Day 22 – Marketing’s Unique Role

November 2, 2010

Differentiate marketing’s unique role from that of fundraising.

The better I define marketing’s niche within my organization, the more effective I am in producing results.

To help clarify my unique role as a marketer, I regularly ask myself, “What do I do that no one else can do as well?” On a departmental level, I also ask, “What contribution does marketing make that cannot be made as effectively anywhere else?”

Too often in nonprofit organizations, marketing and communications are relegated to be subordinate to fundraising. In my opinion, such an organizational alignment weakens marketing’s effectiveness and ultimately hampers the organization’s success in fulfilling its mission.

Granted, marketing must support fundraising, but the two are not one in the same. Marketing is a unique profession separate from that of raising money. Kivi Leroux Miller, in her excellent book The Nonprofit Marketing Guide, says:

Although you can have successful long-term (nonprofit) marketing campaigns that don’t involve fundraising, you cannot have successful long-term fundraising campaigns without marketing. Marketing and communications are how you talk to your donors in between those times when you ask for money.

My efforts as a professional marketer can result in donors being more engaged, volunteers giving of themselves in more meaningful ways and customers making better purchasing decisions.

As I think about the unlimited potential of a differentiated marketing program, I find renewed energy. I am professionally rejuvenated.

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Day 16 – Collaboration with National Leaders

October 27, 2010

Engage in interactive conversations with my national leaders.

Our national headquarters in Washington D.C. is staffed by a solid team of marketing and communications leaders who “know their stuff.”

Though I’ve only exchanged e-mails with our national president and CEO, Gail McGovern, I have great confidence in her leadership. I’m also proud of the fact that she left her position as a marketing professor at Harvard University to become our national leader. How cool is that!

Gail is surrounded by professionals who have a lot to share. I mostly interact with those who work in marketing, communications, public affairs and financial development.

Nationally, the Red Cross is becoming one seamless organization, much more so than any other major nonprofit I’m familiar with. I am pleased that our process of becoming “one Red Cross” does not feel like a top-down, dictatorial directive. Rather, it’s a highly-interactive process led by our national leaders. We connect using frequent conference calls, webinars and training sessions. Project leaders solicit considerable input from the field.

As we move forward, I’m eager to continue interacting with people I like and respect.

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Day 2 – My Personal Mission

October 13, 2010

Review my personal mission statement.

I‘ve spent quiet moments reflecting on my purpose in life. In so doing, I have come to realize that my personal mission is to:

  1. Understand the world around me.
  2. Create order from within the apparent chaos.
  3. Share unconditionally the abundance in my life.

I especially find it invigorating to see how my personal mission aligns with my work as a marketing professional. Any good marketer, after all:

  1. Seeks to understand by listening, asking lots of questions, reading and conducting some type of market research.
  2. Creates content, tells stories and produces materials to help consumers navigate through the chaos of a noisy market place.
  3. Shares ideas using a variety of traditional and new media, helping individuals to make good decisions and wise purchases.

Life is great when one’s personal mission aligns with a noble career calling (such as nonprofit marketing).

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Day 1 – The Marketing Mission

October 12, 2010

Review the mission statement of the marketing department.

The first thing I do when confused or needing motivation is to ask myself, “Why I’m doing this? What’s the purpose? What is my mission?”

When I began working at the American Red Cross four years ago, I clarified the role of our marketing and communication function, articulating that our mission is to:

  1. Build and strengthen interactive relationships with key audiences.
  2. Increase community support of the local chapter.
  3. Generate revenue, both philanthropic and earned income.

Amidst the rush of our frenetic daily activities, that mission continues to anchor me and my team as we work on a variety of important projects.

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Quotes I Love

September 29, 2010

Quotations inspire me. They focus me. They motivate me.

I like the way an eloquent quote can elegantly reflect the light of resplendent wisdom. To me, each quotation has special value.

I collect quotes as a gem collector might gather precious stones. Like gemstones, quotes were never meant to be hoarded and stored in a dark, out-of-sight vault. Rather, they are most appreciated when shared and displayed for the enrichment of all.

If you also appreciate quotes, I invite you to meander through this collection of my favorites, categorized by these topics:

  1. Being Creative
  2. Planning and Goal Setting
  3. Being a Leader
  4. Learning, Teaching and Being Well Educated
  5. Understanding Life’s Transitions
  6. Marketing Effectively
  7. Achieving Success
  8. Creating a Compelling Vision
  9. Overcoming Adversity
  10. Chuckling with Yogi

A Manifesto for Team Performance

September 8, 2010

To achieve success, members of any marketing team must be united by a compelling vision and a shared set of beliefs.

With a commitment to teamwork, I invite you to join me in believing and internalizing the following affirmations:

  1. We are inspired by the mission of our team.
  2. As we visualize the role of marketing within the organization, we are proud to be a part of an exceptional consulting team working on projects that really matter.
  3. We value diversity within our group, knowing that each of us makes a unique contribution.
  4. We build synergy whereby the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In so doing, we recognize the interdependence of every member of the team.
  5. When the spotlight is on one of us individually, we appreciate and acknowledge the contributions made by our teammates, knowing that success is usually a team effort.
  6. We celebrate when another member of the team excels. After all, we know that one teammate’s success reflects positively on the entire group.
  7. When something goes wrong, we avoid pointing fingers and assigning blame. Instead, we join hands to seek solutions and to look for the learning embedded within the situation.
  8. We assume positive intentions on the part of others. In circumstances where there is a potential for misunderstanding, we proactively seek clarification.
  9. We are loyal to other members of the team, especially in their absence. We focus on the positive, affirming attributes of co-workers and teammates.
  10. We always operate from an abundance mentality that seeks win-win solutions. We refuse to believe that our win implies a loss for someone else, knowing that a scarcity mentality spawns fear, competitiveness and retaliation.



A Manifesto for Being Visionary and Strategic

August 25, 2010

Helen Keller was right when she said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.”

Everyone, it seems, talks about the importance of having a vision, but very few people have a vivid picture of what they hope their future will look like.

With a commitment to being visionary and strategic, I invite you to join me in believing  that:

  1. The effectiveness of a vision statement can be measured by its ability to inspire us to rally around a shared picture of what can be—and must be—our new reality.
  2. A compelling vision is future-focused and usually threatens those deeply vested in the status quo.
  3. Progress always requires change, but not all change is progress.
  4. Where there is no vision, people perish.
  5. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
  6. Tactics not tied to strategy are nothing more than busywork.
  7. When you and I are not pursuing the same goal, then we are not on the same team.
  8. When you and I focus on the same goal from different vantage points, we have stereoscopic vision that gives us better depth perception.
  9. Every project can be improved by periodically asking, “Why are we doing this?”
  10. We must, as Stephen Covey says, begin with the end in mind.


A Manifesto for Marketing Success

August 18, 2010

Marketing is not as complicated as some want you to think. Good marketing is based upon common sense, though such sense is uncommon.

With a commitment to successful marketing, I invite you to join me in believing  that:

  1. Marketing will flounder when not in pursuit of a measurable goal.
  2. If a product, service or even a person cannot be differentiated, it cannot be marketed.
  3. Marketing will fail unless strategy drives tactics, not vice versa.
  4. Marketing must be based upon the concept of exchanges. Without a quid-pro-quo exchange, we will never have a solid marketing program.
  5. Value can be defined only by the customer, not by the company producing the product or service. (Nonprofit organizations especially have trouble with this.)
  6. The social media revolution is the best thing to happen to marketing in a long, long time, even though the tools for achieving marketing success have forever changed.
  7. Old-school marketers who try to control the message will become increasingly frustrated, disoriented and ultimately obsolete.
  8. You are still functioning in a 1.0 world—even if you’re using 2.0 tools—when you are not creating community and engaging people in conversations.
  9. If we aim our message at no one in particular, we shouldn’t be surprised if no one in particular responds.
  10. Communications comes at the end of the marketing process, not at the beginning.


My Week in Greensburg after the Deadly Tornado

May 4, 2010

Three years ago tonight an exceptionally violent tornado destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg, Kansas. With winds more than 200 miles an hour, the rare EF-5 twister claimed 10 fatalities in this town of 1,400. The tornado was 1.7 miles wide and it flattened nearly 1,000 homes and destroyed almost all businesses. Additionally, thousands of picture albums, family heirlooms and other irreplaceable possessions were lost forever.

For seven nights and eight days I represented the American Red Cross in its disaster relief efforts. My role as a Public Affairs Supervisor provided me with unusual access to the restricted areas. When I first parked my Red Cross vehicle, I walked through what was left of the town and saw firsthand the widespread devastation. Block after block after block, houses and businesses were gone. Thick steels bars were wrapped around the stumps of huge oak trees. Cars were upside down under layers of brick, wood and concrete. The drug store, the local café and the post office had been blown away.

I took nearly 500 pictures, though they inadequately captured the magnitude of the devastation. Without using clichés I found it difficult to describe the destruction. Yes, it looked like a war zone. From its appearance, the town could have been leveled by a huge bomb.

Community Connectedness

The people of Greensburg lost everything, or so it seemed to me as an observer. Yet they were grateful for what they had – their lives, their families, and each other. What impressed me most about this rural Kansas community was the incredible human spirit. These hardy individuals rose to the occasion. Despite their loss, the townspeople stood strong. From across the nation, they were surrounded by strangers who were united in one common cause – helping the storm victims to heal and to rebuild their lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Raising Awareness Is Not a Marketing Goal

April 21, 2010

After all these years, I continue to be disappointed when I hear someone suggest that a communications objective is “to raise awareness.” I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve been in a meeting and someone profoundly states, “We just need to get the word out. We need to let the public know about us.”

Let me emphatically state:  Raising awareness is NOT a marketing goal. It is a means to an end and should always be regarded as a tactic in support of some higher-level strategy.

Earlier this month I listened as a nonprofit communicator talked about media relations. She used examples from her organization to talk about writing press releases, pitching stories to the news media and developing relationships with reporters and assignment editors. I was tempted to quibble with her implied assumption that the traditional media are not waning in significance. When someone asked about social media, she brushed off the “new media” as not being serious forms of communication. I couldn’t disagree more, but I’ll save that rant for another occasion.

What I found troubling was that this PR practitioner was operating efficiently at a tactical level, yet she was unable to tie her tactics to any strategy. We spent 90 minutes bumping into trees without once having seen the forest. I wanted to see the big picture. I wanted to know the impact of her communications tactics. When asked what she hoped to accomplish by raising awareness of her organization, she talked about the warm, fuzzy feelings that would be evoked in the general public. Still unclear, I asked what she wanted the audience to do with those “warm, fuzzy feelings.” She was at a loss for a solid answer.

Creating warm, fuzzy feelings is not a marketing goal. That’s a means to an end. Warm emotions can only have an impact when accompanied by a call to action resulting in someone actually taking the desired action.

Communicators are naive if they hope their CEOs will be impressed with only soft, warm and immeasurable results. Those communicators will be vulnerable targets when downsizing occurs. Only those who create results and can demonstrate their impact will be of ongoing value to an organization. Everyone else is just a drain on the organization’s precious resources.

So, I will close with this simple question:  What impact do you hope your communications will have?

If your answer is “to raise awareness” I would challenge you to dig deeper by asking, “What do I want someone to do with his or her increased awareness?”

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