Spare Change

making a difference with social marketing
by Nedra Kline Weinreich

Imagine my surprise as I followed a link from my ego feed and found that my blog is featured on a "TV show." The International Charity Association Network (iCAN), an organization that serves as an umbrella for Canadian nonprofits providing food and education, creates video programming on its Charity Television website.

The current program highlights five blogs that discuss nonprofit and philanthropy-related issues. Besides mine, the program talks about Have Fun * Do Good, the DC Goodwill Fashionista Blog, Cause-Related Marketing, and Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog. Though the quick-change editing and camera angles are somewhat disconcerting, and the sexy hostess lady seems more suited to Firebrand TV, it was interesting to see one nonprofit's take on online video programming. (Though two strikes against her, pronouncing both my first and last names wrong!)

Speaking of Firebrand, if you haven't seen it yet, it's an interesting bit of niche programming. It's all commercials, all the time, with MTV-like "commercial jockeys" or CJs (including, yes, a sexy hostess lady) that pop up from time to time in between the ads. The site is strangely compelling, and they have definitely compiled some of the most clever and artistic spots here. It's a great place to learn what makes a TV commercial watchable. The site is a brandseeker's paradise, but there are examples of social advertising mixed in, such as spots from PSI, the American Lung Association, the Ad Council, Know AIDS/HIV, and others. It would be great if they added more social marketing ads and grouped them together in one category. The question is whether anyone but ad industry people are watching.

On the far other end of the programming spectrum is the Starfish Television Network, currently found on the Dish Network and streaming online. This time it's all nonprofits, all the time. Organizations can submit their video material to appear in the programming, which runs anywhere from about two minutes to an hour long. If you're a nonprofit with video you want to broadcast, take a look at the guidelines to submit your spots and get some free exposure.

Looking at today's programs, for example, the broad mix includes things like the High Five Challenge (a TV game show that "recognizes and rewards today's good kids, making smart choices"), a 5-minute spot about the 2007 Hollywood Arts Gift of Light fundraising event, short pieces on various scout values (e.g., bravery, kindness, etc.), a music video inspired by children with autism, a video called The Go-Getter that is "the story of one man's refusal to give up even when faced with overwhelming obstacles," 7 minutes about the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, and a 20-minute show about the medical team from Operation Smile traveling to India to provide free cleft palate surgeries for children. I'm sure sure some of this programming is wonderful and watchable, but I'm just as sure that there are some incredibly boring videos that nobody but the organizations' staff want to see. So, the question again is whether anyone is watching this channel but nonprofit industry people. I would love to know. I have heard that professional producers will be creating programming specifically for the Starfish Network, so hopefully that will help.

When it comes down to it, as much as people might care about a particular cause, they are not going to sit through a boring video when they could be doing something more entertaining. For social marketers who are considering creating a video for distribution online, Ad Age just ran a great article about ten lessons for creating a viral video (which the author, top YouTube producer Kevin Nalts, aptly points out is not a viral video if nobody wants to share it).

Nonprofits should be exploiting this medium for all it's worth, given that it costs relatively little to hire some of the most-watched Youtubers to produce a piece for you, and expectations for production values (read: budgets) are much lower than for broadcast television. In the end, though, it all boils down to whether you have something that people enjoy watching -- though it may have a message embedded, the top three criteria for viral success are: entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.

UPDATE: I just came across this story from the Agitator highlighting an excellent report on nonprofits' use of online video from the Chronicle of Philanthropy with several great examples of nonprofits that are doing just what I was talking about!

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After about 2 months of not posting a Tip Jar roundup (less blogging=more sleep, which I've decided is healthier than less sleep), I've saved up enough links to fill a barrel. I'll try not to overwhelm you with them, and have selected only the finest of the lot. Before I let them sit around long enough to age in the barrel, I'm going to get this first batch out and try to post more very soon (it's already been a week since I started writing this post).
  • If you have a great idea for spurring positive social change, consider applying for the Echoing Green fellowship, which provides up to $90,000 of seed money and technical support to make the vision a reality. But don't wait too long to act -- the applications for the 2008 program are due December 3rd.
  • Nora Barnes and Eric Mattson at U Mass Dartmouth surveyed the 200 largest nonprofits and found that they are adopting social media at a much faster pace than the business world, with 75 percent using some form of social media like blogs, social networking sites, podcasts, wikis or other formats. Makes a lot of sense, given that these tools are mostly free or low-cost, and yet so effective.
  • Via Beth, I found out about the Advocacy Progress Planner, a click-and-go tool to create a logic model to plan policy-focused advocacy campaigns. I would love to see something like this for social marketing programs, but our issues and strategies are not that simple and straightforward. At least, a well-designed social marketing program based on research with the target audience could not just click a few choices and be ready to go. The model is quite appealing though -- perhaps it could be used for preliminary planning.
  • It's always nice to hear or read stories about how a social marketing campaign saved someone's life. And this British Heart Foundation ad is credited with saving at least nine or ten other people as well. Of course, every life saved is worth more than the cost of the campaign, but just remember that anecdotes are not necessarily proof of effectiveness.
  • I guess this is one way to make sure that your country is full of only fit people. Not a very nice or intelligent way, but a way nonetheless.
  • Download an interesting ChangeThis Manifesto called Change the Way You Change the World, which talks about what nonprofits can do to achieve wide-scale social change. It's written by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant McLeod, authors of Forces for Good.
More soon, I hope...

Photo Credit: ltflux
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Here in the United States, we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving -- one of my very favorite holidays, with all of our family traditions. My good friend sent an email that resonated with me, and I wanted to share it here. I don't know the original attribution.
I am thankful for...
...the mess to clean up after a party
because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
...the taxes I pay
because it means that I'm employed.
...the clothes that fit a little too snug
because it means I have enough to eat.
...the child who is not cleaning his room, but is watching TV
because that means he is at home and not on the streets.
...the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot
because it means I am capable of walking.
...all the complaining I hear about our government
because it means we have freedom of speech.
...that lady behind me in synagogue who sings off key
because it means that I can hear.
...lawns that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home. huge heating bill
because it means that I am warm.
...weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day
because it means that I have been productive.
...the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours
because it means that I am alive.
...Finally, for too much email
because it means that I have friends and family who are thinking of me.
Whether or not you are celebrating this holiday, having an attitude of thankfulness is a big factor in the level of happiness you will experience in your life. I, for one, am grateful to have a large number of people who care about what I have to say. Thank you for reading and for giving me your time and attention. (I will try to be more regular about posting!)

Photo Credit: controltheweb

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The Marketori Sociali's PR operations in action.

No, I haven't been on strike in solidarity with the Writers Guild. I've been in Sicily undercover to try to learn more after police discovered the secret Mafia code of conduct upon arresting a top mob Godfather. In case you haven't seen them, the Ten Mafiosi Commandments are:
  1. No one can present himself directly to another of our friends. There must be a third person to do it.
  2. Never look at the wives of friends.
  3. Never be seen with cops.
  4. Don't go to pubs and clubs.
  5. Always be available for Cosa Nostra, even if your wife's about to give birth.
  6. Appointments must be respected.
  7. Wives must be treated with respect.
  8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth.
  9. Money cannot be appropriated if it belongs to others or to other families.
  10. People who can't be part of Cosa Nostra are anyone with a close relative in the police, with a two-timing relative in the family, anyone who behaves badly and doesn't hold to moral values.
You may not know this, but the Mafia has an extensive (and top secret) social marketing department. And now, after weeks of living under omertà in fear of being exposed (they thought I was just a hitman with poor aim*), I can finally reveal the Marketori Sociali Ten Commandments:
  1. Do not only promote your product directly to your target audience. A third-party endorsement through word-of-mouth -- especially if it is a personal friend -- is much more effective.
  2. Never look at the wives of friends, unless they are the ones who are more influential in the family health and social behavior decisions.
  3. Never be seen with cops, unless you decide that the behaviors you are promoting are better addressed through policy and enforcement.
  4. Don't go to pubs and clubs without market research that demonstrates that those locations are the best places to reach your audience with your message.
  5. Always be available to create an environment in your casa that will facilitate behaviors like breastfeeding and putting baby to sleep on his back after your wife gives birth.
  6. Your product must be available in the right time and right place to the right people to get any respect.
  7. Wives must be treated with respect. The customer is not a moron - she is your wife.
  8. When asked for any information, the answer must be the truth. Astroturfi and marionetti di calzini are not part of the family business.
  9. Money cannot always be appropriated in exchange for adopting the product. Sometimes the price will be time, hassle, social disapproval or leaving old habits like offing people.
  10. People who can't be part of the Marketori Sociali are anyone who does not understand the audience like a close relative, who does not make an offer they can't refuse, who does not focus on how they want people to behave, or who assumes that the values of the people they are trying to reach are exactly the same as their own.
Now that I've revealed these secrets, I'm going to have to lay low for a while. I'm hoping I won't find an unexpected surprise on my pillow in the morning.

*Disclaimer: I have not, nor would I ever, take out a contract on another human being nor endorse the whacking thereof.

Photo Credit: liliumjoker

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My Washington correspondent reports that on Monday evening, the final conference report of the Labor-HHS bill was filed. She said:
I've been told that the conferees (the House-Senate negotiators) dropped the Ryan amendment - leaving funding for CDC's Entertainment Education program intact. We're pretty excited.

The House is scheduled to approve the bill on Tuesday with the Senate following suit later this week. Then the bill will be sent to the President. He is expected to veto the bill (unrelated to our issue) because it spends more money than he'd like. Then the House and Senate will have to start all over again on the same bill.

That said... I think we can declare victory. I don't think Rep. Ryan or Sen. Coburn will try to offer their amendments on a future Labor-HHS bill this year.
Yippee! She also felt that the pressure from the public health community was invaluable. So kudos to all of you who emailed, called or faxed to try to save entertainment education!

Photo Credit: paşanın yeri

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Outside of LA or New York, the writers' strike that starts today is unlikely to affect you much (at least until the studios run out of original content they already have in the can). But here in this company town, it's big news. Not only will writers and producers be affected, but the rest of the production staff -- including gaffers, key grips and best boys (and other positions that I have no clue what they do) -- will be out of work if production is put on hold.

In a nutshell, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which represents the people who write for television and movies, is striking primarily over writers not receiving fair residuals for reuse of their work on DVD or on the internet. (Am I wrong to think that should be "Writers' Guild"? Wouldn't you think the writers would know the correct punctuation?) As it currently stands, writers now get only 0.3 percent of DVD profits, and receive nothing for online distribution of their shows, such as through the network websites.

What does the strike mean for us social marketers who do outreach to Hollywood writers to promote our issues? It's not entirely clear yet, but one big change will be an increased emphasis from the networks on reality shows. Another is that web-based entertainment will likely come to the fore as bored viewers seek out new programming. Branching out and learning how to work with new media producers is imperative in any case, strike or no strike.

Lucky for the writers, the strike comes at the beginning of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and those who have always wanted to write the Great American Novel can come home from the picket line and join the over 100,000 people working to finish their 50,000-word novel by the end of the month.

Hopefully when they come back to work, there will still be people left who want to watch their shows.

Photo Credit: Neville_S

UPDATE: Here is a picture my son took of the strikers as we drove by CBS earlier today (not as many people there as I would have expected):

Photo Credit: A. Weinreich

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