The seven deadly diversions pulling you off your message

Photo of a small compassMaybe calling it “message discipline” was a mistake.

“Discipline” makes staying on-message sound like a chore, and going off-message sound like a deliberate choice, an act of rebellion. I’ve had it with your message-box rules, daddy-o. I’m sticking it to The Man.

But often when I talk to a leader or spokesperson who has gone off-message, they aren’t feeling like defiant mavericks.

Either a) they don’t realize it’s happened, or b) they felt helpless in the moment to keep it from happening: “I know the message is about pensions — but before I knew it, there I was talking about giraffe mucus.”

True, we’ve seen a few deliberate acts of rebellion — some relatively harmless, some profoundly self-sabotaging. But far more often, here’s what really throws people off-message: Read the rest of this entry »

Your best stock photo option may be DIY

Cartoon: Woman writing backwards on a window, Help! I'm trapped in an unoriginal stock photo!If you’ve ever had to search for a stock photo, you’re probably painfully aware of just how hard that can be. It’s especially difficult for labour and progressive communicators, because so much commercial stock photography caters to the business audience — which means you’re wading through a lot of smiling faces in boardrooms.

That doesn’t mean it’s hopeless (we use stock photography regularly). But you can do a lot of slogging, and wind up with a photo that only kind-of-sort-of does the job.

What’s the alternative? Becoming your own stock photo house. And having helped a number of our clients set up photo shoots and start building their own libraries, we’ve learned some useful lessons about how to do it.

We’ve distilled that advice for you in our latest NOW How, Build your own stock photo library. We’ll walk you through laying the groundwork and figuring out what photos you need the most urgently, to setting up your first shoot, to keeping your library growing.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

For your Facebook Page, stop thinking News Feed. Start thinking search engine.

magnifying glass on the Facebook News FeedIt wasn’t that long ago that when you posted something to your Facebook Page, you had a pretty decent shot of winding up in your followers’ News Feeds — that stream of stories a user sees on the Facebook home page.

How times have changed. These days, you’re competing against literally thousands of other pieces of content for a precious slot in a user’s News Feed. No wonder one study showed a typical Facebook Page post reaches only six per cent of its followers.

There’s been a lot of gnashing of teeth over this among brands and organizations. Facebook is very consciously reducing the organic reach of Page posts, and holding up paid promotion as a way to close the gap. And while it’s hard not to resent that, Facebook is a commercial enterprise, and a lot of commercial Pages have had a good, long free ride. It would be awfully nice if Facebook gave non-profits and civic organizations more unpaid profile… but don’t hold your breath.

So the days when you had a pipeline to your Facebook followers are gone. How do you adjust? Read the rest of this entry »

It’s not all about you

Man adjusting his tie in a mirrorWe’ve all been there: in that slightly hazy moment of listening to others blather on, while we wonder if they’ll ever stop talking about themselves.

People like this are annoying. So are the people who communicate like this.

No matter who your audience is – members, voters or the general public – they’re more likely to listen if you avoid talking about yourself all the time. And that means talking less about policy and process, and more about people and values. Read the rest of this entry »

When it comes to your message, the words you choose can make all the difference

global-warming-language-reportPeople who’ve worked with us know we spend a lot of time tinkering with words.

We test relentlessly: do the people you’re talking to relate to “pay”, “wages” or “salary”? “Unions,” “labour unions” or “organized labour”? Do they prefer “children” or “kids” — and when? We advise you on the language that works when you discuss the issues that matter to you most, and coach you so it becomes second nature.

Some people wonder, though: does all that work really pay off? What does it matter if you say “working people” or “families like yours,” as long as the basic idea is the same?

Turns out that sometimes, it can matter a great deal. Read the rest of this entry »

Why NOW uses ACTRA talent… and you should, too

ACTRA logoWe’re lucky to work with clients and campaigns with great stories. And when you have great stories, you want to be sure the storyteller is every bit as compelling.

That’s why we work so closely with ACTRA members to make our radio, TV and online video content. And for unions who want to get the word out, it’s the most natural fit around. Read the rest of this entry »

Rupinder: running – and speaking out – for the cure

Rupinder KangYou may know Rupinder Kang as our Director of Client Services; the woman pulling together all the threads for your ad shoot; the organizer for your communications/coaching session; or the voice on the phone calling to check in on how your campaign is going.

We know Rupinder as our coworker, our friend… and as a breast cancer survivor and fighter.

Now a lot more Canadians are going to get to know Rupinder.

Because a few weeks ago, she stepped onto the other side of the camera in an ad for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, and their Run for the Cure: Read the rest of this entry »

Vampire-proof your writing

Garlic. Lots and lots of garlic.You probably check your copy for typos and errors. But do you check it for… (dramatic chord) vampires?

Not literal vampires. Those are easy to deal with: a little sunlight and garlic, and Vlad’s your uncle.

The kind of vampires I’m talking about are a lot more insidious. They’re the words and phrases that can take a piece of vibrant writing, and suck the lifeforce out of it. Oh, the meaning’s still there… if anyone bothers reading it. But the emotional energy and power are gone, and with them, most of the impact it could have had.

But take heart, Van Helsing: these vampires may be impervious to daylight, but they don’t stand a chance against your Delete key. Here are five of the worst vampires we’ve encountered; the moment you see them in your own work, seek out and destroy. Read the rest of this entry »

New faces, new roles… and a new Toronto office!

If you thought you heard an even-louder-than usual buzz of activity at the NOW offices the last time you called us, you aren’t wrong! Read the rest of this entry »

Making a joke? Remember the audience you can’t see from the stage

Photo of a mic and crowd“Open with a joke,” people often tell public speakers. “Warm the crowd up. Get ‘em on your side.”

It can work. But mishandled, it can also be incredibly risky — and I’m not talking about not getting guffaws. The price for a lukewarm laugh from the folks in the room may be some decidedly unfunny blowback from your other audience: the one outside.

These days, you’re never just speaking to the people sitting in front of you. Whether your speech is being covered by the CBC or live-tweeted by an audience member, there’s a good chance you have others listening in. And the joke that just kills with the partisan, supportive folks in attendance can sink your reputation out in the rest of the world. Read the rest of this entry »