Observations of Campaign Techniques-It’s Who you Know

A lovely older woman I know asked me to attend an event to see a nationally renowned Congresswoman. She didn’t say why, just asked me to come and who I could bring. I know the ropes, it’s actually a pep rally to get a group of people excited about the upcoming election. But none of that was discussed. Reminded me of an Amway pitch-I once was suckered into doing that for a while too.

I went because I know this woman, because she asked. I also had in the back of my mind that two interns should go for an opportunity to meet this federal representative. So I shared the appointed time and location with students and gave up a Sunday to attend.

Room was filled with 150-200 people. There wasn’t enough coffee. The food didn’t recognize today’s standards to eating issues–most women my age have given up donuts and fattening muffins for breakfast. Did I mention there wasn’t enough coffee?
The location had the worst accoustics. If you want to plan an event for 200 people you certainly need parking and space. But you also need to be able to have sound. Someone set up the microphone in front of the speakers–assuring hideous feedback every time the Congresswoman moved. Had the speakers been placed closer to the audience so she could walk…er…pace…behind them, she could have stuck with the microphone. In the end she abandoned the microphone to bellow. She was able to reach most of the room, but not those of us in the back. It’s okay, it was a pep rally, I know the drill. She wrapped up and people started to head out. The political aids were all poised at the back to capture departing guests to sign up to volunteer.

What they lacked in setting logistics they made up for in understanding their purpose–get the enthused audience to volunteer. It’s the only reason for the event. I’m sure they succeeded in getting several. Except me and my interns. We have our own campaign. But that’s another post.

How to get $25,000 in free advertising or at least win a contest

Enter a contest to win $25,000. That’s what the local Reno Veterans’ Guest House did. And they asked the community to help. The Home Depot Foundation apparently runs a contest once a month and gives back to the winning charity $25k in gift cards. The votes come through Facebook and Twitter (links to the FB page). In order to vote you have to “Like” the Home Depot Foundation. A great way for HDF to capture followers.

But here’s why it worked for REno Veterans Guest House. They clearly had a plan. They utilized skills from some local public relations pros. Staff and publicists for Veterans Guest House posted on Facebook seeking vote.s They provided simple instructions in a post. They shared samples stories like starting because a vet’s wife and kids slept in their car while the vet was in hospital cause they couldn’t afford hotel fees. And they properly tagged links to the Home Dept Foundation page; links and comments on their friends pages, groups.Lesson-take advantage of your relationships and post in appropriate group discussions.

They also sent instructions via LinkedIn. They emailed a letter to every person on their personal lists and asked people to forward. I did. My audiences are not the same on FB and LinkedIn-some overlap. But different people use different tools. So their plan covered their bases.

They also pitched local media. So a news station covered the contest, as did a radio station.More than once. The newspaper printed the contest. And that’s just the media I was paying attention to.

And the contest started to get close. Several PR pros took up the challenge-many of us have reasons to love vets. I posted daily on my personal Facebook page, on my business page and on many groups I’m associated with. I tweeted the contest–Congressman Amodei even retweeted my post. We hardly see eye to eye on any political spectrum, but we do for vets. I gave extra credit in my public relations class assignment-and some students took me up on it. Can’t tell you how many friends appreciated my daily reminders on Facebook! The voting went back and forth. If I heard correctly, it’s the first time the contest has ever seen that kind of action. The other program was based in Atlanta-Home Depot’s hometown with close to 12 times the population of Reno Nevada. But it just took a few groups to dedicate themselves to the project-and a lot of social media.

If the Veterans Guest House had tried to buy the coverage of their services across all those platforms it would have easily cost $25000. I don’t recommend measuring with Advertising Value Equivalent, but clearly this program demonstrated to non-profits and small businesses unique ways to LEVERAGE a contest to build awareness, supporters and increase capacity.They carried the news story further with the win; getting back on the radio and television and further telling the story. Posting the news on their website.

The Veterans Guest House is now trying to capture who did what for them. My only criticism in their plan was the direct link to Home Depot rather than driving traffic to “Like” the Veterans Guest House page and find the link there. But hey, they are working towards connecting with their supporters. And maybe they thought of that and were concerned about barriers for participation. Won’t try to second guess them.

And now they’re in a contest for $250,000. Look for the social media posts on how to vote for them throughout March!

Five tips for trade show booth planning

If you have a booth or attend a trade show as a vendor, make sure you keep these basic rules in play:

Determine the purpose for your participation.

  • Are you going for new prospects? Then create a mechanism for capturing names. Drawings are good; freebies for a signature are good. But promise not to spam them or abuse their contact info.
  • Need to demonstrate a new product? Think through all the elements you’ll need to be able to do that well. Samples a possibility.
  • Trying to be in the community? Be sure you can be seen-sign up early so you aren’t at the back of the room, usually given to last minute reservations.

Make your booth or table visually interesting and branded. This means investing in table cloths in your brand colors and ideally printed with your logo; table runners or banners for the table top if not pre-printed; a stand-up poster on the table and a banner/signage for above and behind the table and/or to the side of the table.

Bring manageable materials. Trifold brochures or postcards or even business cards are easy to carry, but 8×11 get folded or rolled and eventually never read or not even picked up. Consider being the vendor to provide the bag–great promotion all over the trade show with your logo being displayed.

Creating an engaging display. Visually is a start-less is better. But also try for a game or some interactive testing of samples or something for the participants to DO. They’ll be more likely to stop at your booth if there is something to do. Think of the pyramid of design concepts:

Staff your booth the whole time; so figure out bathroom breaks and meal breaks for you or your helpers. An empty table/booth is a missed opportunity to engage with prospective clients.

Now talk to the attendees. It’s not a reverse circus.

Four tips on planning for Tabling Events

One way to reach a large number of prospective clients includes sponsoring a booth or table at an appropriate event.

The first step is to determine if your client prospects are attending this event. Targeting women? Perhaps there’s a women’s expo in your community. Provide business-to-business solutions? Then the local Chamber of Commerce or a business Cooperative might be a good source. Conduct health services? Sponsor a health fair.

Once you determine the right venue, then figure out your level of participation. Can you afford a sponsorship? What does that entail–booth space, name on promotional materials done by the event organizers? Determine the value besides access that goes with a sponsorship.Too expensive alone? Consider sharing with a business that offers a non-competitive service but targets the same audience.

Next question-Booth or a table. Be sure you figure out the materials you need: banner to see your booth, stand up items, a freebie to engage participants, signup sheets and handouts. Sometimes you can just give away promotional items as the freebie. Sometimes you can give away a “large” valued item as a raffle prize for those who leave a business card–then you are capturing leads at the same time.

Another option may just be attending the event. People at booths are good targets as well as other attendees. Use your business card with a NeoReader code linked to a coupon or discount or just offer the discount for an upcoming workshop or other service you provide. Distribute widely.

Even Alice Knows Why Matters

Many non-profits or clubs want to hold events-it’s a way to raise money. Sell tickets to something and hope enough people attend to make it net a number that’s worth the effort. People like parties, should be easy. Problem is much more than  goes into an event and why so many non-profits or clubs/organizations ultimately fail.

First to consider is what is the purpose of the event? Is it to secure new clients or prospects? Is it to generate media attention and publicity? Is it to raise money? Raising awareness? Interesting new clients to repeat business? Creating a trial stage for clients or donors? An event is not going to be all of those things for all the attendees. Prioritize.

How much time and effort does it take to conduct an event and what are the real costs associated with the event? Not just talking food, beverage and decoration here. How much staff/volunteer time goes in to logistics, media relations, marketing? Who’s doing the sales–you know actually getting people to buy tickets? How many tickets at what price will net the result you want? Many non-profits or clubs set a ticket price for what people can pay but don’t back out the costs to know what they need to net to make it worth it.

If the event is to attract new prospects, does it relate to the image you want for your company? It’s easy to sell tickets for alcohol related events (from wine tasting to all-you-can-drink vodka), but does that fit the image for a professional association for college students or for non-profits working in social justice? Might be easy money, but is it worth the image? What about students who aren’t 21 or people with families? Can they attend or have you made the event exclusionary? Might work for your club, might not. The key is to ask the questions.

Do you have a program to connect the attendees to the organization? Do you need one? If it’s prospects, what point do they know your organization is the host and you want their engagement? Is it the same 25 women who always come-are you just bilking the membership for a few dollars at a time? Wouldn’t it just be easier to forgo lunch and have them write a check monthly check for the equivalent of lunch? You’d have more money.

Here’s an important question: what are you going to do with the money? For non-profits it often offsets the operations costs that donors don’t particularly want to fund. Contributions that directly impact the lives of young girls far more exciting than paying the executive director a livable wage or buying ad time to spread the message. Many service clubs give back to the community, which is great. But the clubs often decide who gets to receive the funds–for many donors, they’d just as soon give directly to an established organization. So what are the funds for again? And why do you need them? How much do you need? Why are you doing this event?

Events done well, with the right image, the best program content and the price that meets the net goal are terrific tools for RELATIONSHIP building–wither with current clients/donors or future ones. They are a tool for connecting to people at various stages of involvement with your organization. The consume a lot of time and energy-bigger they are, the more likely they are to consume valuable resources. It can be worth it, if you know exactly why you are hosting the event and what you want to get out of it and who you market the event to. But THAT topic is a whole other blog.

7 Best tips for phone banks: politics, non-profs, customer service

Phone banks–large group of people calling through your list with a call to action of some sort–are really effective. They work for Get Out the Vote efforts for candidates; dialing for dollars for non-profits; or even for small businesses doing a customer service survey or other activity. Better than social media, better than mail. Not quite as good as in-person (really hard to tell someone know when they ask you to do something face-to-face). Very effective. Especially in the age of email, text and social media where we communicate, but not really.

But they need to be done well.

  1. Write a script. But write like people talk. “Hi, my name is Alison, a volunteer with x. How are you tonight?”. Breathe. (Yes, write “breathe/space” in the script). “Is Juana available?” Wait for response.
  2. Create natural spacing gaps so  the caller can make the call more natural conversation and not just reading the script. I’ve conducted many a phone bank and wait patiently for the poor soul who has to read the entire thing. I listen to them because they have a job to do (paid or volunteer, it’s still not easy work and people are nasty). But geez, let me get in edge wise–hey I work for that company, really I already gave at the office.
  3. TRAIN THE PHONE BANKER. Whether you are asking for people to vote, or to donate to a cause or as a business seeking input from customers, make sure the people making the calls are equipped to not read the script in a monotone. They have to make it conversational. And talk naturally. If they have to read the script line by line, make sure they can do so where it sounds real not read.
  4. Make information about frequently asked questions available and assure your call team are able to answer questions, at least some simple ones.
  5. Be sure the script indicates the approximate length of call and purpose. “Not calling for a donation [unless of course you are], just want to give you information about the election (or ask your opinion about company xyz). This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.”
  6. Track the type of call–you should have a mechanism to know if it’s the wrong number, the party moved or died (happens and is creepy=prep the caller on what to say!). Mark if there is a language barrier, if the number is disconnected, if the recipient even likes your company or not. Ideally you’ll respect the “do-not-call” and have a list management system. Even customers you have had for years may just hate phone calls at home they aren’t expecting; doesn’t mean they don’t want to be a customer, they just don’t want to be called at home. Find another way to connect with them. And don’t call them the next time. Scores a lot of points.
  7. Use staff/volunteers who can smile while making the call. Makes a difference and can generate the right tone and approach to reaching your voter/donor/client and getting them to take that call of action whether it’s voting, giving, or sharing.

Calling people to ask them to do something works. And well. But be very careful about the reason you do a phone bank: GOTV comes with every election; donations may or may not work via phone; surveys can be done other ways. It’s worse to do a bad phone bank and not get good results than it is to try another communication tactic. Know your audience. And train your peeps. And when someone calls you for a market survey or a phone bank–recognize they are just doing a job and don’t take your frustrations out on them. Makes for better experiences all the way around.

Connecting conference attendees with Twitter

When you host a conference (or attend one) be sure to share a Twitter Hashtag with attendees, so they know where to keep the dialogue going and someone else doesn’t start one for you. Clueless? Let me explain.

Twitter is mini blogs using 140 characters (letters and spacing). Not 140 words. Characters. When you “post” it’s called a tweet. As a business person, it’s imperative to check in for news sources, politicians, business leaders or even your kids.  Even the President is tweeting. Brevity or abbreviations rule this form of social media. One aspect is use of a hashtag- #. When you preface info with a real hashtag it creates a place for everyone to have a sidebar conversation, an ideal way to connect people at a conference and clue in to what’s working–or not. What speakers are generating conversation or boredom? What thought provoking conversation is out there?Note that some people use the hashtag to indicate irony or sarcasim and it’ll be something like #don’tseewhytheybother. That won’t really be a conversation, unless one or two people share that, but it won’t go into depth and is a waste of time to follow. You’ll catch on to real vs smarty pants quickly.

A terrific use is to send out info to the conference attendees and provide the hashtag in advance. One great example was the President’s first twitter session #AskObama. If you type that in to the search section of twitter, the entire conversation comes up. You can see the random questions, legitimate questions and some ploys for business exposure or derogatory comments.

The eWomenNetwork are using #eWN2011. You include this hashtag and ID as part of your 140 character Tweets and everyone sees the conversation. For the savvy business person, getting in on this conversation early helps you connect to others quickly and find interesting people to “follow”. AND it’s great for people who can’t actually attend the conference to check in to see what they are missing.

We’re heading to Dallas next week. Look for our tweets @algaulden and see what the #eWN2011 conversation is all about.