Archive for the ‘How-to’ Category

Why “crushing defeat” may be the key to email victory

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

email trophyIf you’re communicating with your members, supporters or the general public by email, you probably think at least a little about subject lines: which ones will get people to open your message, and which will consign it to unread oblivion?

And you’ve probably heard you want something short and eye-catching, and provocative enough to prompt a click (or, these days, a tap).

How short and provocative? (more…)

Are you knitting penguin sweaters?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Penguins at the Woodland Park ZooIt’s easy to fall into the habit of doing things that seem useful and productive, but turn out to be anything but. We do them with the best of intentions… but the one thing we don’t do is our due diligence.

Like knitting sweaters for penguins, which is back in the news again:

You’ve probably heard that penguins get covered in muck from oil spills, which makes them chilly. Thus, we should all take a break from infinity scarves and snail jumpers to knit sweaters for penguins. Not true! Put down those knitting needles!

As we mentioned when this story went around in 2011, there really have been calls for penguin sweaters from wildlife conservation groups. But response tends to be disproportionate, and organizations are flooded with seabird apparel, a fraction of which — if any — gets used. Plus, penguin advocates dispute whether the knitwear is a good idea to begin with.

— From’s “Please don’t knit a sweater for a penguin”

For whatever reason, communications is one of those professions chock-full of penguin sweaters: things we do because we’ve heard you’re supposed to, or because we’ve done them this way for years and nobody’s ever said “stop”.


Not just numbers, but the RIGHT numbers

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Upworthy logo with a graph superimposedIn digital communications, measurement can seem easy. We have this many Twitter followers, this many Facebook likes, this number of unique visitors. Our influence is clearly growing because our Klout score went from that to this.

But chasing numbers can be a fool’s errand if you aren’t chasing the right numbers, and asking the right questions about them. (more…)

14 ways union communicators can succeed in 2014

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Next year promises to be an eventful one for progressive communicators, and we’d really like to see you knock it out of the park. So I asked around NOW’s offices: what are the ways (large and small) unions (small and large) could dramatically improve their communications impact?

Here are just some of the suggestions I got back. (Big thanks to Kristen, Joanne and Marie!) And whether you’re a professional leading a major public campaign, a volunteer helping your local get the word out, or somewhere in between, we suspect you’ll find something useful in this bulging holiday stocking of advice. (more…)

Warm, loving communicator seeks open-minded audience member. Objective: political support.

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Red marker sketching a heartWhether you’re a politician, a union leader or just somebody who spends a lot of time debating issues, the tools of persuasion come in handy. There are a million tricks of the trade, best practices and theories on various approaches.

But it all comes down to the relationship you build with the people you’re trying to connect to. I like to think that being a strong and persuadable communicator is much like being a good friend or lover: you need to listen, build on the values you share, and accept that you’ll always have your differences, too.

What does that look like when it comes to persuasive messaging?

Are you better at apologizing than Rob Ford?

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Sticky note with the word "sorry!" and a sad faceRob Ford’s apologies have come fast and furious over the past few days — but that doesn’t mean they’ve been effective.

Take last week’s apology. To his credit, Ford sounded deeply emotional; this was no bland rote statement, and he seemed to grasp that the situation is grave. For that, his communications team can be grateful. (And probably pretty relieved.)

But nearly everything else about his apology could serve as a lesson in how not to deliver one. Self-centered, evasive and misleading, it may have satisfied his most die-hard supporters, but it did nothing to win over those trying to make up their minds.

If you ever need to deliver a public apology (or a private one), here are a few points to remember if you want to do better than Rob Ford: (more…)

Ooh, nice camera! But before you start shooting video with it…

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Calgary Alberta Olympus E-420 DSLR Camera Back Rear View

Of all the communication technologies that have become more accessible thanks to the digital revolution, video’s probably made the biggest leap. Today even the smallest union local and the most financially-strapped riding campaign can afford to engage their audiences with at least a little video.

Every smartphone (and most of the less intellectually gifted ones) shoots it, and so does nearly every consumer camera sold these days. And digital SLRs… well, they can shoot gorgeous video.

But that doesn’t mean they will. Getting good video from a digital SLR means doing things a little differently from what you may be used to in taking photos. (more…)