Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich
A couple of things converged today that got me thinking about how we -- as a society and as marketers -- set standards for what is considered acceptable in marketing campaigns.

I got a note from Chris Kieff at MSCO's Unconventional Thinking pointing to an interesting and lively controversy unfolding on the blog. The company had leased two billboards leading into Manhattan from Clear Channel to promote MSCO CEO Mark Stevens' book. The billboards simply present the book's website address: www.YOUR MARKETING SUCKS.com, with no other copy or graphics. Clear Channel approved the billboards, they signed the contract, and they went up with what sounds like a good response from people who want to improve their current marketing situation. Then last week, he got a call from an exec at an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway, who was irate because he said his 6-year old daughter saw the word "sucks" on the billboard, and threatened that if it was not taken down, they would "feel the full wrath of the Berkshire Hathaway empire.” A couple of days later, one of the offending billboards was covered up without any notice or explanation. When they called Clear Channel, they found out that someone in the New Rochelle Mayor's office had called in with a complaint about the billboard, so they had pulled it.

While Mark is framing this as primarily a censorship/first amendment/abuse of corporate power issue, I'm more interested in the very important questions this story raises about what the standards should be for the marketing images and words we put out there. How do we balance promoting our messages in an attention-getting (and sometimes intentionally provocative) way with the social norms around what is acceptable and what is offensive? A debate broke out within the comments of the post between those who think there is nothing wrong with using the word "sucks," despite its sexual origins and rude nature, and those (primarily parents) who are not comfortable with their children being exposed to the word.

The other thing that happened today is the Cartoon Network ad campaign gone very, very wrong in Boston. Traffic came to a halt as police bomb units scrambled around the city to safely detonate and remove 38 electronic circuit boards with some components that were "consistent with an improvised explosive device" left around the city on bridges, highways and subway stations. They turned out to be magnetic lights in the shape of characters from the Adult Swim animated show Aqua Team Hunger Force (appropriately, in view of the chaos they wrought, raising their middle fingers). This is a larger-scale version of the Los Angeles news rack that was blown up by the bomb squad because the device that was rigged to play the Mission Impossible theme song to promote the movie when the door was opened had fallen on top of the pile of newspapers, protruding wires and all.

Ann Handley makes the very good point:
First, market responsibly. In a post 9-11 world, it seems near crazy to tuck blinking packages with wires protruding near major municipal hubs and landmarks. Fenway Park? Sullivan Square MBTA stop? What were they thinking? Last time I went through airport security, they confiscated my 10-year-old's SpongeBob toothpaste. That's how crazy the world is, and unfortunately that's the lens through which municipal leaders view any blinking devices.
There are two aspects of our marketing we need to think about that these examples illustrate - the what and the how:
  • What is the content of the images and messages? Is it worth being deliberately provocative -- either in words or pictures -- to get our audience's attention? How will people outside of the target audience interpret the copy and images? What might be some of the negative consequences -- to our organization or to particular segments of society -- that could come from going forward with this campaign?
  • How are we going to get the message out there? What could go wrong with the execution? Is there any way that the promotion could be mistaken for something more sinister? Could the promotion have the effect of inconveniencing other people for any reason?
These are all questions that may not have a clear-cut answer, and different people will answer them in different ways for the same campaign. You will need to decide whether the risks of the campaign going wrong somehow are worth the benefits you will get by getting noticed.

Keep in mind that it's not all about you, your organization and your product. It's not even all about your target audience. We operate within a larger world, and we do have a responsibility to the greater society. There should be a difference between what can be done in the public commons and what can be done when it's just between you and your adult audience.

Social marketers work with many issues that have the potential to offend various segments of society, or are not appropriate for younger children. A campaign I worked on to promote contraception by young adults had several newspapers refuse to run our ads that contained basic facts about sex and birth control, and we received a few complaints from readers of those that did run them. But we decided that the blowback was worth getting the information out to the people who needed it. While being provocative for its own sake is not always the best approach, sometimes it takes something shocking to wake people up and get them to take action. There are no clear-cut rules except to think your marketing through as well as you can before you decide to épater les bourgeois so that it doesn't come back to kick you in the derriere later on.

Graphics/Photos: Target-Sucks.com, AP


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One of the things I love about Los Angeles County is that every restaurant (and other establishments that serve food) is required to post the results of its most recent health inspection in the window by the entrance. Depending on the score they received for about 100 different factors like food temperatures, food preparation practices, vermin (yuck!) and presence of hot water, the restaurants are assigned a grade of A, B, C, or the actual score if below 70. The signs (which look like the picture above) have to be posted, and they are large enough that they can even be seen by someone driving by.

Perhaps this doesn't seem like a big deal, but this was a brilliant idea on the part of the LA Public Health Department. This system has been in place for perhaps about 10 years, and LA was, as far as I know, the first to adopt this idea. Though it's old news around here, it's still a groundbreaking system for a couple of reasons.

First, it puts power into the hands of restaurant customers, who can make an informed decision whether they want to risk getting a foodborne illness from a restaurant that is not following entirely safe food preparation and storage practices. If I don't see an "A" in the window, I drive right by and go somewhere else. Why take the risk? Before this system, the only way we'd know that the restaurant did not pass its health inspection with flying colors is by asking the restaurant or the health department. I doubt that happened very often.

Second, it puts pressure on the restaurants to make sure they get an "A." While they will probably not be closed if they receive a "B" (unless there are code violations that necessitate shutting down until the problem is fixed), the negative effects of the lower grade means they will have fewer customers, who may not return even when the grade returns to an "A." In my experience, word of mouth spreads quickly when a popular restaurant loses its top grade, and even people who do not see the grade in the window themselves stay away.

Imagine if this system spread to other industries: cell phone companies required to post the number of complaints they received that month right on their websites, airlines required to post their scores for flight delays and lost luggage, hospitals with a placard out front showing how many of their patients came down with a hospital-acquired infection last month... We would come closer to Adam Smith's vision of using perfect information to let the invisible hand work its magic in the marketplace. And we could all make choices that would leave us healthier and happier.

Photo Credit: hawaii


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Nancy Schwartz asks, while soliciting entries for the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants:
How do we, as nonprofit communicators, engage audiences who are overloaded with marketing messages and images?

Context: Marketing and communications are everywhere. On steps, windows, tray tables on airplanes. You know the deal – and all that’s in addition to everything else that’s online and offline. Ubiquitous is the only word to describe it.

  • As a result, our audiences are more saturated than ever with data, images.
  • And more skeptical.

How do we:

  • Penetrate the glaze of audience overload when eyes, ears and brains are simply overwhelmed
  • Communicate not only the basics, but the often complex or new ideas necessary for success in nonprofit advocacy and fundraising campaigns, program delivery, etc.
  • Compete with for-profit marketers who have far more resources than we do (how can we be smarter)?
All good questions, and ones that social marketers face constantly. Rohit recently wrote about the ubiquity of advertising and even the examples he came up with as so-far unused advertising space (e.g., fruits and vegetables, public restroom doors and hubcaps) have not entirely escaped the ad industry's touch.

Despite this expansion of advertising into anything and everything that might be seen by a pair of eyeballs, marketers are also starting to realize that advertising is not necessarily the best way to get their product noticed. Hence, the trend toward product placement in television shows, movies, and even blogs.

I've written about this before, and I think they're onto something. Think about getting your message out in the places that people actually pay attention (as opposed to the increasingly Tivo-ed commercial breaks or mind-numbing advertising everywhere we look). Move away from methods that shout out in blinking lights M*A*R*K*E*T*I*N*G. Move toward becoming integrated into the things people are already doing and engaged with. Embedding your message into entertainment content is one way to get that attention.

Developing relationships with your audience is another way. If they like and trust you, they will listen to what you have to say even while screening out the thousands of other marketing messages they are exposed to during the course of a day.

What are some ways a nonprofit or public agency could do this?
  • Reach out to fan communities. While not every nonprofit has the resources or connections to persuade the writers of Desperate Housewives to show a character getting a mammogram or talk about getting her kids immunized, there are ways of reaching TV fans outside of advertising or "product placement." If a show has a character that is dealing with a particular health or social issue that your organization addresses, you can reach thousands of the show's fans by leaving a post on the show's message board with information and a link to your website (e.g., the Desperate Housewives message board has almost 45,000 posts and probably many more people reading the messages without writing anything). Or perhaps a character on the show has a blog you can leave a comment on. Writing about the episode on your organization's blog and tagging it in Technorati will reach anyone searching for information about the show.
  • Go to where your audience is and talk to them there. You can go into virtual worlds like Second Life or MTV's Virtual Laguna Beach to talk to people about your issue. Engage in discussions on health-related message boards where people are asking questions and looking for information. Offline, sponsor a race car and distribute information at the track, work with a local restaurant to highlight healthy alternatives on the menu and create placemats or table tents with nutritional information, supply handstamps to clubs with the phone number of your safe ride program on them.
  • Create your own content in which to embed your message. Saturday's Wall Street Journal has an article (WSJ subscribers only) about how the New York Federal Reserve Bank has created a series of comic books to teach students about banking, foreign exchange and other kinds of financial information. (I just have to share this great line from the article: "Although a certain former Fed chairman ranked as a superhero on Wall Street, these comics do not feature Alan Greenspan in leotard and cape, wielding a magic clarinet against the evil forces of inflation.") Another example is advergames - online games designed to feature a product in the context of an engaging game. mtvU and the Kaiser Family Foundation are sponsoring another contest to develop a web-based game along the lines of the previous winner, Darfur is Dying. This time they are looking for a game related to HIV/AIDS. Other ideas for content could include things like a concert, an entertaining video posted to YouTube, a ringtone, or whatever your audience is into.
  • Make it easy for people to share your message with friends. When your message goes from peer to peer, it is much more powerful than coming directly from you. Provide ways that people can easily send content from your website to their friends. Provide coupons or incentives for bringing a friend to your organization. Make your fans into your brand ambassadors. A friend's recommendation gets past the marketing filter.
  • Develop a relationship with your audience members. Blogs are a great way to build a community and develop relationships with the people who are interested in what your organization does. Get the permission of people who visit your organization's website or attend your events to send them updates on your activities and offerings. Put a human face on your organization so people feel like you are an old friend. Provide them with ways to create content and engage in a conversation with your organization and other supporters like themselves.
  • Partner with other brands to integrate your message. Your audience already spends time shopping -- whether at the grocery store, the mall or online -- and has emotional relationships (positive & negative) with certain products. Find the brands that they prefer and try to develop partnerships with them to get your message out through cause marketing approaches. Even if you are too small to get Coca-Cola or Target to pay attention to you, look at local resources like small businesses or the branch of a larger company in your neighborhood as potential partners.
By avoiding glaring M*A*R*K*E*T*I*N*G methods and focusing your efforts on embedding your message into content and building relationships with your audience, you can get past the glazed eyes of advertising overload and into their attention zone. Make sure you make it worth their while when you get there.

[UPDATE: Here is the link to Nancy's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants, which features perspectives on the same question from 14 other bloggers. It's well worth a read!]

Photo Credit: e d d d d d d d i e

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Looks like I picked the right career after all. I just came across US News & World Report's guide to the best careers of 2007. The feature includes a list of the most overrated careers, one of which is "advertising executive." After shooting down the myth that the ad biz is glamorous (McMann & Tate and D&D notwithstanding), and revealing the cold hard reality and disillusionment of agency life, US News reveals their recommendation for an alternative career: social marketing.

Too bad for all you nonprofit managers. US News thinks your job is overrated and suggests you find a career in the private sector that will enable you to donate time or money to your favorite nonprofit. Same difference, right?


Photo from imdb


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links for 2007-01-29
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1.28.2007

Last night's Saturday Night Live was its usual not that funny self. It was a rerun from November, but I hadn't seen it the first time. Especially unfunny was a sketch that was supposed to be an infomercial for Dr. Archibald Bitchslap's marriage counseling method (video). I'll bet you can guess from the name what the method entails. Here's how the show's website describes the sketch:
Our host Samantha Hawkins discusses an exciting new “interactive” way to solve relationship problems. She’s joined by couples Pete and Donna Longhorn, and Debra and Jody Preston.

The Longhorn's problems stem from Donna’s spending addiction, and the Preston’s problems grew out of Jody’s incessant lying about “working late nights”.

Samantha introduces the man responsible for the revolutionary new technique that solved the couples’ problems, Dr. Archibald Bitchslap, founder of the Bitchslap Method.

Samantha runs a sample of the method demonstrated on the 10-DVD set: a montage of images of Samantha and Dr. Archibald Bitchslap employing the Bitchslap Method forcibly and verbally on a series of compliant mannequins. Dr. Bitchslap mentions that along with the 10-DVD set, you also receive a companion booklet: Bitchslap Your Way to a Successful Marriage.

I'm sure they didn't mean to make light of domestic violence, but their satire fell flat to the point of being offensive (and I'm not easily offended).

Contrast this with Borat's brilliant use of satire to highlight the absurdity of the beliefs of antisemites and misogynists. I know many people were offended by this movie too, but I think it succeeded precisely because Sacha Baron Cohen exaggerated the character and situations to the point of absurdity, which made clear that he was making fun of those beliefs. (The fact that the laughably antisemitic Borat was actually speaking fluent Hebrew instead of Kazakh only added to the satire for me.)

The ultimate example of satire is Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. Many at the time took his essay seriously due to its serious tone, thinking that he was actually proposing that poor Irish families sell their children to be eaten to raise money for the family. By exaggerating this normally ridiculous idea to the point of even suggesting how the children could be prepared ("I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout."), Swift gets in his real digs at landlords and political economists, exposing the state of the poor in Ireland.

So, what did SNL do wrong? Sadly, the Bitchslap method is used way too often in reality, with no humor involved. This sketch just reinforced the idea that this method works, without mocking who use violence against their partners or using absurdity to make an underlying point. It was just too close to reality for comfort.


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Registration for Social Marketing University is in full swing, and so far we have what looks like an amazing group of participants. In case you missed the announcement, it will be in Washington, DC on March 28-30. Just a reminder that the early registration deadline is this Wednesday, January 31st, and you can save $100 off the registration fee by signing up before then.

If you're a social marketer in the DC area, consider joining us for the Next Generation Social Marketing Seminar on the morning of March 30th. We'll be talking about how to use some of the newer tools available online to reach your audience.

I would love to see you there!
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1.27.2007

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1.24.2007

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It's time for a party -- Spare Change is one year old today!! Boy, how the year flew by, and look how much it's grown. I just want to pinch its cheeks. Here's the blog's vital stats:

241 posts
>50,000 visitors from 176 different countries
~200 feed subscribers

When I started this, I didn't know whether I would have enough interesting things to say each week or whether people would care what I had to say. But look! You're here! So, thank you for giving me the honor of your time, comments, and in many cases, friendship. I truly feel that I am part of a community, and even though we may not ever meet in person (though I hope we will!), I'm glad we're connected through the ether.

I'm going to have fun today and share with you some of my favorite blog posts from the past year that you may not have seen. These are presented in order, according to when they were published. You can also take a look at the list of the most popular posts in the sidebar to make sure you don't miss the biggies like the CDC's Second Life, Marketing to Introverts and others. So, without further ado, here is the Spare Change Retrospective:
  1. On Challenges, Change and Cellos - How I learned humility along with the cello, and the social marketing lesson that some skills do not always come naturally. (Postscript: Finally, after about an additional year of lessons from the time I wrote this post, my playing is starting to sound more like a cello and less like a dying goose.)

  2. Tune in Tomorrow: Soap Operas for Social Marketing - I'm fascinated by the possibilities in both broadcast and new media for providing education and role modeling for health and social issues.

  3. Why Can't Social Marketers Sustain a Professional Association? - I'm still wondering about the answer to this question. I think we have a critical mass of people who would be interested, and the technology exists to connect ourselves fairly cheaply. The profession already has a listserv, conferences, and an academic journal - it should just be a matter of formalizing alliances and putting a membership infrastructure in place. We need a unified voice to speak out about issues like...

  4. Dueling Social Marketing Definitions - Jupiter Research's misuse of the term "social marketing" is just the tip of the iceberg, with more and more people using the term to refer to social media marketing or social network marketing. Just since this post was written, I find myself having to clarify more often which type of social marketing I work in (whereas people used to have no clue what the term meant, now they think they know what it means but are incorrect). Also see the handy chart I made to help you tell them apart.

  5. Marketing to Terrorists - The day after the State of the Union address, this continues to be relevant. An apparently well-meaning funder created a PSA designed to appeal to the humanity of potential suicide bombers and thereby dissuade them from their mission, but ended up reinforcing just how effective bombs are in destroying a street full of infidels. Nice thought, wrong strategy.

  6. Branding for Social Marketers, Part 1 and Part 2 - A series on what branding is and how it is used in social marketing.

  7. Dove Soothes Our Fragile Egos - Unless We Are in China - A look at the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty in the US and in China, with an interesting cultural twist.

  8. Friendly Fire: Stigma & Social Marketing Redux - Recent social marketing campaigns addressing HIV/AIDS have generated a backlash among the target audience. How could this be avoided?

  9. Search Engine Marketing Fun - I cracked myself up while looking at the search engine phrases that people used to find my blog. Hopefully you are as amused as I was.

  10. Metamorphosis - Unless you are brand new to my blog, you probably saw this post from around New Years. But I wanted to give you an update on the butterflies. A couple of weeks ago, on a very windy but warm day, we let all the butterflies go that were able to fly away. Two were left, one of which had one good wing and one shriveled one, and the other that had two defective wings. We became the butterfly nursing home, feeding them sugar water and orange slices, and sadly, the one with only one bad wing died. My 6 year old daughter buried it in the dirt outside and when asked if she had any words she'd like to share, said with a pout, "I wish it didn't die." The other butterfly, whom we dubbed "Crumplewings," has been going strong and is still alive, despite the fact that pieces of its wings keep falling off and it now has about one-third of one wing and half of the other. I'm thinking of changing its name to Tenacious B. This is one persistent butterfly - we could all learn a lesson from it about not giving up.
Are there any posts I didn't mention that you particularly like? Let me know in the comments.

Here's to the coming year. I hope you'll watch with me as we see together what 2007 brings.

Photo Credit: plus with hat uploaded by FunnymanSE30 - it's awfully appropriate that this picture is of a Mac Plus - the first computer I ever owned (not counting the Commodore 64 my parents bought us). I'm still a Mac girl, by the way.


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I may lose some friends out there, but I have to speak up about a phenomenon I've noticed over the past few years. It came to the fore for me with the recent story about the battle between the TV meteorologists over stripping the American Meteorological Society certification from any weatherman who expresses skepticism about the degree to which global warming can be blamed on human activity.

My intention here is not to do battle over the facts of global warming, so please don't leave me comments listing all the reasons why it is or is not an environmental catastrophe. I am less a global warming skeptic than a global warming agnostic -- I am not convinced yet either way, but I'm open to the data.

My concern is that global warming has become on par with religious dogma. When anyone, including legitimate scientists, dares to present contradictory data or a different interpretation of current data, they are attacked and harassed. It is assumed that they have evil intentions or are shills for the oil industry. Anyone who does not toe the global warming party line is considered akin to Holocaust deniers. Any data that deviates from the established doctrine is dismissed as biased or not worth looking at.

This is a problem. Science should not be politicized. A particular interpretation of the data should not be taken as the gospel from on high. Our knowledge of science evolves over time. Just a few decades ago, scientists were concerned about the catastrophic effects of global cooling and the coming Ice Age. Going even further back, to the 1630s, Galileo was convicted of heresy by the Church for supporting the radical Copernican theory that the Earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around. We should not be subjecting scientists to another Inquisition because they do not agree with commonly accepted ideas. Science does not advance without people who are willing to challenge the dominant paradigm.

While there is some consensus among scientists, there is a huge degree of uncertainty in the models that are being used to predict the future. Meteorologists can't even predict the weather for next week accurately. To speak of global warming as something that is definitely happening is going way beyond the limits of the data. When everything that happens with the weather is attributed to man-made global warming, the credibility of the claims start coming into doubt. But "maybes" don't make good news stories.

I have no doubt that most people who are concerned about global warming are well-meaning individuals who want to do the right thing for the planet. I don't intend this as an attack on those who believe that global warming is a problem we need to address, but rather those who "believe in" global warming as if it were a religious doctrine that cannot be challenged.

I see a parallel with the dogma around evolution -- on both sides. Some fundamentalists who reject the scientific version of how life evolved accept as creed that the Earth is about 6000 years old and that dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans before the great flood. I'll give them a pass on being dogmatic, though -- this is their religion, after all. But many evolutionists cling just as tightly to Darwinism, despite the fact that there are holes in the fossil record and big gaps in our knowledge about exactly how life evolves. Until we understand better how evolution works and how to answer some of the remaining questions, we should not assume that Darwin is necessarily the final word on how life came to exist, though it might be the best model we have right now. And why can't the Bible and science co-exist? MIT-trained nuclear physicist Gerald Schroeder has written some amazing books that use quantum physics and the theory of relativity to reconcile the two precisely.

Similarly, there are things people on both sides of the global warming debate should be able to agree on, even if they do so for different reasons. Changing our energy consumption habits and taking care of the environment are goals that most people can get behind. In any case, I don't think that the specter of global warming is immediate or concrete enough to get most people to take action to prevent something that may or may not happen in a hundred years or more. It's just too big of a problem for an individual to feel that they can make an impact. But show people how they can save money by conserving energy, reduce their dependence on foreign oil by driving a hybrid, keep humans and wildlife healthy by reducing pollutants... this could get people motivated to act.

Scaring the public and silencing dissenters is not the way to bring about effective change. If only our leaders could put the same energy into solving the problems people face right here and now in terms of disease, poverty, and violence, we would all be better off in the future whether or not the climate eventually changes for the worse.

One thing is certain: what we know about the science of climate can and will change over time. The most shortsighted thing would be to close our minds to evidence that might bring us closer to the objective truth, whatever it happens to be.


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links for 2007-01-23
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1.19.2007

Downtown Los Angeles has the largest homeless population in the US. But until recently, the data on the problem has been spotty. Starting in November 2006, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has been surveying the streets of Downtown every two weeks to count the number of homeless people, their exact locations and some basic demographics. All this data ends up on an Excel spreadsheet. But what could they do with this raw data? Just looking at the numbers is almost meaningless, since there are so many data points to compare.

Enter Cartifact, a custom mapping firm based in Downtown LA. They offered to work with the LAPD to help them visualize the information in a meaningful way and to see changes over time. Together the LAPD and Cartifact have created the Downtown Los Angeles Homeless Map, which takes the information from the biweekly Excel spreadsheet and converts it into a GIS-based heatmap superimposed on a street map of Downtown that shows the density and location of homeless people on each day of data collection. The individual maps are animated together to show the changes between each two-week period.

Eric Richardson, who writes blogdowntown, is also the lead developer for Cartifact. He notes on his blog how the most recent data provided some immediate insights into what is happening with the homeless population:

Interesting to note, though, is the way in which temperature affects the number of people on the street. It's cold outside, and has been for several days now. The count for January 15th (Monday) was down 271 people from January 2nd. It got cold and the people who could find somewhere to go did so.

And in the comments he explains why these maps are helpful:
But also this sort of visualization is vital because it tells us what trends are occurring over time. Since enforcement of Safer Cities began there has been a definite spread of homeless to areas outside of Skid Row, particularly into the Toy District, the Fashion District and into South Park. Anecdotally we see this every day, but visualizing hard data allows us to say it for certain. That sort of knowledge is important for planning strategy.
This type of mapping could be used very effectively as a basis for understanding many health and social problems in a particular geographic area. Imagine using this to map the spread of an infectious epidemic - you could easily see what direction it was moving in, what types of neighborhoods it hit the hardest, what the boundaries of a quarantine area might need to be. You could look at areas with high exercise density (where people running or walking for exercise tend to be found) and make sure there are sidewalks and crosswalks on those streets. Map out gang-related incidents to see where to concentrate your violence prevention billboards or locate your program's youth drop-in center.

I'm sure some form of mapping is occurring in many programs. The advantage of this model is that the heatmap format conveys a lot of information in a quick glance, and that it is easy to visualize changes over time. As Jerry Maguire might have said, had he been a social marketer rather than a sports agent, "Show me the data!"

(via LAObserved)


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Ten points if you can name the current Surgeon General of the United States. Ten more points if you do not work in the Department of Health and Human Services and still know the answer. Did you say Kenneth P. Moritsugu? Didn't think so. To be fair, he is the ACTING Surgeon General, and only since August. Okay then, so who was the Surgeon General before him? I couldn't have told you, even though I would like to think I'm fairly aware of these types of things. Give up? It was Richard H. Carmona. Oh, of course.

Contrast this with the name C. Everett Koop. If you were around in the 80s, you knew who he was, and probably even remember receiving his brochure about AIDS that was sent to every household in the US in 1988. Other Surgeon Generals like Joycelyn Elders, Antonia Novello and even to a lesser extent, David Satcher were somewhat familiar names to regular Americans during their terms. Also, we may not remember the name of the Surgeon General who was in office in 1964 (Luther Terry), but most of us are familiar with the "Surgeon General's Warning" that appeared on all cigarette advertising and packaging as a result of the report on smoking that came out that year. What happened to the stature and visibility of this office?

The Surgeon General is the head of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service of public health professionals who protect and promote the health of the nation. But more importantly, in my opinion, the Surgeon General is the face of public health and a symbol of the nation's commitment to protecting and improving the health of all Americans. A key part of the job is to educate the public about disease prevention and health promotion.

While I'm sure the Surgeon General keeps busy with various health promotion initiatives, we have not heard much as a public from our Surgeon Generals since George W. Bush took office. The Surgeon General should be visible and loud, not just issuing reports and press releases, but getting in our faces and showing us how to become healthier. The Surgeon General should use his bully pulpit to exhort people to prepare for local disasters, to get their flu shots, to exercise and eat right. The potential impact of the office is being squandered.

President Bush needs to make it a priority to appoint a Surgeon General for the new term who will get in front of the public and be the spokesperson for public health that we need. Is C. Everett Koop still available?


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links for 2007-01-18
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1.17.2007

As much as I like the approach that Heifer International takes in helping donors to understand concretely what their donations pay for, others feel that the organization is being dishonest. The fine print states that the funds do not actually go toward buying a specific animal for a specific family, but are allocated as the organization sees fit. I don't have a problem with this, since I assume that the prices in the donation include administrative costs, and the money within the organization is fungible. As long as they are buying animals for people who need them, I don't really care whether they actually gave the flock of chicks I donated or instead applied the same funds toward a sheep for someone who needed that more.

Think Personality relates the story of Philip Greenspun, who wanted to donate a water buffalo but also wanted to make sure that it was more than a symbolic contribution. Robert Thompson, an American violinist living in a small town in Yunnan, China, read Philip's blog about this. He left a comment saying that he went out to the fields and asked local farmers whether a water buffalo would be a good gift (they wholeheartedly endorsed the idea). Robert offered to purchase a buffalo on Philip's behalf and find a suitable family to give it to, and they made arrangements for him to do so.

Robert made an amazing video of the process of finding and purchasing the water buffalo and delivering it to the needy family. The touching scenes of the elderly matriarchs of the family of four generations being overcome with emotion at the gift, the scenery of the Chinese countryside, and Robert's soundtrack (an instrumental version of, fittingly enough, "How to Save a Life") are all reasons to watch this video. See if you can choke back that lump in your throat at the end.

It's a heartwarming story of how blogs can connect people, how one person can make a huge difference in a family's life, and how you don't need to give to a charity to give charity.


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This amazing picture of second trimester triplets in the womb is part of a series of 4D ultrasound scans created for a National Geographic special. Sometimes pictures truly do speak louder than words, and who can doubt that a pregnant woman seeing a picture like this of her own baby would bond even more than she might otherwise with the moving bump in her tummy. When social marketers promote prenatal care and healthy habits for mothers-to-be (e.g., not smoking or drinking alcohol, eating nutritiously, etc.), pictures like these can help to make that abstract baby more real. If the technology gets to the point that everybody's 18-week ultrasound is this detailed (and not just those who can go to the boutique ultrasound storefronts), I think we will see women being even more conscientious about how well they take care of themselves (and thereby their babies) during pregnancy.


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Is it just me, or is comedy just not as funny anymore? I went to a comedy club in Hollywood last night for the first time in I don't know how long (well, to give you an idea, the last time I went, smoking was still allowed in the clubs in California). In the B.K. era (Before Kids), I had gone to many comedy shows and remember laughing so hard it felt like my sides were going to split. In contrast, last night there were a few guffaws, but the rest were small giggles, if that. So that the night did not go entirely to waste, I'll use it as blog fodder to relay some marketing principles that you can apply whether you are using humor in your campaigns or not.
  • Freebies can help you get customers. We chose the club we went to because it offered free admission before 9 pm on Sunday nights. But with the two-drink minimum, the club still made money instead of having two empty seats. Plus, with more people in the room, the comedians perform better, which improves the overall product and presumably makes people want to return another time. By giving a little, they get a lot.
  • Use your internal resources wisely. The first part of the evening showcased some of the comedy club's staff, who are mostly struggling comedians hoping for their big break. Each person had about 5 minutes on stage, and we must have seen at least 10-15 people in that time. Some were funnier than others, but from the club's point of view they get an unending stream of hungry comics wanting to work for them, as well as the possibility of being able to say that they discovered the next big star. Do you have staff who could be more involved in improving and marketing your product in ways beyond their job titles?
  • Shock value is overrated. Having seen so many stand-ups perform one after the other, the truism emerged that the number of swear words in the act was inversely proportional to how funny the person was. Dropping F-bombs seemed to be the fall-back position when someone did not have much talent. In marketing, companies are sometimes tempted to do flashy publicity stunts when they don't have much of substance to back them up. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that getting people's attention for a moment is all you need to do to be successful.
  • Pay close attention to your audience. A good comedian is constantly gauging the audience's response to his material and adjusting how it's being delivered. When one joke falls flat, he can take a different tack, changing the topic or energy level or making a joke about how much of a dud the previous joke was. Good marketers also need to constantly evaluate and readjust how they are delivering their campaigns, based on the audience's reactions.
  • Connect with the familiar. The jokes that were the funniest (to me, at least - I don't know about that weird guy in the row in front of us who howled at everything) were the ones about everyday life. These were things like driving in LA, having kids, having to put the airplane tray tables in a locked and upright position (or else the plane will crash!). Somehow the jokes about transvestite hookers just didn't connect with me as much. Use the situations or ideas that are most familiar to your audience to make your point.
  • Don't bury the lede. After sitting through umpteen different comedians, we were ready to leave around 11:30 even though the show was scheduled to go until 2 am. We got up and stepped out the door just before we heard the MC introduce the next act -- Andrew Dice Clay. I don't know that I would have particularly cared to see him perform, but at least he was someone I had heard of. If the club had wanted to keep people from leaving early, they could have given a hint that someone well-known would be coming on soon. While it's good to use the lure of the unexpected to keep people's attention, if you wait too long, you may lose their interest.
Maybe someone should start a Comedy Marketing School, like they have Comedy Traffic School. But I think next time I'm in the mood to laugh I'll go see an improv troupe like the Groundlings now that I've seen the state of stand-up. And I'll bet there are a slew of other marketing lessons that we could draw from them.

Photo Credit: stephanieontour



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1.12.2007



A nice reminder that we are always traveling through time. Look! Out there! It's the future!

from xkcd
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1.11.2007



It being January 11th, you would think that a holiday gift that arrived today would be considered a little late. Well, that depends which holiday you're thinking about.

Today I received a package in the mail from the team at Personality, the cause marketing agency based here in LA. It was a holiday gift... for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is coming up on Monday. In the box was a "Dream Vocabulary Kit," based on those magnetic poetry sets made up of words on magnets that can be arranged to form phrases of your choice. In this case, the words are taken from several of Dr. King's writings and speeches, with an accompanying guide to some of the quotes that can be recreated (e.g., "The time is always right to do what is right," "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter," part of his "I have a dream" speech, etc.).

What a creative and appropriate gift, which fits so well with their mission and brand. Thanks to Brian and the rest of the Personality team for the inspiration. Buzz well-deserved. Check out their blog, which is chock-full of cause marketing news and commentary (and the hint they sent out about this gift).


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Is anyone else experiencing problems with Commentful? The site hasn't been accessible for the past few days, and I can't find a peep online about it. I've switched over to coComment -- too bad because I liked Commentful. (FYI, for those who don't know what I'm talking about, these are services that help track discussions in comments that you have left on other blogs.)

This does not bode well for Commentful, when the people who are presumably their biggest users -- and who do not hesitate to comment about things loudly and in public -- do not seem to care enough about the service to mention its absence.

[UPDATE (6 pm):] Looks like the Commentful website and service is finally working, but after 3 or 4 days without it, I had given up on them. Their blog is giving error messages, so I don't know if they have an explanation. And now that I've started using CoComment, I'm finding I like it. Hmm...

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Social marketers use the tools of commercial marketing, but we face additional challenges that a business marketing its products or services probably does not need to address. I write about these challenges in my column today at Marketing Profs Daily Fix:
Back in the 50s, Gerhart Wiebe asked the question "Why can't you sell brotherhood like you sell soap?" and thus the field of social marketing was born.

This question has formed the basis of wide-ranging efforts addressing issues like preventing youth smoking, promoting mammography, staving off bacterial infections from chitterlings, stopping domestic violence, encouraging physical activity and healthy eating habits, touting recycling and many more successful campaigns....

(I'm not including cause marketing here, which usually involves the purchase of commercial products, and benefits a partnering nonprofit.)

So, is the answer that brotherhood and soap are, indeed, pretty much equivalent products to be marketed? Well, yes and no.

Yes, in that we can think about healthy or pro-social behaviors as products we want people to adopt and use. Purchasing a commercial product is a behavior too. We can use the same marketing tools to promote colonoscopies as Coke uses to sell its colas.

But there are some key differences that social marketers run into that complicate the transfer of the business marketing model to selling health and social behaviors.
Read the rest of the article at the Daily Fix to find out what some of those differences are, and some ideas for how to address those challenges.

While you are over at the Marketing Profs site, come join in on the Book Club discussion (free registration req.) about Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba's new book Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message. It's about the brave new world of social media that's empowering ordinary people to influence and promote their favorite brands (or out problems with their not so favorite brands) by creating their own content. I will be soon be reviewing the book here from the point of view of how to apply its concepts to social marketing. I've posted a discussion question at the Book Club to try to collect some examples of how citizen marketing has been used to promote health and social issues. Come on over and put in your two cents and learn more about this great book.

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1.10.2007

I had never paid much attention to MyBlogLog, even with the announcement that it was just bought by Yahoo, until I saw an example of what a blog community's page looked like on the site because someone had clicked here from it. I was intrigued at the idea of being able to find out more about the people reading my blog and discovering new sites that my readers frequent. Presumably, someone who is interested in my content would be looking at other things I might want to know about too.

On MyBlogLog, you can join a blog's community as a member, see who else has joined, leave messages, and explore what other likeminded people are interested in. I have seen other sites with the "Recent Readers" widget (see green box in my sidebar), but didn't realize how many people are MyBlogLog members until I put the code on my site and started seeing people coming through immediately.

So let's try this out. If you're a MyBlogLog member, or if you would like to become one, go to the Spare Change community page and click on "Join Community." We can get to know each other and discover some new sites together. What do you think?

***

And speaking of community, one of my fellow bloggers, Nancy Schwartz of Getting Attention, is asking for your input through a survey she is conducting on nonprofit communication trends. Take the survey here within the next week or two, and Nancy will be reporting back on what she finds so we can all benefit from pooling our combined knowledge.


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Guy Kawasaki just posted an interview with Chip and Dan Heath of Made to Stick fame. It's definitely worth a read.

For fun, he's put together the Stickiness Aptitude Test (SAT), for you to see how well you are applying the concepts from the book. Not all questions will be applicable to your specific situation, but you can get an idea of how to interpret them by seeing the point value scores listed by each answer.

Sometimes the right answers are counterintuitive:
Is there someone on your marketing team who fundamentally does not understand the technology that underlies your idea?
  • Yes (bonus + 4 points)
  • No (0 points)
  • (This relates to the "Curse of Knowledge" that makes it harder for you to communicate your idea clearly when you know so much about the subject that you can't conceive of not understanding its basic underlying concepts.)

    And sometimes the questions pinpoint some key approaches to use to make your idea stickier:
    Can you describe your idea in the way Hollywood directors often pitch their movies, with a simple analogy? (E.g., the movie that became Alien was pitched as “Jaws on a spaceship.”)
  • Yes (+ 2 points)
  • No (0 points)
  • (People can understand your idea better when it's connected to something they already are familiar with.)

    Even if you haven't read the book yet, take the SAT and you'll probably learn at least one new thing that you can start applying right away.


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    1.08.2007

    And we go from talking about celebrity spokespeople to looking at peer role models. Real people who have made positive changes in their lives can be great motivators of change in others. Of course, this is classic Bandura. His Social Learning Theory says that when we observe someone else engaging in a behavior and receiving positive consequences as a result, especially if the role model is similar to ourselves, we are much more likely to try out that behavior as well.

    This is why GlaxoSmithKline only sought out actors for its commercials for NicoDerm patches who were smokers or former smokers. And why its new campaign for Commit nicotine lozenges will follow four real people over 13 weeks as they attempt to quit smoking. Watching someone else struggling with quitting and succeeding provides much more useful information in someone's own attempts than inauthentic actors reading lines.

    And this is why one woman was able to inspire her community to lose 8,000 pounds. I recently received a prepublication copy of a book called From Fat to Fit - Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction. The author, Carole Carson, relates the story of how her own efforts to lose weight (62 lbs.), which were chronicled in her local newspaper, turned into a community-wide fitness campaign called the Nevada County Meltdown. This effort -- run entirely on a free, volunteer and ad-hoc basis -- involved over 1,000 participants, who lost nearly four tons of weight in eight weeks.

    Now, with Carole's book coming out in April, she is offering her guidance to another community to replicate the success they experienced in Nevada County (Calif.). She is sponsoring a contest to select the next Community Meltdown location. If you are a professional working on obesity prevention, or if you are a motivated individual who wants to help members of your community become healthier, think about entering the contest -- all it takes is a 2-minute VHS or DVD spot on why your community should win, along with a 150-word written plan. You don't get any funding for it, but you do get the benefit of Carole's experience and lessons learned. And hurry, because the deadline is January 30, 2007.


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    For 2007, I'm trying to improve my own health as well as the health of my blog. To that end, I have been wrestling with my feed to try to slim it down. After several programming frustrations, getting into the intricacies of xml that I never wanted to know, I think I've fixed it. If you've noticed the feed not working right for you (especially if you use Bloglines) for the past couple of days, I think it should be okay now.

    I am putting my feed on a diet, narrowing it down to just the Feedburner feed and taking away the atom and rss options for new subscribers. Don't worry, the Feedburner SmartFeed will work with any feed reader or application you want to throw at it.

    If you are already subscribed to this blog via an atom or rss feed, I would love it if you would upgrade your subscription by just clicking on the orange feed icon here or in the right sidebar, or if you use Firefox you can click on the orange feed image in the URL box of your browser. This will give you some added features at the bottom of each post, and will help me keep track of how many subscribers I have (because I love each and every one of you). It only takes a second (okay, maybe three).

    If you are not yet a subscriber and don't want to have to bookmark and manually check for new posts, I encourage you to subscribe to the feed. If you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about with all this feed stuff (especially after talking about putting the blog on a diet), here's a great introduction to how it works and some recommendations for feed readers you can use (and don't worry, even though the article talks about RSS, it also applies to Feedburner's feed as well).

    Enough housekeeping. Back to social marketing!

    [UPDATE: Fri 1 pm PST: Bloglines is still not showing the corrected feed, and I have an email in to them to fix it. Should be soon.]
    [UPDATE: Mon 9 am PST: Thanks to everyone who updated/started your subscriptions. New posts are showing up correctly in Bloglines now, but some older ones are still truncated and out of order. It shouldn't affect you unless you are looking back at older posts via the feed reader, in which case you should just come directly to the blog.]

    Photo Credit: Omnia
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    Nowadays you can't go a week without hearing some celebrity talking about a health or social issue -- either their own medical problem or one they feel is important enough to comment on. Generally, this is a good thing because it raises awareness, which may lead to changes in public behavior. Laura Bush recently publicized her own bout with skin cancer, which will hopefully have the effect of increasing awareness of skin cancer prevention and screening. Lance Armstrong may have singlehandedly caused hundreds of cases of testicular cancer to be caught early (pun not intended!), by speaking out about his own experience and encouraging men to screen themselves. Katie Couric felt so strongly about the importance of being screened for colon cancer after her husband died from it that she had an on-air colonoscopy on the Today Show, increasing nationwide testing by 20%.

    But what do you do when celebrities make public statements about an issue that are just plain wrong, and even worse, detrimental to your cause? Tom Cruise's spoutings off about postpartum depression being merely the result of insufficient exercise and vitamins may have prevented women suffering from the condition to avoid antidepressants or psychiatric treatment that would help them. Anna Nicole Smith endorsed weight-loss drug TrimSpa, for which its marketers were recently fined millions of dollars for deceptive advertising claims. Madonna certainly brought attention to the issue of child adoption, but should she serve as a model for potential adoptive parents? (Angelina Jolie doesn't think so!)

    Bob Brody of Ogilvy has a useful guide on how to create celebrity health campaigns. But how do you do damage control when a celebrity not affiliated with your program spouts off nonsense? For better or worse, when celebrities speak, people listen. Certainly not everybody cares what Paris Hilton or Brad Pitt has to say, but perhaps it's more likely to be those who do not have the basic health or science knowledge to realize that the beautiful people are speaking bunk.

    A British organization called Sense About Science is taking on these celebrity self-appointed advocates and armchair scientists who claim to know the real truth (Tom Cruise: "Here's the problem. You don't know the history of psychiatry. I do... There is no such thing as a chemical imbalance."), by offering good science and promoting respect for evidence on issues ranging from alternative medicine to bird flu, stem cell research and genetic modification of crops. (via Instapundit)

    The incorrect statements need to be countered with logic and peer-reviewed research, indeed, but social marketing efforts can take advantage of the celebrity's status to get out accurate information. Using the story of what the celebrity said as a news peg for your own information gives a reporter both the lure of being able to write about that celebrity again and to cover the conflict and controversy -- especially if yours is a well-respected organization taking on a popular personality. And don't just talk to the media, but contact the person who is spreading the inaccurate information and offer the benefit of your expertise so that if they truly do want to be an effective advocate, they will be able to speak from a position of real authority rather than the flimsy spotlight of the red carpet.

    Right now, I'm reading a book sent to me by the publisher called When Illness Goes Public: Celebrity Patients and How We Look at Medicine by Barron H. Lerner, which I think will speak to some of these issues. I'll revisit this topic once I've had a chance to get through the book.

    Photo Credit: nicklee



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    1.05.2007

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    1.02.2007



    Last week was my dad's birthday. I had gone up and down the aisles at Target to try to get ideas, wracked my brain, and still could not figure out what to buy for the man who has everything. There was nothing he needed, and anything he might want and didn't already have was probably out of my price range anyways.

    So I decided to make a donation in his honor. But to which of the many worthy causes out there? I wanted to pick an organization I hadn't donated to before, and one that would make a real difference in someone's life. I had a vague memory of having seen Beth Kanter riding a cow in a virtual representation of a gift catalog that I thought was for Heifer International (but now that I look at it, it's actually for World Vision). I liked the idea of donating toward something tangible like an animal, so I went to Heifer International's website, where they have a selection of animals you can choose to go to a family who will raise them and earn a livelihood from them. I selected a flock of chicks and a flock of geese for him, downloaded a card, and was pleased with myself for the original idea.

    A couple of nights after I had given my dad the card that explained the gift, which he seemed to like, we had dinner at his house. I overheard my stepsister say something to him about the flock of chicks and flock of ducks.

    "It was geese," I called from the next room.

    "No, it was ducks," Michelle said.

    "No, we gave him a flock of chicks and a flock of geese," I said. Why would she be so insistent about it, when I knew perfectly well what we had given him?

    Michelle hesitated, with a strange look on her face. "WE gave him a flock of chicks and a flock of ducks."

    We looked at each other as the realization dawned on us that we had given him almost exactly the same gift. "Heifer International?" I asked, a smile growing on my face. Hilarity ensued, and we both laughed so hard we couldn't breathe.

    My dad hadn't said anything to either of us about the gifts that he had received, because he figured one of us must have mentioned it to the other, who made the faux pas of using the same gift idea, and didn't want to embarrass us. Michelle had read about Heifer in Rachael Ray's magazine and liked the idea. We had never talked about it until that night.

    If the two of us independently came up with this gift, I have a feeling that Heifer International did quite well this holiday season. The reason I think their gift catalog is so appealing is because the results of the donations are made so concrete. Rather than giving money that goes to an organization's very intangible general fund, no matter how good a cause it is, people like to be able to picture what they are funding.

    This does not just apply to nonprofit fundraising. In social marketing programs, in which we are trying to persuade people to take action to improve their health (a vague notion until you don't have it) or to "save the world," we need to think about how to make the product concrete. So, for example, a program to prevent osteoporosis needs to go beyond selling "healthy bones." Of course, that's something everyone would want. But the idea of healthy bones doesn't connect with most people's lives. But talk to a senior about maintaining her independence by avoiding the dreaded hip fracture, and that will resonate.

    "Save energy" is a vague generality, but talking about turning off the light in a room as you leave it, or about buying and installing compact fluorescent lightbulbs to replace your regular bulbs, provides a concrete, easy to understand action.

    Try to create a picture in people's minds of what the action or product will look like in their lives. Ground your descriptions in the senses to make the product come alive. Whether you are "selling" a flock of chicks or trying to get chicks to use your Flock, keep it real and concrete to be successful.

    Oh, and a belated blog-borne happy birthday, Daddy. :-)


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    And...I'm back. After sequestering myself from the blog so I could get some actual work done, I am ready to jump back in.

    The butterflies have emerged from their chrysalids, with the last one coming out yesterday. Sadly, two of the butterflies have crumpled wings and won't be able to fly (on the plus side, that means my daughter can keep them as "pets" without feeling guilty about not letting them go free). And one has a predilection for lying on its side and playing dead, but moving around when prodded. Maybe he's just lazy?

    Speaking of metamorphoses, I'm very excited to let you know that the Weinreich Communications website has been completely overhauled, and you can check out the new design now. Yes, it's about time. Let me know what you think. Eventually, this blog will get a makeover as well.

    Since I wasn't blogging regularly last week, here are a couple of things to check out:
    • Liz at Virtualpolitik came out with the winners (losers?) of the Foley Awards, her round-up of the worst uses of technology by policymakers in the past year. I weighed in on the social marketing category.
    • The Mobile Persuasion conference that's going to be happening at Stanford in February looks exciting. Speakers include "the world's experts on persuasive games, mobile commerce, mobile health, mobile dating, and more." If I can make it up there, I would love to attend.
    And for some reason, my recent del.icio.us links didn't get picked up automatically and added to the blog, so here they are:
    • The doctor is in - The Boston Globe
      TV doctors may be fictional, but viewers still listen carefully to what they say
    • Discovering the Activation Point
      A downloadable publication for people in social change organizations that focuses on strategies for mobilizing concerned people to supportive action by identifying and leveraging their activation points. (via Guy Kawasaki)
    • Shared media contacts database
      The Media Volunteer Project lets people from the nonprofit community share their own media contact information in exchange for access to everyone else's information.
    Alrighty, I think we're all caught up now. More to come soon.

    Photo credit: Today is a good day
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