Same Content, Different Crowd: Making your communications go farther

You’ve got a lot to say. In terms of messages you want to get to the public, there are events, sales, meetings, volunteer opportunities, job opportunities, good news, bad news, new inventory, new promotions – and the list goes on and on. As long as your list of news items may be, odds are your list of people to tell is even longer.

A downtown development organization, for example, there are downtown merchants who need to hear one message, volunteers who need to hear another, then there’s the general public – and then sponsors, of course – and also board members and committee members. With so many audiences with whom to communicate and so many messages to send to each of them, how will you have time to actually put on any of those events, sales, meetings, volunteer opportunities…? Are you exhausted yet?

Sometimes it seems like the answer to this is simply to communicate the exact same message to each audience. As we’ve mentioned before, however, audience is important. A better solution is writing one customizable message and then spreading it across several different media to several different audiences.

What do we mean?

So let’s say you have an event coming up and you need sponsors, merchant participants, volunteers and attendees. You have the tools of press releases, enewsletters, a printed newsletter and social media. Here’s where you’d begin:

Super Great Event Announcement Template:

Hey, ya’ll! We’re having a Super Great Event! This is the fifth year of the Super Great Event and this year is set to be superer and greater than ever. Whether you _attended/sponsored/volunteered/participated_ in last year’s record-breaking superness or are thinking about __visiting/being a part of__ the event for the first time, you won’t want to miss this year.

The first day of Super Great Event will feature the  Super Great Circus and the Super Great Band playing live right here in Downtown Superville. More Super Great details about the event would be good here too. We invite you to _help make this Super Event happen/enjoy this day of fun_!

The Super Great Event will happen on this Super Day at this Super Time and at this Super location. Here’s how you can be a part of the day:

List: events/volunteer opportunities/sponsorship opportunities/how to participate

For more information visit http://www.SuperGreatEvent.com or call 888-SUPRGRT.

Copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste. Then:

  • Add a catchy narrative lead-in sentence for a press release and public newsletter.
  • End with “We will follow up with you!” for sponsors and merchants.
  • For social media, release the whole thing, two sentences at a time, spread out over a week. Edited to make sense, of course!

With all the spare time you have now, you’ll probably have time to sit at your desk before your next large task and read a book. Or a magazine. Or maybe a comic strip. But at least you’ll have time for that!

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Posted in Communications, PR | Tagged , , , , ,

Tips for working with volunteers: Keeping your best help at their best

Non-profits have the great pleasure and joyful challenge of working with volunteers. At New Moon, we love volunteers. They make or break vibrant downtowns. They sacrifice time and talent to make things happen in their communities that for-profit businesses simply can’t do.

One of the challenges with volunteers, however, is because not-for-

profit organizations are so thankful to have these givers of time and talent, they can sometimes spend less “human resource” time with these workers than they may do with paid employees. While volunteers should be continually praised and rewarded for their great work, they do require oversight and management.

Here are 3 tips for making sure your volunteers are using their generosity and enthusiasm to make your organization better:

  • Take Note of How Their Help is Offered There are two kinds of volunteers. One walks into your office and says, “I want to help! How can I help?” and the other walks in and says, “I have this great idea and it’s the only thing I’m doing to do for your organization. I really don’t care what else you have planned.”

The former is an excellent volunteer. The latter is possibly running for office or dealing with some control issues. New ideas are great, but someone who truly wants to help your organization comes in with a heart to help with your initiatives – not start new ones. If his or her ideas don’t directly benefit your organization and could potentially create more work for you, it’s best to direct that enthusiasm in to existing projects. A good test is to ask your new volunteer to help with an existing project before any new ideas are implemented.

  • Carefully Screen Interns  Interns can be the best thing that ever happened to your business or organization. Often they are incredibly talented professionals who are fulfilling their graduation requirements and will lend you some amazing skills and resources while they are with you. And sometimes they are hoping to file their nails and not flunk out. Ask your intern candidates three questions when they walk in your door: 1) What do you want to do after you graduate? 2) Which of our current projects are you excited to work on? and 3) Why did you apply for this internship? If you don’t like the answer to any one of them, they might create more work than they save you. Find your rock star intern, because her or she is out there.
  • Do Background Checks When Called for  Not every volunteer requires abackground check. But the volunteer working at the coloring station for kids? Definitely. Though time and funds may prevent you from screening every volunteer, be sure those interacting with kids, cash and members of the public one-on-one pass a basic background check. Your local law enforcement can help you with that.

Everyone volunteers for a reason. For most, it’s because they have a heart for your organization’s mission. To be sure you’re getting resources added to and not taken away from your workday, check to see if your volunteer’s reasons for helping out match your organization’s mission. When those are aligned, nothing can come between you and success.

Posted in Downtowns, Volunteers | Tagged , , , ,

Details: The little things that make the big thing happen

Whether you’re managing a small business or leading a downtown organization or other non-profit, there are three things you definitely are every single day: busy, busy and busy. And what are you busy with? Details? You might be concerned about the color scheme of your window display or how to update your Facebook page in between meetings, but it’s always something, isn’t it?

These tiny details are so important to every organization, but they

have two major downfalls: 1) their endlessness can be overwhelming and 2) they can keep your focus off the “big things” and “big ideas” that make good organizations become great. So how does one manage these tiny tasks that must be done without getting lost in them?

Here’s a handy, two-part trick: develop your mission statement and make sure everything on your to-do list is working toward it. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

Why? Because when you know why you’re doing something, it’s less overwhelming. For example, if your mission is to be the premiere interior design firm in your area, perfecting the color scheme in your window display may be a small task, but it is no small deal. If your mission is to feed the hungry, maybe it is “too small” a task for your time because it doesn’t match your mission.

And what about squeezing in the time to update your Facebook page in between important meetings? If you’re a downtown organization and your mission is to give residents and visitors a constant stream of reasons to come to your district, communication is of the utmost importance. Squeezing that Facebook update in might be just as important as the relationships you’re building in all those meetings.

When you’re thinking about your mission, even paying your property taxes can seem less of a task. After all, you’re paying for your ability to operate your business, receive police and fire protection – and hopefully great economic development support from your local government – and that’s definitely worth paying for, right?

Small tasks are most of what we do. But if every single time you sit down – or stand up – to accomplish a task, you think, “How will this work toward my mission?” three things will suddenly become clear:

a) Whether or not you really need to do it;

b) How much time you should spend on it; and

c) Most importantly, why you’re doing it.

Suddenly, some things fall off your list and others become a lot more satisfying. Even sweeping the floor and writing job descriptions are exciting, because these tasks are marching you toward your long-term goals. And what better reason could there be for doing anything?

Posted in Business Development, Downtowns | Tagged , ,

Don’t Drown Yourself Out! Timeliness & Prioritization in Online Communications

The wonderful thing about online communications is that it gives us unlimited opportunities to push information out to the public in an array of different ways. The bad thing about it is – you guessed it – that it gives us unlimited opportunities to push information out to the public in an array of different ways.

So which is it? A blessing or a curse? Well, it’s both. And here’s why: Whether we’re talking about e-newsletters, Facebook updates, tweets or emailed press releases, the old-timey problems of needing paper, ink, postage, ad space or delivery time simply don’t exist. When your organization has news you can get it out to everyone quickly and effectively with no wait and at little to no cost.

However, this free-love era of communications doesn’t come with boundaries.

How do you know when you’ve sent too many emails or tweeted to the point of excess?  And when your schedule is completely full with your regular rotation of blogging and Facebooking and website updating, when do you fit in time for the special announcements? How does one differentiate big news from the regular news?

Like time in the sun and ice cream sandwiches, online communication tools must be used in moderation to remain delightful. Here are a few tips to both maximize your use of these delightful resources and not overwhelm yourself or your audience:

  • Pick Your Poison The number of communication tools you utilize should be in proportion to the size of your audience and your business or organization. Google can use everything. They are big enough to staff and have an audience for blogs, social media, newsletters – you name it. The local hardware store? Maybe a monthly enews is enough. Maybe a website and Facebook page will do it. If your audience is too small for multiple media outlets, you’re only diminishing the number of people who can pay attention to each of your efforts. Invest your time into the communication tool or tools that best fit you and your customers.
  • Look and Learn How often do you send out your enews? How often should you make Facebook updates? This is an easy one: as a consumer, how often is too often for you? What do you do with the weekly emails your musician friend sends you about where he’s playing that night? Delete them? That’s because weekly is too much. Look at your favorite business page on Facebook and see how often they update. Then do the same. You know how much is too much when it happens to you. It’s safe to assume your audience will feel the same way.
  • Make it Work for You If you have 10 hours per week to dedicate to communications, make sure your regular rotation of online communications only takes five to seven of those. Timeliness is important. Sometimes big news comes along and it has to get out today. More often small news comes along and it has to get out today. Give yourself time to be able to be responsive to the last-minute deadlines that arise out of nowhere.
  • Make Special News Special If you blog and tweet daily, big news won’t make a very big impact if you only blog and tweet about it. Instead, blog, tweet, send out an enews and post it on your website when a message really needs attention. And then link to your website from your tweets, and then write a blog that links to your enewsletter. If you’re making a splash every day (which you should be!), make sure you’re in cannonball mode when the occasion calls for it.

The internet is a big place. Sadly and delightfully, many, many people and businesses have figured out the ease and wonderfulness of online communications. You are but one voice. Though it’s a challenge to not let everyone else drown you out, the real key is to start by not drowning yourself out. Pick your tools wisely and then spread your great news!

Posted in Uncategorized

Eventful Event Planning: How to prepare for the unexpected

Why are live events so exciting? Could it be the bustling of the crowds, the entertainment, the fun and games? Sure, it’s all of those things. It’s also the fact that they are a live experience. They can’t be DVR’d or streamed later on Hulu: they are happening once, hopefully on schedule, and absolutely anything could happen. Fun! Surprises! Disaster! The most fantastic performance of all time!

The possibilities are endless.

The anticipation of the unexpected is what makes events truly exciting. It’s also what can make event planning completely nerve-wracking. Unexpected things aren’t reserved for the day of the event. The entire planning experience is wrought with opportunities for surprise and chaos. Here are some tips to prepare for surprises during your event planning process, so you’ll be armed and ready for all of those day-of surprises:

  • Start Planning Early…Nothing breeds chaos like a time crunch. Let all
    your event partners know your event is in the making months ahead of time.

    • …so you can avoid: A community partner scheduling an event the same day, depleting the turnout for both events and creating tension between your groups.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate… The time to get the word out about your event to potential partners, vendors and participants is right at the beginning. Don’t worry if every detail is not in place. Reach out to everyone who might want to be involved as soon as possible, and keep in touch with them as the event develops.
    • …so you can avoid: A great potential participant doesn’t hear about your event until too late, or didn’t participate because they didn’t know enough about the event.
  • Set cut-off dates for participation… For your event you’ll likely need volunteers, vendors, entertainers and more. The more you need, the earlier your cutoff date should be, even for volunteers. After the cutoff date, thank the would-be participants, take their contact info and tell them they are alternates.
    • …so you can avoid: Two vendors drop the day of and you have no one to replace them. Or, everyone who wanted to participate shows up and there aren’t enough jobs for everyone.
  • Make a rain plan… Outdoor events are the most visible, and often the most fun. Unfortunately, if 100 percent of your events are outside, at least one or two will eventually have a run-in with Mother Nature.
    • …so you can avoid: Looking unprepared. Rain will dampen an event one way or another, but with a solid back-up plan, those who do still come out for a day of fun will give you credit for having an alternate location on the ready.
  • Have all participants sign something… Your event may require dozens of volunteers, vendors, entertainers and more. You may not have the time to screen every participant, but having them all sign an easy form agreeing to the terms of your event will help to self-screen those who are likely to be no-shows, uncooperative or inappropriate for your event.
    • …so you can avoid: Having no recourse to ask participants to step back if they are unable to fulfill the expectations of the event.
  • Have all planning finished and simply be “on-hand” for the weekprior and during the event… The only thing guaranteed about a live event is that there are no guarantees. Vendors will fall through at the last minute. All the wayfinding signs will be put in the wrong spots – and you’ll need to be the one with the time and the knowledge to make it all right.
    • …so you can avoid: Details fall through the cracks when we’re overwhelmed, and events are all about details. If you’re “ready” a week in advance, you’ll have a whole week to spend on those details that will keep people smiling throughout the whole event.

Events are tons of fun and tons of work. Be ready for the unexpected, and you can up the fun factor and lower your own workload in one fell swoop.

Posted in Downtowns, Events, Marketing! | Tagged , , ,

Scheduling Unscheduled Time: A Marketing Secret!

If marketing and public relations are one thing, they are the generation of ideas. Creativity is an absolute must in both fields. What is a print ad without a brilliant, catch headline? What is a social media promotion without great links, graphics and conversational, well-planned updates?

They are afterthoughts, that’s what they are.

We know what life is like for a small business or community organization: busy.

And who has time to be creative when you’re too consumed with your tasks of the day? “Place ad in newspaper” is easy to put on a to-do list. The task, “Think of a great new promotion” is not quite as simple. How much time does that take? How do you know when you’ve thought of it?

The good news and bad news is that there’s no way to know. What does this mean? It means that in order to add really great marketing or public relations effort to your business or organization, its necessary to schedule the unscheduled time to think about them. Because you know as well as we do that anything that doesn’t get put on the calendar or task list for the day just doesn’t get done.

So what does that look like?

This idea makes us think of one of our favorite downtown merchants. She’s an idea machine. She’s also the owner of her business and building, a DDA board member, new grandma and all around community activist. And low and behold, almost every week you’ll see a new creative promotion on her Facebook page. You’ll also see her coming up with great ideas for her DDA. How does she do it?

Well, despite arriving at her business before sunrise and typically not making it home until dusk, she always does the same thing during her lunch: she takes a walk downtown.

Scheduling “unscheduled” time into your day means any task that you plan to go and do with your body, but your mind is allowed to wander. We’re willing to bet it’s good for your psyche in all sorts of ways to do this, but we’re not psychologists. We are, however, marketing divas, so we know one thing for sure: great promotion ideas don’t come when you’re busy checking tasks off lists.

So go ahead! Take a walk every day. Take a bath every day. Clean out your inbox three times a week. Whatever mindless task allows your creative juices to get flowing, go ahead and schedule it in. You don’t have to feel guilty – you’re on the clock, just off grid. Your organization will be the better for it.

Posted in Marketing!, PR | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Numbers + Thinking = Better Numbers

We’ve said before that numbers are important, despite our preference for warm fuzzies. There are so many super delightful ways to measure progress, make effective improvements and more by keeping careful records and taking actions based on their analysis.

However! Numbers have limits. As easy as it may be to read a metric off a screen and say, “Hey we’re doing pretty well!” it’s not always that straightforward. Sometimes, they need a little common sense and even a few warm fuzzies to make a real impact.

Social media in particular provide us with many numbers that are intended to help us measure our success. These figures may be helpful, but they are most beneficial when paired with some serious thought. Here are a few instances where naked numbers just aren’t enough to trust:

  • Facebook and Twitter Followers. Yes, more followers are good. The goal of utilizing social media is to reach out to as many people as possible. But who are your followers? If you have 2,000 “likes” on Facebook but don’t get much quality engagement, how many of those “likers” are actually reading your posts? Do they have you hidden? Do they follow 3,000 pages and suffer from information overload?

There are also “bots” on Twitter that are actual “robot accounts” that just follow thousands of people simply to up their own numbers with the hope of attracting advertisers. Crazy, right? And when they’re following you (and believe us, some are!), they do you no good.

So instead of looking only at the number of “likes” and “followers” you have, measure your success with healthy interaction and real-life results. When you take a survey at your event, make sure “Facebook/Twitter” appears in the “How did you hear about this?” column. Ask your sponsors and volunteers the same question.

  • Think “Who,” Not “How Many.” We read a fascinating article recently about peak interaction hours for Facbook pages. The big surprise was that non-business hours saw the most clicks and responses, despite the fact that the most posts occurred during business hours.

Here’s the thing though: the very busiest time for interactions, according to this article, were between 11pm and 5am.

Say what?

If you are a local business or downtown organization or non-profit, the odds are against these night owls being your prime customers. Planning a family friendly event? Just because your link is clicked on the most at 2am does not mean that your target audience is seeing it most then.

So instead of looking at this data and thinking, “Gosh, I’d better start posting things to Facebook at midnight!” think about your audience. Want moms and dads seeing your posts? They are going to look at Facebook when they get to work, during their lunch break and right before they leave the calm of the office to dive back into their family’s schedule. So post then.

  • Facebook Impressions. Did’ja ever notice the number of impressions listed for each post on Facebook is often larger than your number of fans? This is because this number is calculated using some fancypants arrangement of numbers that is much more complicated than simply the number of people who have seen your post. It’s unclear if this simply means how many times a browser has loaded your post (whether viewed or not) or if “likes” and “shares” boost the number exponentially.

Facebook impressions are still helpful though, if used as a tool for judging the relative impact of one of your posts to the other. Do your conversational questions generate more impressions than posting articles? Do your morning posts have more impressions than your evening posts? Any more concrete assumptions gleaned from Facebook Impressions should be taken with a grain of salt.

The moral of the story is that all numbers on social media should be considered, but not worshipped. They should be analyzed, but are not to be taken to the bank. Just like everything else in social media, all of these metrics are new, and just like the basic framework of these platforms, they are best when explored, considered and then used in whatever way best fits each individual user’s needs.

Posted in Marketing!, Social Media | Tagged , , , ,

Thanks, Fenton!

What a busy and wonderful week we’ve had in Fenton!

Our readers may have noticed we neglected to post a blog last week. That’s because the

Fenton Be Closwer

Fenton's new "Be Closer" logo. See the new website at http://www.fentonbecloser.com

New Moon Divas were in our final planning stages of the Fenton Community Brand Unveiling Celebration! It was such a wonderful day, and we’ve had such a delightful time working with Fenton for past several months, we wanted to take this opportunity to write a bit about our experiences with this super community before continuing with our regularly scheduled programming.

Here are some of our favorite things about working with our friends in Fenton:

  • They are up for the challenge. Ever heard of urban renewal? Unfortunately, Fenton became the poster child for this movement in the 1960’s. But you know what? History is history in Fenton Having lost the majority of their downtown buildings has not stopped multiple downtown merchants from celebrating  30-year anniversaries in the last year. It hasn’t gotten in the way of such destinations such as the Fenton Hotel, the Fenton House and The French Laundry from bringing visitors into their city in droves. It’s not stopping the community from ramping up their marketing efforts to continue inviting people into Fenton to be surprised by all they have to offer.
  • Enthusiasm from Independent and Nationally-Based Merchants. Busy as they may be, independent downtown business owners tend to participate in community efforts like promotions and events far more often than the managers of their nationally-owned neighbor businesses. Not so in Fenton. We’ve been delighted to find representatives from Dibbleville, or downtown merchants, as well as nationally-recognized merchants, like the Fenton UPS Store, at meetings and forums, putting in the effort to be part of promoting Fenton as well.
  • Volunteers who Lead. Downtown Fenton is lucky to be represented both by capable, talented leaders inside City Hall, but also by volunteer leaders on their Downtown Development Authority Board. Fenton is blessed with active, involved, thinking and caring downtown stakeholders at the helm, willingly volunteering their time the sake of the community. We applaud them and thank them for their efforts!
  • There are So Many Good Things to Say! Not every place, product or idea is easy to promote. Sometimes there’s just not that much to say, or not much new to say. There is so much to talk about in Fenton! Exciting development projects

 

are underway, new businesses are moving in, existing businesses are celebrating anniversaries and expanding, and community organizations are constantly holding fun events. Fenton has such a great story to tell, and we’re so lucky to have the opportunity to help tell it!

  • Leaders who Support. We’ve had the pleasure of working with with many great communities and we especially recognize the professionals at the Fenton City Hall for the great, ongoing communication and the staff who addresses all of our inquiries promptly and thoughtfully. Developing a trusting and productive relationship with Fenton city staff was easy because of their terrific support of our work.

Fenton is truly a joy to work with. We’ve been so welcomed by the community, and look forward to the busy months ahead implementing the new Be Closer brand!

Posted in Community Branding | Tagged , , , , , ,

Welcome to the New Moon Visions Blog!

We love communities. This is why we spend so much of our time working with our favorite kinds of clients – downtowns, municipalities and the organizations and small businesses who make those places true communities. The goal of our blog is to continue that service for our clients on a broader scale by building an online community!

This will be a space where you can to learn more about your organization’s sense of place, how to build on it, and how to project that message to your community of customers, clients and constituents.

The world of branding, marketing, PR and social media can be a confusing and overwhelming one. But what we’ve found from working with clients for 20 years is that taken one piece at a time, it’s not so hard to wrap your mind around after all.

We hope that the tips, thoughts and amusements found in our blog are ones that are truly helpful to you. The one drawback to the extra TLC and one-on-one attention we give each of our clients is that it limits how many communities we can help at one time! Thank you for giving us the opportunity to reach out a little farther and welcome you into the New Moon Visions community.

Read on and enjoy!

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