Archive for the ‘How-to’ Category

Your summer to-do list

Monday, July 4th, 2016

Photo of a pier and a sunny beach

AKA What I did on my summer (when everyone else was on) vacation

If you’re in the office there will be days over the summer where the number of email bounce-back notifications will dwarf the number of times your phone rings. At some point you might find yourself getting a bit lonely. At NOW we call this breathing room.

Here are some things you can do to take advantage of the (relative) calm:

  • Make a plan of attacktion – Review your strategic communications plan. And if you don’t have one – write one! Having a plan will help you to hit the ground running with focus when things ramp up in September and shiny objects start threatening to pull everyone off in directions that don’t align with your long-term strategic goals.
  • Refresh your message – And if you don’t have one write one! Write one now! And then share it. It’s not really a message if it stays on your hard drive.
  • Leadership training – Your leaders and spokespeople might have bit more time on their hands as well this summer. This is a good time to start building on their communications skills, or do a few refresher sessions while they’re more relaxed and not consumed with emergencies and meetings.
  • Refresh your online profile – Do an inventory of your website and social media profiles. Do they need a refresh? Are they up-to-date? Could they use some new photos? You can also use this time to generate content for events and special days you know are coming up to have in the can.
  • Plan for campaigns – Review your campaign plans. Do you foresee needing to buy media in the next six months? Then the time is now. Making a paid media plan in advance gets you better bang for your buck with cheaper rates and a better selection.
  • Take stock (photography) – Too often the only photos we have of union leadership involve a megaphone and picket signs. Summer offers a multitude of opportunities to build and refresh your photography library. BBQs, parades, community events are great places to get photos of your leadership and members out in the community. (See NOW’s Tips for Building Your Stock Photography Library).

Take a moment to watch this media coaching trainwreck

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Screen capture from Ken Starr interview

We’re pretty religious about media coaching and rehearsal. If you’re a leader who’s going before the cameras, you need to practise, and not just for softball questions. You need to be ready for the toughest stuff a reporter can dish out…and you have to know how you’ll respond to a question you aren’t expecting.

Want to see what happens when you don’t? Witness this trainwreck of an interview with Ken Starr. (more…)

Why communications-as-usual won’t reach Millennials… and three things that will

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Photo of young people together; several are using mobile devices

Tamara has been working for the past 4 months as a summer student learning the ins-and-outs of strategic communications here at NOW. She takes her leave of us for the fall today… but first, here’s her insightful take on communicating with her generation.

“We do have a sense of entitlement, a sense of ownership, because, after all, this is the world we were born into, and we are responsible for it.”

Snapchat creator and CEO Evan Spiegel, 25, addressing labels often associated with Millennials

Evan Spiegel’s words ring true for many in my generation – we do feel a sense of ownership over this world.

For Millennial generation outsiders — and those trying to communicate with us — this mentality can be hard to understand, and reasonably so. But our sense of entitlement isn’t rooted in greed, but rather a sense of responsibility for our communities and our planet. This misinterpretation highlights the shift that has occurred in the communications landscape.

Growing up alongside the Internet revolution was surely going to influence how Millennials think, communicate and express themselves. And as more Millennials enter the workforce (and more baby boomers leave it), labour communicators need to be able to connect with them effectively.

Here are a three approaches for doing just that:

1. Speak their language, on their platforms

Don’t change what you’re saying – just how and where you’re saying it. Modernize the language in your messaging and strip it of confusing insider jargon or heavy rhetoric.

Often Millennials are saturated in news, images, and messages – meaning your content will be fighting for their attention. Keep it short and simple, and add a little light humour. Taking a powerful message or honest critique of your opponent, and adding a bit of humour, can go along way in making sure you stands out.

Make sure you’re reaching out on the right platform. Newsletters and email are great for getting information out there, but Millennials are a lot less likely to engage in those channels than via social media outlets like Instagram or Twitter.

While Millennials — like every other generation — still engage with traditional media like radio and TV, they’re turning increasingly to streaming services and online channels, which makes it increasingly vital to invest in communications on these platforms.

And know the conversational tools that connect. Craft witty hashtags and share your photos in places where young people will notice them. Using inclusive language that makes them feel like they’re part of the movement (don’t be that guy at the party talking incessantly about himself) on a platform they are familiar with will attract them to your organization.

That doesn’t mean becoming something you’re not. Avoid adopting an unconvincing, inauthentic voice. (Authenticity is one of the other words that come up a lot when people talk about Millennials.) Don’t try to sound like a craft-beer-brewing 22-year-old hipster if that isn’t who you are. Communicating honestly and directly will get you a lot further.

2. Show them your interests are in line

Don’t assume Millennials automatically see how the goals and work of your union are similar to their own workplace ideals.

There is a growing concern among Millennials about work safety, precarious employment, fear of under-pay and over-work, living costs, etc. And we are well aware that cuts have hurt every sector and that establishing ourselves will be difficult.

What not a lot of Millennials don’t see, however, is that unions can help us fight for better standards. Show them your drive and passion, and relate it to the same resolve they feel.

3. Collaborate and consult with existing young members

I’ve read countless articles detailing the ‘annoying’ habit Millennials have acquired of seeking almost constant collaboration and consultation in every aspect of their life.

But taking the time to listen to, and even test, some of their innovative ideas about procedure and organization can be profitable. If a Millennial feels heard by their union, they will feel like they are a part of it. And when they share their positive experience with their friends, that will lead to a greater appreciation and understanding of the work unions do among this generation.

Take the time to sit down with young members, go visit them in their workplace, talk to them and make them feel like they are a part of the movement. They’ll be your greatest ally in building support and cultivating your union’s future.

Don’t let your campaign get a bad wrap

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Notice something a little… off about the federal Liberal campaign bus wrap?

Somewhere between the designer’s monitor and the printing press, a font went missing… and with it, the metrics information that keeps a typeface’s spacing from looking wonky. (And this isn’t a little problem with kerning; “CHANGE” has broken into two separate words.)

Designers and politicos alike have been snickering about this, and rightly so.

Amateur-hour flubs on a national campaign should be embarrassing—and not just because graphics nerds might laugh at you. Good, professional design inspires confidence and reinforces your message. Sloppy design mistakes do the exact opposite, especially if they play into a Conservative narrative that the Liberal leader just isn’t ready to be prime minister.

Even if someone has no design training, and even if they only catch a glimpse of that bus wrap, they’ll know something wasn’t quite right… and it’ll undermine their confidence.

How can you avoid the same mistakes? Well, you can avoid the biggest one by voting NDP on October 19th. But in the meantime, here are four key lessons to make sure your design works for your campaign, instead of giving it a (cough) bad wrap: (more…)

Memejacking: hopping the bandwagon without getting run over

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

ACLU meme image excerptEver been tempted to jump on board the latest meme bandwagon—and hope it brings your message along for the ride?

It’s called “memejacking”. Done right, it lets you tap into the energy of a lively conversation to help amplify your message. Done poorly, it can do you some damage. (more…)

Bargaining communications: Eight tips for an effective message

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

CALM logoThe Canadian Association of Labour Media recently invited me to contribute a post about bargaining communications to their blog. As a long-standing fan of CALM’s work supporting labour communicators, I jumped at the chance—and wrote a post detailing eight ways to ensure your bargaining communications connect with your audience:

One of the keys to successful bargaining is building solidarity—with your members and with the public.

A clear, consistent message is critical to persuading people to be on your side. And the best way to get people to be on your side is to let them know you’re on their side.

Whether your audience is your members, the public or your employer, you’ll be more successful if you talk about your bargaining objectives in terms of solving real problems. Don’t focus on clause x or protocol y. Instead, talk about concrete results that make a difference for people.

Here are eight tips to help you get there:

1. Start now.

As the saying goes, “When you need a friend, it’s too late to make one.” Every communication should be working toward your objectives far in advance. If your audience only hears from you when the going gets tough, they’ll be less inclined to hop on board.

Your members and the public will be more inclined to support you if you have invested in your relationship over time. Show them now how the work you do makes a positive difference in their lives.

Read the full post on the CALM blog. And let me know what you think!

Download this tool to check your Facebook ad images instantly

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Advertising on Facebook can be an effective way of reaching a highly targeted audience, especially when you use a compelling image. But Facebook has an arbitrary, maddening requirement on images in ads: a 20-per-cent limit on the amount of the image with text on it,

That limit is understandable; Facebook doesn’t want newsfeeds full of big blaring marketing copy. (They want newsfeeds full of photos of kittens and sunsets, onto which small blaring marketing copy has been squeezed.) It’s how they implement that limit that turns would-be Facebook ad moguls prematurely grey. The company asks you to divide your image into a five-by-five grid. And if even a little bit of text appears in more than five of the resulting 25 squares, they’ll disqualify your image.

You can check your image by uploading your image to Facebook’s own grid tool, tweaking, uploading, tweaking and finally getting it right. But smart designers drop a grid on the image from within Photoshop.

Now you get to be an even smarter designer. Thanks to this tiny Photoshop file and these five steps, you won’t have to recreate the grid every time.

  1. Download this handy file from us here at NOW. You’re welcome.
  2. Open it in Photoshop.
  3. Select the layer labelled “Shape 1”.
  4. Click on the “Edit” menu and choose “Define custom shape.”
  5. Give your new shape a name like “Facebook ad grid”.

From now on, that grid will be as close as your Custom Shape Tool. Drag it across your image from upper left to lower right, and voilà: instant Facebook grid!

Download the file

For your Facebook Page, stop thinking News Feed. Start thinking search engine.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

magnifying glass on the Facebook News FeedIt wasn’t that long ago that when you posted something to your Facebook Page, you had a pretty decent shot of winding up in your followers’ News Feeds — that stream of stories a user sees on the Facebook home page.

How times have changed. These days, you’re competing against literally thousands of other pieces of content for a precious slot in a user’s News Feed. No wonder one study showed a typical Facebook Page post reaches only six per cent of its followers.

There’s been a lot of gnashing of teeth over this among brands and organizations. Facebook is very consciously reducing the organic reach of Page posts, and holding up paid promotion as a way to close the gap. And while it’s hard not to resent that, Facebook is a commercial enterprise, and a lot of commercial Pages have had a good, long free ride. It would be awfully nice if Facebook gave non-profits and civic organizations more unpaid profile… but don’t hold your breath.

So the days when you had a pipeline to your Facebook followers are gone. How do you adjust? (more…)

It’s not all about you

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Man adjusting his tie in a mirrorWe’ve all been there: in that slightly hazy moment of listening to others blather on, while we wonder if they’ll ever stop talking about themselves.

People like this are annoying. So are the people who communicate like this.

No matter who your audience is – members, voters or the general public – they’re more likely to listen if you avoid talking about yourself all the time. And that means talking less about policy and process, and more about people and values. (more…)

Making a joke? Remember the audience you can’t see from the stage

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Photo of a mic and crowd“Open with a joke,” people often tell public speakers. “Warm the crowd up. Get ’em on your side.”

It can work. But mishandled, it can also be incredibly risky — and I’m not talking about not getting guffaws. The price for a lukewarm laugh from the folks in the room may be some decidedly unfunny blowback from your other audience: the one outside.

These days, you’re never just speaking to the people sitting in front of you. Whether your speech is being covered by the CBC or live-tweeted by an audience member, there’s a good chance you have others listening in. And the joke that just kills with the partisan, supportive folks in attendance can sink your reputation out in the rest of the world. (more…)