEO is comfortable with a teleprompter and there is a lot of copy, it’s best to use one.  Teleprompters are designed to fit over the lense of a camera so that the eye line of the individual speaking goes directly to the viewing audience. I’ve often done training sessions with teleprompters ahead of time, so leaders with less experience feel better stepping on stage and before the cameras.  If your CEO is happy with bullet points, those can also go up on a prompter.

Keep Everyone Out of the Eyeline.  Often a CEO has various press secretaries, assistants, consultants, etc. who must be present any on-camera appearance. Do your best to keep them out of his or her eye line during taping. They can often become an unintentional distraction. They can also raise the anxiety level of someone without extensive on camera experience.  A calm and focused CEO is one who comes across with confidence.

If you have a story about putting your CEO or other leadership on camera but you’d rather stay anonymous here, feel free to share them with me at amy [at] amydelouise [dot] com.

c 2010 Barbara DeLouise

Since the recent death of Steve Jobs, there has been lots of discussion about how he changed modern culture, with all of the i-things he invented. There’s also been talk, in hushed tones, as to whether or not he should have taken some of his gazillions and changed modern life through philanthropy.

The culture of Silicon Valley and the tech crowd had been pretty mute on the topic of philanthropy, until Bill and Melinda Gates stepped it up with their Foundation in 1999. And even after that, a generation of new millionaires has not been as visible on the philanthropy scene as their predecessors like Andrew Mellon and Edsel and Henry Ford. Why? (And who cares?)

This new generation of (potential) givers is more skeptical of institutions. They are more likely to give through self-organized groups like Crowdrise than through existing foundations. If they are large institutions themselves (i.e. Gates), they may defer giving until they can create their own foundation and manage it themselves.  This is not always optimal, as there are plenty of 501(c)3’s already convened and working on the ground. But it’s the new reality of “control” we all seek through electronic and social media.  A Convio survey found that website giving increases with each younger cohort so that for Gen X it is nearly equal to mail, and for Gen Y it is greater than mail. Nonprofits with websites with videos showing demonstrable impact of donor dollars have an even bigger spike with the Gen Y donor group.  And if you’re thinking, well these young folks are pretty under-employed right now and won’t be our big donors, remember they are the Big Donors of the Future. To capture this younger generation of givers, we can’t wring our hands, but instead have to engage them where they are in meaningful, hands-on philanthropy.

How is your nonprofit engaging the younger generation of givers? How much control are they seeking over how their gifts are used? Are you finding this engagement burdensome or exciting (or both)? Please share your experiences with me for more in a future post.

Fiat is not having a stellar year. Last month the Italian carmaker had its worst results since 1996.  (Of course Fiat now holds a majority stake in Chrysler, whose sales rocketed up 27% in its best September performance in 4 years. ) Clearly the European debt crisis is affecting sales. But Fiat‘s new 500 is not selling well even in the US.  And I read in my new issue of Advertising Age  that the problem is simply lack of visibility. Fiat’s Chief Marketing Officer is quoted as saying “I don’t think we have a car problem; people love the car. I think we have an awareness problem.”  Even a spot with Jennifer Lopez couldn’t jump-start sales. (bad car joke) Here’s a little behind-the-scenes clip, if you want to know how driving scenes get made

“Amy, I know you love cars,” you are thinking, “but what on earth is your point?!”

What I’m getting at is there are plenty of organizations that have wonderful products or programs that no one knows about. An Awareness Problem, just like Fiat. And they don’t have the bucks to hire J-Lo. So what can they do?

Get your fans to promote you. And help the process along. Give them a great video they can send out links to. Create a “how to” downloadable tool they can pass along (after giving you an email address for the free download). Or simply create a Twitter hashtag for a new program, service or event. That way you and your fans can promote these but also track how well they’re faring.

Design communications that suit your customers habits on many different channels. Social networks, mobile applications, and SMS are just a few of the newer ways consumers are engaging with your content. Add that to email, direct mail and e-newsletters. The trick is what kinds of content they want from each channel. Market segmentation has been around a long time. Now the mantra is content segmentation and editing so it is the right length and style for the medium.

Timing is everything – As this great infographic by KissMetrics shows, when you send info is just as important as how.

Ask questions—A short survey can help you find out how someone reached you to make that recent purchase/donation/request for more information. And it’s amazing how many organizations don’t ask their members/donors for input. That will help you make better decisions about reaching that same customer or donor again. And how to reach others.

Measure results. In my next post I will discuss some simple metrics you can use to track your success with different outreach strategies. Stay tuned…

Our family loves old movies, so we’ve been long time Netflix fans. Then came the announcement that the company was splitting its streaming and DVD services, requiring customers to conduct two separate searches for movies, have two accounts and two bills. Worse, the market anticipated Netflix would dump the DVD line soon in order to optimize streaming profits. As you have likely already heard, customers—ourselves included–weren’t pleased. Then Netflix went on to look even less user-friendly when fans discovered the Twitter handle Qwikster was already being used by a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed dude who suddenly got 500 new followers he didn’t know. Meanwhile, the tech crowd noticed that the new business had only a placeholder “coming soon” on its website.

Suddenly it wasn’t just bad customer relations, it was a social media calamity. CEO Reed Hastings wrote a mea culpa blog post this past weekend, saying the company may have misjudged in its rush to capitalize on the streaming technology. “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly,” he wrote.  As of today, his post had more than 23,000 comments. What‘s the saying—“there’s no such thing as bad publicity”?

Oh wait, the ending of that saying is “…except your own obituary.” Let’s hope this isn’t the end of Netflix. Where am I going to get all those classic movies that don’t play on TMC?  Takeaway lesson for other companies: don’t forget to think about how your customers will interface with you, both online and in social networks. And be sure you own all possible social media renditions of your name, including a new Google+ identity, before you launch.

McDonald’s is thriving. It’s global same-store sales rose just over 7% in January, and were up more than 5% in the U.S. Why? Is it simply that people are looking for a cheap meal when times are tough? It’s more complicated than that. People are looking for good value in a recession. And the McDonald’s brand delivers just that: a predictable experience, a reasonable price, a respectable product. McDonald’s has also remained true to its core products, while meeting new customer demands (more chicken, more salads and wraps, apple slices and carrots in the kids meals, lattes and other specialty coffees).

In a recessionary environment, other organizations have much to learn from McDonald’s.

It’s a great time to remind your customers about the value your brand promise delivers. This applies if your customer is purchasing your product or service and also if they are invested in your nonprofit’s outcomes as donors and volunteers.

So what are some things you can do to promote your brand value?

First, emphasize the consistency, quality and value of what you provide. Second, remind people about the niche that you serve and what is unique about your way of meeting that need. Third, make sure your stakeholders know what steps you are taking to reign in expenses and overhead in this economic crisis so they know they are not paying for unnecessary costs.

If you are not able to do those things, it’s a good time to regroup and focus on your core mission.

What does that mean? For both for-profit and non-profit enterprises, it means honing in on your key products and services and pulling back on extras that are not your core competencies. If those are areas where you still want to deliver, it’s a great time to look for partners who can provide that extra value without the added overhead.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Wall Street Journal have both been filled with articles about nonprofits and for-profit companies going out of business. While it’s no fun being those organizations’ leaders or their employees, in the long run this is a good thing. Those groups with a strong brand value, well-defined core mission, and well-served and well-understood “customers” will survive. Others will team up to provide broader offerings without diluting their main focus. Those whose brand value was inflated (Citibank), stretched across too many product lines (AIG), or produced poor products (GM) will be restructured or bankrupt. In the end, those brands with the best value will come out on top. Make sure yours is among them, standing right there with the golden arches.

The salmonella-in-peanuts debacle reminds us that brands built over a lifetime can be ruined in an instant—even for actions and outcomes for which those brands are not responsible. Sales of direct-to-consumer peanut butter—which does not contain the tainted Peanut Corporation of America nuts—are down 25%. Big names like Kelloggs (Keebler, Famous Amos), JM Smucker (Jif) and ConAgra Foods (Peter Pan) are reeling. Thousands of smaller companies have filed for bankruptcy. The lawn fertilizer giant Scotts even filed a law suit for damage to its bottom line and its good name against a supplier who failed to admit to Scotts that it had sold tainted peanut meal, used in the company’s wild bird seed. (The Washington Post, Sunday March 1st). Peanut farmers, who had nothing to do with the infected processing plant, said they are experiencing staggering losses and will plant 30% fewer crops this year (NPR, 2/10). The very brand of the peanut itself has been damaged.
One of the lessons to learn from this brand catastrophe is that if what’s known as the “brand promise” is broken, even if not by your organization, you may be punished anyway. Nonprofits learned this the hard way after the United Way and Red Cross accounting issues arose, and Congress, the IRS and donors large and small began asserting themselves with concerns about financial oversight at other 501(c)3’s.

So, how to deal with such brand threats?

Of course, you must actively push out the great stories of your organization and what it does in the world. Web-delivered success anecdotes, You-tube videos, and Facebook updates are all part of this package, and most nonprofits are already actively managing and updating this content in order to “tell their story” every day. But often overlooked is another component of brand management: defending your story, and your good name, from becoming tarnished by forces both internal and external.

Two excellent antidotes to brand threats are 1) good governance, and 2) good listening. In today’s climate of more rigorous oversight, small organizations must create better clarity, benchmarks and rules for how they run themselves. Larger ventures have a different challenge: peeling back the layers of programs, administration and large boards so that constituents–donors, staff, volunteers—can understand what you do and how you do it. Maintaining a high level of transparency and using governance best practices are part of the antidote for brand problems.

Engaging Critics

Intertwined with good governance must be a regular process for good listening. That means listening to those who are actively “marketing” against you. Maybe it’s an individual who was unhappy with an outcome at your hospital. Perhaps it’s a small but vocal group who disagrees with your organization’s position on a policy issue. Or someone who posts an anti-your-organization social networking page (case in point: the uproar over the new “Avatar” TV series’ lack of Asians in its lead cast, led by a Facebook group with more than 2,200 members as of today and causing the studio to recast at least one lead role.) Whatever the source—and this is critical–you need to be engaged with critics of your brand. Even when you think/know they are wrong. Even when it’s just one person. Because, in the world of 24 hour news cycles and the blogosphere, one person can be a very powerful voice.

Listening Gets Results

And if you listen, you will often find at the heart of the complaint a real issue you need to address—something that is showing a tear, if not a break, in your brand promise. Fixing it gives you the opportunity to improve your services and outcomes before a problem reaches crisis proportions. And then, be sure to tell everyone about those improvements. Rinse, repeat!

Nonprofits often resist marketing. Marketing and sales smack of for-profit activities. In the best of cases, marketing dollars are viewed as an expenditure that reduces money for core mission projects. Worst case, branding, marketing and brand management are considered downright inappropriate.

But whether you know it or not, you are already selling your mission. The question is to whom, how, and how effectively?

In today’s highly competitive marketplace of ideas, your non-profit organization has very little emotional space in which to differentiate itself from the pack. When a nonprofit calls or sends us mail, or when a friend discusses volunteering, we look at this request not just against a backdrop of all our nonprofit investments but also against the other competing interests in our lives—our son’s Little League team, our work picnic, the birthday party we are hosting next weekend.

Here’s where a strong brand comes into play.

When a household already contributes to a church and a Little League Team and a PTA, they may feel that their nonprofit “basket” is full. To make an impression on this family, a nonprofit has to make a bold and memorable case for support. Having a strong brand already in place can help open the door or close the sale. For example, when my local volunteer fire department comes knocking at the door for their annual donation drive, I already understand their brand. They volunteer at our schools to explain fire safety to the children. The firehouse hosts kids’ parties and we’ve all taken the tour and tried to lift the 100-plus pounds of gear each firefighter wears in a fire. And a few years ago, they put out a fire on my street. They have a strong brand and they don’t need to tell me what they do. So the conversation is focused on what level of donation I am able and willing to give for the cause.

Not everyone can have as compelling and easy a case to understand as the local volunteer fire department. But if they don’t, they need to work hard to make it easy for people both inside and outside the organization to “get” what change they make in the world. Then, the trick is that once you’ve invested time and dollars making your brand known, you need to manage your brand so that there’s no slippage. Your “brand promise” has to be delivered as expected every time your organization or its name/logo is used. And that means Every Time, or you may have done lasting damage to your mission by reducing your ability to raise funds and attract talented staff and volunteers. (More on how good governance connects to your brand promise in a future posting).

Do you have a brand success story or brand crisis? Please share (names can be changed to protect organizational anonymity)!