Your members can help you make the most of your next social media communications opportunity

Twitter photo from #ImInWorkJeremy campaign

We’re strong believers in the power of members as messengers, especially in the socially networked era. And the latest proof of that power comes from a spontaneous campaign among doctors working in the UK’s National Health Service.

Last week, UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt threatened to impose mandatory weekend working on hospital doctors in England. He claimed people were dying because of a “Monday to Friday culture” in the NHS.

He’s far from the first right-wing politician to insinuate that people working in the public sector are lazy. It’s an article of conservative faith that public-sector workers don’t make that extra effort the sainted private sector would demand.

Yet in conservative-led jurisdictions, public-sector employees are working harder than ever, trying to bridge the gaps created by cutbacks from, yes, conservative politicians. They’re far more committed to the people they’re serving than their right-wing employers are.

For communicators, the challenge is to make that point without playing into the right-wing narrative by sounding entitled or whiny.

NHS doctors rose to that challenge with a spontaneous campaign dubbed “I’m In Work Jeremy,” started by a trainee doctor. Within just a few days, thousands of them had posted selfies: photos of themselves and colleagues on the job, on the weekend, tagged with #ImInWorkJeremy. As of today, the hashtag has appeared more than 125,000 times.

And the impact went well beyond social media. Mainstream news outlets picked up on it, starting with a news website for GPs and eventually drawing coverage from The Guardian, the BBC and more.

What did #ImInWorkJeremy do right, and what can you learn from it for your next campaign? Here are seven lessons: Read the rest of this entry »

Playing the “card” card: Hillary defangs a beloved Republican attack line

There’s always a risk in trying to turn an opponent’s words back on them. You may well end up reinforcing their message.

But when the opportunity is there, you can pull it off… especially when your opponent’s message resonates with their base but not with your persuadable audience.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign did just that yesterday after Sen. Mitch McConnell accused her of asking people to vote for her because she’s a woman—and said “the gender card alone is not enough.”

If reading that phrase made you grind a few chips of your molars, welcome to the club. For the past several years, the right wing has used “the race card” and “the gender card” as a way to silence discussion of inequality and injustice.

The phrase is a masterpiece of intellectual dishonesty, conveying an accusation of manipulation and duplicity without coming out and saying so. It’s rooted in the conservative narrative that claims that oppression is actually privilege, and that—… auuuugh, don’t get me started.

The point is, that narrative is near and dear to the Republican heart. But it’s a lot less convincing to persuadable voters… and gag-inducing to the Democrats that Clinton wants to mobilize as primary season looms.

So Clinton turned that phrase on its head, with a brief but powerful message in the form of a literal “gender card”:

She followed that up with a video that flipped the “card” idea back at the Republicans:

And that helped prompt a conversation under the hashtag #gendercard that can’t be what McConnell had in mind.

When you realize your opponent is relying on an attack line that has lost its bite, you have the chance to turn it back on them. You want to do it carefully, and you need to do your homework. But done carefully, it can be devastating.

From the Bernie Sanders campaign, a scoop of e-mail inspiration

The U.S. presidential campaign may be ruinously expensive, hideously long and border-line parody… but it produces some truly great communications products for the rest of us to learn from.

And this one, we just loved. Here, for your enjoyment (and maybe inspiration!) is an email I received yesterday from the Bernie Sanders campaign, featuring Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of ice cream fame.

Bernie Sanders for President

Ben

Hi, I’m Ben.

Ben Cohen

And I’m Jerry.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

I’m a person.

Ben Cohen

And I’m a person.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

And together, we came up with a company called Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc.

Ben Cohen

That’s a corporation.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

Ben, person. Jerry…

Ben Cohen

Person.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

Ben & Jerry’s, not a person… that’s a corporation.

Ben Cohen

They’re different.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

But there’s this problem. The Supreme Court decided that corporations are people, and that they’re entitled to the same rights as people are. It’s called “corporate personhood.”

Ben Cohen

That’s ridiculous. And what it means is that this presidential election, there will be a whole mess of shadowy money and corporate contributions backing candidates and causes on both sides of the aisle.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

Except for Bernie Sanders, of course. Bernie has led the fight to put an end to the corrupting influence of big money in our politics.

Ben Cohen

From the very beginning, Bernie’s called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United — something with which we couldn’t agree more.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

Sign Bernie Sanders’ petition calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

Ben Cohen

People thought we were crazy when we started putting dough into our ice cream.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

But what’s really crazy is all the dough corporations are putting into politics.

Ben Cohen

This issue is so important because all of the money it introduces into the political process influences almost every issue Congress considers.

Jerry Greenfield

Jerry
Ben

Join us and sign Bernie Sanders’ campaign to overturn Citizens United.

Ben Cohen


Ben and Jerry

Thanks for joining us in this important effort!

–  Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield  –

Celebrating some great client work

Could there be anything better than working with clients who are fighting for a fairer society and a better deal for working people?

It’s hard to think of how. Creating compelling, effective creative pieces together is profoundly satisfying. And having that work recognized with a Summit Creative Award? Icing on the cake.

Make that half a dozen servings of cake, fully iced. This year’s Summit Creative Awards (celebrating outstanding communications from small and mid-sized marketing firms) saluted the work of six NOW clients. We’re proud to work with them, and proud of the products of our collaboration: Read the rest of this entry »

How did Alberta happen? And what does it mean for better politics?

#abdebrief: Learning from the historic Alberta election

When the votes were tallied on election night in Alberta last month, the shock waves reverberated well beyond the province’s borders. For anyone working for a fairer Canada, Rachel Notley’s astonishing victory has been galvanizing. (We posted Marie’s take a few weeks ago.)

Earlier today, four panelists – including two New Democrats who were close to the action – gathered at the invitation of the Broadbent Institute and Simon Fraser University to see what lessons they could draw from the NDP’s historic victory. Read the rest of this entry »

Deeply flattered, Mr. Harper. Really.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, we’re feeling awfully flattered today.

Here’s an ad we created with the Manitoba NDP during the 2011 provincial election.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd7kp_zZA_8

And here’s an ad the federal Conservatives have just released, four years later:

There’s a reason they’re using our spot, and that’s because it was very effective in Manitoba. It defined Hugh McFadyen and turned the tide at a time when the NDP was vying for a fourth term and trailing the Conservatives in the polls. It spoke to people’s real concerns about Mr. McFadyen and his agenda of cuts and privatization. And it did it in a light way that people could connect with. That, in turn, set the stage for the Manitoba NDP’s come-from-behind victory.

Whether the Conservative ad will be as effective is another question. We believe every campaign is unique, with its own challenges and opportunities. Copying even a highly successful ad (cough, blush) from a previous election isn’t necessarily a smart approach.

Their best point is that Mr. Trudeau isn’t ready for the job; the more Canadians look at him ahead of the fall election, the more likely it is they’ll conclude he doesn’t have the experience they want in a Prime Minister.

The problem for the Conservatives (and the Liberals) is that there’s a better choice who is ready. Tom Mulcair has the experience, intelligence and understanding of Canadian families to be their Prime Minister. And after the Quebec breakthrough in 2011, and Rachel Notley’s victory this month in Alberta, Tom’s resume may well be the one that makes it through.

What progressive communicators everywhere can learn from Rachel Notley’s victory

Rachel Notley at a campaign rally

When the dust settled on Tuesday night, Rachel Notley and the Alberta NDP had won a stunning victory—and electrified activists from coast to coast to coast. Alberta is a progressive communicator’s “New York, New York”: if we can make it there, we’ll make it anywhere.

So how did the woman who is now premier-designate of Alberta create the magic that propelled the NDP to victory? Because while she didn’t cause the scandals and cynical manipulation that derailed the PCs or the chaos that plagued the Liberals, Rachel and her party were well-prepared to make the most of the opening when it came.

I’ve just posted an article in our NOW Strategy section suggesting six ways Rachel Notley laid the groundwork for the Alberta NDP’s victory. For instance:

Get ready: Yes, Alberta was clearly ready for Rachel…but Rachel was also ready for Alberta. She worked hard on her message and her connection with voters, and that work began long before she was elected leader. It paid off throughout the campaign, and nowhere was that more evident than in the TV debate. In the face of a relentless attack, she kept her cool, stayed on message and even maintained a sense of humour.

Be real: Rachel’s quick wit and highly-tuned bullshit detector are matched by her genuine caring for people, her sense of community and her passionate belief in what the NDP stands for. She had the confidence to let that all shine through authentically; none of it felt forced or insincere. And voters — and the media — clearly recognized it.

Check out the full article here… and let’s talk about what lessons (and inspiration!) you drew from Rachel’s victory. What do you think communicators can learn from Tuesday night’s results?

Photo from Rachel Notley’s Facebook Page.

Your newest must-read website: Civicist

Civicist front page

The high-speed tango that is the dance between technology and politics can be hard to follow. It moves quickly; people seem to be constantly trying new steps; and the folks who fall flat on their faces can take your attention away from the very real successes. Read the rest of this entry »

Memejacking: hopping the bandwagon without getting run over

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the new NOW

Change happens, and we’ve had some big changes at NOW over the past while. New faces. New partnerships. A new head office.

And as of today, a renewed brand: a new logo, a new name and a new tagline. We’re now The NOW Group, and our tagline is “communications creating good.”

Why rebrand? Partly because it’s time: every design grows worn over time, and while ours has stood up far longer than any of us expected, we knew we wanted a change.

And we’re a different company today. The company’s leadership has changed (when the dazzling Ron Johnson retired five years ago, it turns out he meant it!), and we have a nationwide presence with more staff and associates across the country than ever before. We can do more, in more places.

In more ways, too. We’re doing much more training and coaching of our clients’ staff and leaders. Digital has taken on much more prominence, and our online campaigning expertise now sports NationBuilder developer certification. We’ll soon be opening our research facility for conducting focus groups right in the Vancouver head office.

And the work has changed dramatically. Audiences aren’t passive recipients of messages; they collaborate in building your brand and spreading the world. Collaboration is deeply ingrained in our approach: amongst ourselves, with our client, and with their audiences and supporters. Our new name underlines the importance of that collaborative approach—and the team of passionate, experienced professionals we offer our clients.

Which brings us to the things that haven’t changed about NOW… and we’re not just talking about the parallelogram in our logo. We’re coming up on our 25th anniversary next year, and alongside the freshness and innovation, we bring a lot of experience to the table. We’re a modern, forward-looking firm, but we’re still steeped in the values that brought NOW about in the first place back in 1991. Every one of us believes that the forces of positive social change deserve professional, effective communications—“communications creating good”—and we’re committed to delivering on that belief every day.

We look forward to hearing what you think of our new look and our new website. And most of all, we look forward to 25 more years working with you… and creating good together.