The Impact of Planning a Personal Retreat

I thought, a retreat wasn’t something "regular" people didbut there I found myself.

Continuing along last week's self-care theme of work/life balance being a myth, I wanted to point you to a guest post I wrote recently for the Yellow Conference on "The Impact of Planning a Personal Retreat." Now that we're entering the second quarter of 2017, I know I find myself needing to reevaluate my goals for the year, as well as the work I've done so far.

Depending on the seasons in which your organization operates, you may even already be approaching burnout. Don't let it happen! Please take an opportunity to get away and reflect on the first quarter's progress, your role, and your plans for the next eight months.

Retreats differ from vacations because they have a purpose other than "relaxing." When I plan a retreat, I usually have a couple of large goals in mind that need to be accomplished outside of my normal environment.

And retreats, whether taken by yourself or as a team, can be invaluable for gaining clarity and perspective. 

I believe those who lead cause-focused organizations can easily reach burnout or become bogged down by the mission because of the nature of the work. True, this can happen to anyone, anywhere, but when your nonprofit or business exists to solve a social problem, the work feels more urgent. And often, you know the faces of those in need. Therefore, it's difficult to take a step back, no matter how necessary it may seem.

However, it's often when you bravely set aside the time for yourself, you can actually recharge and come back to the immediate pressures more equipped and able to tackle the tasks at hand. That is something you won't regret.

Learn more about my experience with a personal retreat, as well as a few tips for planning your own: THE IMPACT OF PLANNING A PERSONAL RETREAT.


PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

I thought, a retreat wasn’t something "regular" people did—but there I found myself.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Work/Life Balance is a Myth

Work/life balance is a myth. However, work/life rhythm is guaranteed. 

Let me say it again: Work/Life balance is a myth.

Can I get an amen?

Whether you're a solopreneur, a small business owner or employee, a full-time volunteer, or the head of a multi-national corporation, you've been in search of this "white whale" for too long. And, friends, I'm here to tell you that it doesn't exist.

You've known this truth in your heart, but for so long, you dreamed of finding it—maybe at the end of the rainbow. It's kept you awake at night. You could even swear that you once met someone who said their cousin found it for a short-time, but then lost it. You've listened to podcasts, read books, joined groups, and prayed really hard, but that elusive work/life balance has continued to evade you.

Is there no hope?

Fear not. There is another . . .

Introducing: RHYTHM

I was introduced to this concept several years ago at a conference. I wish I could remember who taught it, because he/she has improved my life immensely with this idea, but sadly, I do not know who to credit.

The crux of the matter is that we can never achieve work/life balance. One will always be in conflict with the other. Despite our best efforts, it's a constant see-saw effect, and many of us tend to dip to the work side, even with our intense desire for the opposite. 

Then comes along the notion of rhythm. According to our friends at Merriam-Webster, rhythm is "movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements." 

I love the mental images this definition projects. I picture ocean waves. I find it relaxing, and that in itself is enough to make me chase this approach.

Think about it. When you consider the idea of "work/life rhythm," you are allowing for what is actually possible. And this means there is hope! 

The most basic approach is one you're probably already familiar with, and that is thinking about life in the form of seasons. By reframing your time this way, you intuitively understand that there is a beginning and end to the periods of stress and madness.

Rhythm in Work

These are the seasons we're probably more familiar with. And I'm in one of those right now. I've been up late most nights and on the weekends trying to catch up on client and personal work because I was down with the flu for a couple of weeks. So, I've been working my tail off to keep my head above water, and feel like I'm back up to speed on what I need to be doing. It's an effort to become more proactive than reactive. I'm not finished with this season yet, but I think I will be soon.

Obviously, some of these seasons last longer than others. Maybe you're in event planning mode. Maybe you have a launch right around the corner. Maybe you just had a staffer leave. Or maybe it's just one of the crazy times of year for your business. Inevitably, it happens.

The point is to hunker down, work hard, and make the best of it. No, it probably won't be fun. But it also won't last forever. The wave is crashing on the shore all around you right now, but there will come a time when it rolls back off the sand. You can do this!

Rhythm in Life

These are the seasons when we have more time for friends and family. We take vacations. We leave the office a little early. We go to the movies. We're having a lot more fun. And honestly, these are the times we wish could last a lot longer than they do.

But, alas, it's only a season. Before we know it, our calendars and To Do lists will be full, and our attention will be pulled in a million directions. The tide turns once again. I'm not trying to be a downer, but I am offering some perspective.

The point of this season is to, first and foremost, appreciate it! Whatever you do to show thankfulness, now's the time! Be grateful, and enjoy every minute of it. Next, consider what things you can do during this period of time to get ahead. Put systems in place, work ahead, sharpen your skills, develop your team, etc. There are numerous ways to utilize this time so that the hard seasons are a little bit easier. Use the margin in your schedule to your advantage. 

Applications

You may be wondering what this post is doing on a blog about marketing and communications for cause-focused organizations. Fair question. 

I think this post points to self-care, which I think is essential for everyone, but especially those who lead in, and serve at, nonprofits and purpose-drive for-profits. When we are led by a strong, social mission, it's easy to drive ourselves into the ground. After all, the work is never done. The champion of a cause can always do more. But the champion is also of little use to the cause if he/she is suffering from burnout.

I'm here to help you look and sound better to those who support, purchase from, or donate to your organization. I want you to get noticed and grow. And to do that, you need to make whatever season you're in right now work for you, not against you.

Work/life balance is a myth. However, work/life rhythm is guaranteed. 

If you redefine this concept in your mind, you'll be more equipped for your current season, better prepared for the next, and happier overall. 

Stop chasing the white whale, and instead, find your rhythm.

If you're reading this post, it likely means you're at a point where you're feeling overwhelmed. If so, I have more good news! I've outlined five things you can stop doing today to jumpstart your organization's marketing and communications. That's right—five things you can cut out this week to free up your time, energy and focus. What are you waiting for?


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Work/Life balance is a myth. Work/Life rhythm is a guarantee.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Ask the Experts: Social Media Trends and Strategy

Jennifer Wilder is a social media professional who helps brands reach customers through online conversations.

Each month, I'm inviting guest contributors to speak about additional timely, relevant and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations to be aware of as they grow. For April, I've invited my friend and former co-worker, Jen Wilder, to share about social media since that is always a hot topic.

Q. What are the latest trends in your industry?

A. In social media, we continue to communicate more and more in videos, live streams, and images. With the addition of Instagram Stories last year, we see people letting us into the organic texture of their lives that isn’t readily perceived through their perfectly staged and lit product shots found in the standard Instagram feed.

This year, Instagram added a gallery option where multiple images are shared in one post, accessed by the user swiping to the right. And Facebook continues to dominate with making live streaming available to all users. We get some inside looks we want to see, and others we don’t. Ha!

Lately, I’ve been reading about “Dark Social,” which is the traffic websites receive that isn’t linked to a referral, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Dark Social is sharing that’s happening one to one in private emails, or via texting, or even through texting apps. In fact, some estimate that Dark Social is responsible for 80+ percent of traffic to sites. Hootsuite has a great article about what Dark Social is and how to attempt to measure it—though, it won’t ever be completely measurable.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making in terms of their social media?

A. Some of the businesses that I see struggling lack imagery, lack personality in their copy, and lack consistency. It’s mind-boggling how much more we click on links with images than static text links. So, add images! And images with copy overlaid get even more clicks. Sites like Canva and Adobe Spark make it easy to create these shareable images.

With copy, you want to make sure you sound human, that your headlines are intriguing, that you’re asking questions to get those scrolling on Facebook to stop and click. Be authentic and interesting in your approach.

But images and copy don’t matter if you’re not consistent. When you show up sporadically, even if your content is killer, it will be hard for people to stay engaged and interested. To stay in front of your audience on social, you have to show up in their feeds regularly. Set up a schedule and get your great content in front of your customers’ eyes!

Q. What is your best piece of advice for people regarding social media?

A. It’s hard to nail down THE best piece of advice, so I’ll probably give you a couple here.

It’s okay to pick one social channel—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.—that fits your brands communication style and put your efforts into it first. You can develop into other social channels, certainly. But start with one and put out great content—content that your audience wants to see and read more about.

And that leads me to content. If we think back to when I mentioned Dark Social, and the fact that upward of 80% of Web traffic may be shared one to one, then that tells us that content is driving those shares. It also tells us that the Web, sans the myriad of social channels cropping up day in and day out, is already social. We’re going to share good content whether there’s a Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.

Be intentional about thinking through the problems and questions your customers are asking. Then create content around answering your customers questions, solving their problems and showing them that your company is their solution.

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve their social media?

A. Go to one of the image-design sites and create images to go with your blog articles, or to ask questions of your customers. Post that to social media with a link to your site, or one of your blog articles.

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind?

A. One thing I didn’t yet cover is the importance of developing an email list. With an email list, you have very personal access to your customers. So, come up with a resource you can give away—a white paper, worksheets, coupon codes—and ask people to sign up for your email list. Having this email list tells you that these are people who want to hear from you. They like you and they want whatever it is you’re selling. So, be a good steward of this email list and give them a high amount of value and time.


Jen Wilder Headshots-6.jpg

Jennifer Wilder is a social media professional who helps brands reach customers through online conversations. Over the last decade, she has worked with LifeWay Christian Resources, Leading The Way, The reThink Group/Orange, and The John Maxwell Company. With her husband, she is soon to be buying a new house and getting a dog . . . and maybe a kid or two.

Jennifer is available for freelance social media consulting and voiceover work.


PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Jennifer Wilder is a social media professional who helps brands reach customers through online conversations.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Spring Clean Your Marketing and Communications

Be better prepared, focused, and productive for the remainder of the year. 

We're just over a week into both spring and the Daylight Savings time change. I don't know about you, but more sunshine equals more productivity for me. Though I am the pale, freckled, poster child for skin cancer, I always feel a little bit like Superman in that my powers are directly tied to the sun. I tend to find renewed energy and deeper concentration when winter days give way to spring ones. 

And I love a good spring cleaning! Is that weird? I just can't focus amongst clutter. I need a neat and tidy workspace, car and home to function well. So, this past week, I began the process of ship-shaping those three areas. 

Today, I want to help guide you what spring cleaning your marketing and communications might look like. And maybe dust off those New Year's Resolutions (or goals) too. It's time for a fresh start!

SPRING CLEAN YOUR WORKSPACE

While it's true that there are a unique few who can thrive in chaos and actually know what is located in the heaps and piles on or around their desk, I don't think that's true for the majority of us. I think most of us get stressed out and distracted by those things, and it compromises our brain power, and therefore our work, by not dealing with it. 

ACTION STEP: Over the next week, take the time to do some thorough sorting, sifting, recycling, tossing and sharing. Yes, I know you don't have time. But you need to sacrifice a few hours for the clarity it will bring you after its done. Whether you have a small desk in your guest room, a corner of the dining room table, or the corner office in the high rise, your productivity will increase by eliminating these distractions.

SPRING CLEAN YOUR COMPUTER

While it's true that I don't like physical clutter, I am a serial saver—at least as far as online articles are concerned anyway. I've mentioned before on this blog that I love learning. And it takes no more than a few minutes on social media, reading through emails, or scanning messages in Facebook groups to have a dozen or so windows opened with things I want to read or go back to later. I'm also bad about downloading resources to my desktop and saving them there with the intention of going back "soon" to read them. Pretty soon my computer desktop is a mess, my email is overflowing, and I can't shut down my computer for days at a time because I need to keep all the tabs open. Anyone relate?

ACTION STEP: Decide how important things things are to you and make a plan to tackle them this week. I did this last Friday. I was sick and didn't have a lot of brain power for creating and problem-solving, so I focused on this project. It took a few hours, but my computer desktop is clean, my email is manageable, and I shut down my computer over the weekend. It's a great feeling! And guess what, I learned a few new things in the process!

If you just don't have the time, or know the piles will only get larger, then give yourself a break and start deleting, knowing that new information will soon come your way. If you do decide to sort it out, then start getting excited about the new information you're about to digest. Grab some coffee, an easy chair, your laptop, and enjoy the process. I found some new resources to share with my Facebook group, learned a few tricks from fellow entrepreneurs and watched two webinars for upcoming personal projects. I also did a fair amount of deleting. Whichever path you take, deleting or sorting, find the determination to just do it.

SPRING CLEAN YOUR MINDSET

This is admittedly the hardest. The previous two categories require cleaning out "stuff" which I think is a lot easier, or at least it is for me. You can also see the changes much faster. Now we are moving onto the real work. Remember I mentioned those pesky New Year's Resolutions/Goals in the beginning? Here's where we tackle those.

I am a very goal-driven, task-oriented person. And with this being my first full year in business, I had a lot of things I wanted to do. One of those was developing my first online course during the first quarter of 2017. Now if you mosey on over to that section on my website, you'll still find "Coming Soon!" as we head into quarter two. That is just one example, but I assure you, there are others. Now, I did hit one goal, which was to attend more human trafficking events this year. I've actually already made it to two. But for every goal I hit, there is at least one I didn't. Know the feeling?

It's easy to get stuck in the headspace that tells you that you're behind, failing, or never gonna make it happen. But I'm asking you not to. I have to ask this of myself regularly. And because you're working for a cause, it's hard not to feel the pressure of things left undone. Everything is important. But these are the times we have to stop, reflect and reevaluate.

ACTION STEP: I'm going to give you two weeks for this assignment because it's more difficult, though, actually, it may take the least physical amount of time. In fact, if you get down to business, you might be able to do this homework in about an hour. But I think you need to walk around with the question in your mind, letting it occupy the back of your brain, for a few days or even a week.

Then sit down and reevaluate your marketing and communication priorities for 2017. What were your goals back in January? How do they need to shift? Maybe timelines need to be extended. Maybe projects need to be put on hold. Maybe they need to move to 2018. Maybe they just need to be scrapped. That's all okay.

First, determine your big priorities for the year. It's quite possible they've changed in the past three months. Then, assess the resolutions or goals you made and figure out which bucket they should fit in. Finally, feel good knowing that you've made some progress. After all, reevaluation is still progress. It's going to help you move forward for the next nine months.

NEXT STEPS

Okay, so you've cleaned your physical space, your digital space and your mental space—or you will very soon. It should feel amazing! It should give you clarity. It should bring a big smile to your face. You've just done some really powerful things.

By tackling these three categories, you've just set yourself up for success in your marketing and communications for the rest of the year. You'll be better prepared, focused and productive. 

We all get so hyped up come January. We're ready to take on the world! But life happens, work happens and we quickly realize that we didn't have a lot of control anyway. It's easy to get discouraged. That's why this spring cleaning is essential.

A New Year takes a little getting used to. I mean, hello, is anyone else still writing 2016 on everything?!?! So, when you take the time to stop, reflect and reevaluate your current efforts, you can make the shifts necessary to lift the fog, get out of the funk, and tackle that To Do list.

Oh, and once you've done your homework, don't think you're off the hook! The next step is to set a date on your calendar three months from now. The year will be half over, and it'll be time for a good summer cleaning!

Have you done anything else to spring clean your marketing and communications? If so, please tell me!

Need some help with your reevaluation? Contact me for a Communications Strategy Session. I'd love to get you on, or back on, the right track.


PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

Be better prepared, focused, and productive for the remainder of the year. 

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


12 Questions That Inspire Content Creation

If you haven't jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, you'd be wise to not only consider it, but start the implementation process soon.

Content marketing has made a huge splash over the past few years, and it's only gaining ground. If you aren't familiar with the term, content marketing is defined by the Content Marketing Institute as, "a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are providing truly relevant and useful content to your prospects and customers to help them solve their issues."

This is the reason you see more and more organizations of all sizes utilizing social media, blogs, webinars, podcasts, Pinterest and the like. These mediums for "giving away" free content do not hurt revenue, and only help to spread the word about your organization. They also help build credibility as well as a relationship with fans. If you haven't jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, you'd be wise to not only consider it, but start the implementation process soon.

However, one of the biggest challenges to content marketing is creating a steady stream of, well, content. Some days it can feel like inspiration rains from the heavens, while other days are more drought-like. The important thing is to record ideas as they come, so you'll have them on tap for a later date.

If you need a springboard, or think your supply is running a little short, below are some questions to get you started.

CLIENT INSPIRATION

  1. What questions have they asked?
  2. What problem or need are you trying to solve for them?
  3. What case studies can you share that others can learn from?

INDUSTRY INSPIRATION

  1. What are the latest trends?
  2. What have you learned at recent events or conferences?
  3. What are your online and in-person mentors discussing?

PEER INSPIRATION

  1. What relevant conversations are you having?
  2. What questions have they asked regarding your expertise?
  3. What do you see them doing that could help your clients/customers/fans?

POP CULTURE INSPIRATION

  1. What movies or TV shows have sparked business ideas or lessons?
  2. What books are you reading that you could share lessons from, or post a book review on?
  3. What podcasts are you listening to that could also benefit your audience?

As you see, inspiration can come from anything. Pretty soon, you'll start to recognize it in all its forms. And because information changes, your knowledge base expands, and perspectives shift, you can come back to these questions again and again.

A reminder: Make sure you have a system handy for writing down ideas when the pop in your head so that you have them ready to go in the future. And a tip for writing—do it when the mood strikes, and write as much as you can. Get ahead, if possible, for when you are low on time or your creativity is more tapped.

Where do your content marketing ideas come from? Please share in the comments!


PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

If you haven't jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, you'd be wise to not only consider it, but start the implementation process soon.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


How to Successfully Launch an Event or Campaign: Lessons From Hamilton

It's an amazing show, and it also has some important lessons to teach us about event and campaign launches.

On Saturday, I had the absolute privilege to see Hamilton: An American Musical on Broadway! After trying to get tickets for over a year and a half, it had a lot to live up to, and and it absolutely did!

It was an amazing show, and it also has some important lessons to teach us about event and campaign launches.

"WAIT FOR IT"

Build buzz. Lin Manuel-Miranda actually started talking about this show back in 2008, when it was still mostly just an idea in his head. He had one song written, but he knew the show had big potential.

Lesson: If you're excited about your product or launch, talk about it and get other people excited too. Start with your circle of insiders and biggest fans. And especially if you're trying to sell something, these early conversations will help you decide not only if there is a market, but the value of it as well.

"I AM NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT"

That one song? He sang it at the White House. He was invited there to perform, but instead of singing one of the songs from In the Heights, his hit show at the time, he decided to test out this new material. What better place to talk about a Founding Father? President Obama's reaction to the concept? "Uh, good luck with that." Ha! But then he belted out the title song, "Alexander Hamilton," and people were ready to line up for tickets—years before it would open.

Lesson: Look for unique opportunities to talk about your product or event, even far in advance. This will allow you to build anticipation. And don't forget to include the influencers in your life. Let them help you get the word out as needed. It will add credibility, and help get you in front of new audiences.

"NON-STOP"

From the time Hamilton opened Off-Broadway in early 2015, I heard about it everywhere! On TV, from friends, on social media. It moved to Broadway just a couple of months later, and immediately sold out for months at a time—as it still does. And almost two years later, people are still talking about it. Not only do they have an email list and soundtrack, but they have additional merchandise at the theater and online, and they also released a Mix-Tape last year with celebrities singing some of the popular songs. This gives fans who've already gone something else to remember it by, and people who haven't yet been, and chance to feel included while patiently waiting for tickets and the traveling tour.

Lesson: Whether your event or product has a defined timeframe or an open one, you've gotta hit the marketing hard. Use every available avenue to talk to your fans, potential fans, and their friends. Word-of-mouth still has the strongest return on investment, but there are multiple options for reaching your target audience, and it will likely take a combination of all of them to get the job done. Be creative and consistent. 

"RIGHT HAND MAN"

In the emails I received about the show and in the program, there were always ads by relevant services and destinations. In the emails, it was usually about other Broadway shows and ticketing partners. In the program, there were several ads about American Revolution museums, vacations in the Caribbean where Hamilton grew up, or other Broadway shows.

Lesson: When it's right for your event, product or organization, consider taking on partners. These can be short- or long-term. Maybe the services or products are complimentary, maybe the person is speaking at your event, or maybe they just love what you're up to. Just like influencers, partnerships have the ability to put you in front of new audiences and expend your reach. Just remember, it needs to make sense for both parties and be valuable to your audience.

"ONE LAST TIME"

I was finally able to buy a ticket last June, so I had nine months to wait before actually attending the show. Because it was so far in advance, the tickets weren't even ready at the time of purchase. So, a couple of months later, I received an email that my tickets were ready. I still had a few months to go, but I got excited all over again! And a few days prior to the show, I received another email with helpful information about getting to the theater, some Q&A and a digital "Hamilton Tour of NYC."

Lesson: It's not over till it's over. Just because you have initial buy-in, don't dismiss the opportunity to talk to your audience, delight them all over again, or get in on the countdown. And always be helpful. By anticipating people's wants and needs, you'll be the hero.

"BLOW US ALL AWAY"

Like I said, I waited a year and a half to sit in those seats. By the time I did, I knew the music, watched a documentary, and been consuming all kinds of info on A.Ham and the American Revolution. So, not only was I well prepped, but I had very high hopes. However, I knew they wouldn't let me down—and they didn't.

Lesson: You can have an amazing launch, but if what you're actually marketing doesn't deliver, you'll lose the confidence of your audience, and they'll be less likely to follow you down this road a second time. Make sure your product or event has a solid foundation to stand on.

"YOU'LL BE BACK"

On my way out the door, it was all I could do not to purchase every piece of merchandise I saw! I managed to restrain myself, but I did snag another picture of the marquee on my way out, just to make sure I had a really good one for Instagram.

Lesson: After your launch, be sure to follow through. That could mean a survey, or a thank you, or asking people to take some sort of next step. But don't let the experience end with the purchase. Use the purchase to extend the experience.

What are your best practices for a launch?

Do you have an event or product launch coming up? If so, I can help you with just the writing portion, or I can be a little more hands-on and involved. Just let me know how I can help!


PIN FOR LATER:

It's an amazing show, and it also has some important lessons to teach us about event and campaign launches.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Celebrating International Women's Day

Highlighting women-run organizations that I love.

Today is International Women's Day! So, I thought that one of the best ways I could celebrate would be to highlight women-run organizations that I love, and would love for you to be aware of. And, in keeping with the spirit of this blog, I'll let you know what I like most about their marketing and communications as well.

Here are 10 that I've chosen, but there are so many more that I could've listed! There are many women out there doing inspiring, and much needed, work. Be sure to check these gals out, and support them in some way, even by just following them on social media or telling a friend.

NONPROFIT

1. Be the Bridge: This budding organization utilizes resources and conversations to further racial reconciliation. They believe that the Church must become a bigger answer to this issue, and are equipping people to host racially diverse small groups that create open lines of communication.

What I like most about their marketing and communications is how grassroots-oriented it is, which fits with their business model. People who are a part of their online and in-person groups have a voice, which creates not only fans, but advocates for the work.

2. TrueNorth Freedom Project: TrueNorth helps individuals, families and ministries navigate our sex-saturated culture through resources and conversations. By learning how to talk about sexual issues with grace and compassion, relationships will be strengthened, kids will be better prepared for the challenges, and the Church will become more effective in leading many to true freedom in Christ.

What I like most about their marketing and communications is their approach. They tackle a very difficult societal issue, but always take the stance of grace over shame, and that always shines through.

3. A21 Campaign: They are fueled by a radical hope—that human beings everywhere will be rescued from bondage and completely restored. They are the abolitionists of the 21st century, and work with you to free slaves and disrupt the demand.  

What I like most about their marketing and communications is that they frequently share survivor stories which makes the need real and urgent.

4. Refuge Coffee Co.: They relentlessly pursues the goal to provide employment and job-training opportunities to resettled refugees, to create a unique, welcoming gathering place in Clarkston, and to tell a more beautiful refugee story to Atlanta.

What I like most about their marketing and communications is that they tell a lot of stories, including the staff and volunteers, neighbors and those who frequent the establishment. Their mission involves being active and present in the community, and that is apparent in all aspects.

5. Thistle Farms: Thistle Farms is a sanctuary for healing for women survivors of abuse, addiction, trafficking and prostitution. They are a community of survivors, advocates, employees, interns, volunteers, and friends from all across the world. They are young and old, women and men. They want to change a culture that still allows human beings to be bought and sold. They believe that in the end, love is the strongest force for change in the world.

What I love most about their marketing and communications is how diverse they've become in their model, which allows them to constantly talk about what they're up to, and a great deal of cross-promotion. Currently, they have Magdalene House, a bath and body care product line, Thistle Stop Cafe, Shared Trade Global Marketplace, The Studios Workshop and the National Education and Training Center.

Honorable mention to: The Mend ProjectWellspring Living, Malala Fund

FOR-PROFIT

1. Dr. Bombay's: One of my favorite spots in Atlanta, this darling little tea shop in the Candler Park neighborhood funds “life scholarships” for girls in India with their Learning Tea program. With these funds, girls can go to college, have a safe place to live, and have all their basic needs provided for. (And her chai is my absolute favorite!) I've actually seen their work in India first-hand.

What I love most about their marketing and communications is how "local" it is. They are good neighbors. Many of their ingredients and offerings come from local or small businesses, and they also place event posters in other area parter businesses as a regular part of their promotions. And the atmosphere is so quirky and unique that it makes a great place for people to take and share photos!

2. Yellow Conference: They are a conference for creative, entrepreneurial women who want to change the world. Bonus that it takes place in Southern California!

What I like most about their marketing and communications is their heart for their community, both in-person and online. They are supportive and encouraging, and always looking for ways to help their fans be better in life, in their jobs, and in the world.

3. So Worth Loving: They are a community of passionate and original individuals who exist to embrace your past and empower your future. They believe no matter your history, past mistakes, religion, career choice, or relationship status, you are worthy of love. And they believe that fashion is the most iconic way to make a statement.

What I love most about their marketing and communications is that they always keep it simple. And it's highly effective! They share the stories of their fans, promote the idea of self-worth, and sell clothing that reminds people that they are worth loving.

4. Business Boutique: This is a fairly new conference that speaks to Christian, women entrepreneurs. They focus on all three aspects of a business: Dreaming, starting and building. 

What I love most about their marketing and communications is the practicality. I left their event feeling informed and resourced in moving forward in my business. And the podcast is a way to continue to soak up the knowledge.

5. The Skimm: A short, daily email telling you all about the day's top political news.

What I love most about their marketing and communications is that its fun! Otherwise, I wouldn't read it, to be honest. I have a hard time connecting with politics and news because it is usually so depressing or mean. They give you the highlights in a compelling way.

Honorable mention to: Joyn, Fashionable, Huffington Post, Raven + Lily

What do you think? Who would you have included? Tell me below!

And happy International Women's Day! #BeBoldForChange


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Highlighting women-run organizations that I love

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Ask the Experts: Branding and Design

Mad & Dusty is a creative team for nonprofits and purpose-driven brands.

Each month, I'm inviting guest contributors to speak about additional timely, relevant and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations to be aware of as they grow. First up, we have my friends, Madison and Dusty Beaulieu, who expertly designed my branding and website!

Q. What are the latest trends in your industry?

A. There’s definitely been a leaning toward illustration and texture. (YAY!) Flat design is huge, but now designers are taking that minimalism and giving it over to the artists. The desire for perfection in design is being replaced with a need for history and personality. We want to see the human hand in design now. Watercolor, paint, printmaking, hand lettering . . . the arts are showing up in a big way through design, and we love it.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making in terms of their brand?

A. People give logos more credit than they deserve! Your brand is your tool box. Your logo, type, colors and patterns will help show your customers who you are in the same way that the clothes you’re wearing tell others a bit about who you are. Think of your logo as an accessory. If your purpose and brand values are not clear, appealing, and meaningful, an amazing logo won’t be able to fix that. Purpose and values are the foundation for your brand, and a good designer will help you clarify them before jumping into the logo design. Design that comes from the core of your business will work no matter what’s trending.

Q. What is your best piece of advice for people during branding and design, especially for those who are new to, or overwhelmed by, the process?

A. Be sure you understand the investment and what it will mean for your business. The branding process is not something to jump into half-heartedly. (We would make How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone required reading if we could.) The first six months of any business are unpredictable at best. I recommend that you quick-design a temporary logo using a template from Canva or another app, and build a one page site on Squarespace. After six months, sit down with a designer and discuss taking your business to the next level with an original brand. The branding process should feel like a celebration of your hard work and hustle. It’s an exciting time!

Also, find a designer that you trust and enjoy working with, even if you technically don’t need one now. It’s kind of like finding the right doctor. When something comes up, it will be good to know who you’d turn to.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to talk honestly about your budget. If a designer is passionate about what you do, they may be willing to find an agreement that works for both of you.

And, finally, not all design is branding design. We work with several clients for 5-10 hours per month on designing emails, social graphics, and those random little items that come up. We love partnering with them, and they love delegating those would-be headaches.

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve their brand presence, either online or in print?

A. Make sure you’re using all the same fonts on documents. (No more than three different fonts.) It’s the smallest thing, but it will instantly give your brand a sense of cohesiveness. Typography works very subconsciously. Make sure it’s working for you!

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind for our brand, website or graphics?

A. Be true to your values. Be consistent with your community. Be honest about your capacity. Simple, purposeful things done consistently make a brand shine.


mad_dusty-168-2.jpg

Mad & Dusty is a creative team for nonprofits and purpose-driven brands. Starting in 2015, Madison and Dusty Beaulieu have worked with over 40 purpose driven organizations to tell important stories through art and design.

Find them online at www.madanddusty.com.


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Mad & Dusty is a creative team for nonprofits and purpose-driven brands.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Marketing Strategy Made Simple

Implementing a strategy gives every day focus and purpose.

It's week six of the "Foundations" series! Wow, I can believe we're already at the end of the first series on this blog! I will undoubtedly have other topics to include here over time, but I feel like we've covered the absolute basics that you need to begin, or get back on track with, your marketing and communications. With these things as your foundation, you're in a really good place to start building, creating, and planning.

Speaking of planning, today's tip is all about strategy. I think a lot of small, cause-focused organizations get confused or tripped up on their marketing and communications because they don't have a strategy in place.

IT'S HARD TO BEGIN IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING TO END.

The good news is that you don't need a dedicated, full-time marketing employee to create a strategy. You will, however, need advanced time and thought. It's a matter of putting in the work ahead of time knowing that it will reward you later.

HAVING A STRATEGY SIMPLY GIVES YOU DIRECTION.

Here's an example. Like you, I wear a lot of hats. And one of those is new business owner. The last few months have been FILLED with decisions, and at times, that was overwhelming to say the least. I'd been writing blog ideas in Evernote when they came to me, but it was just a list of bullet points in no particular order. Then came the creation of this website, and with that, the writing of it. So, I put off writing the first blog post because I already knew it would have an introductory focus. Past that, I was too in the weeds to consider anything else. But I also knew I wanted to have several blog posts up when the site went live. Again, other things seemed to take priority. Because, you know, there are ALWAYS immediate needs fighting for control of your time.

Soon after, I reached a decision point. I really needed to start adding other blog posts because the site was about to go live, but hadn't made any progress on what the topics would be. But I thought that I had a great list to choose from, and I'd just pick a few important topics to roll with as needed.

And then, ladies and gentlemen, I remembered that I was a marketer . . . 

Um, hello!

That was completely the wrong approach, and I would do us both a disservice if I just winged it. So, I stopped, took a deep breath, moved to a quiet location, and started putting together my content calendar. This action gave the blog and social media a strategy.

Yes, it took time I didn't think I had. No, it wasn't easy, even for someone who's more used to marketing than you may be. Yes, it was totally worth it.

By taking the time to start creating my content calendar for my blog and social media, I feel more prepared each week to tackle what's ahead. I know how every piece builds on each other, or what I'm pointing you to in order to better help you shape and share your message. And I understand that when I have a strategy in place, I'm best utilizing both my time and yours. 

IMPLEMENTING A STRATEGY GIVES EVERY DAY FOCUS AND PURPOSE.

I know that most days, many of us feel like Indiana Jones being chased by that big boulder. We think that if we stop, even for a minute, we're going to get squashed. Some days, yes, that may be more true than others. But if we keep letting those immediate needs dictate our time, we'll never move into a more productive cycle. And that does ourselves, our cause, and our supporters a disservice. It also means that our marketing and communications efforts will always be reactive, never really going anywhere. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it could mean stagnation (or loss) of sales or support, and that most certainly is a big deal to you.

I know people who have crazy detailed strategies for their marketing and communications. They have marketing plans and content calendars and detailed budgets and all the things. I want to be them when I grow up. And I'm working on it. But I'm still getting my legs under me as a new business owner, and it's going to take me a while to get there. If you think that's what you have to have too, and you find that discouraging, take heart. Start simply. Think about this month, or even just this week.

Set aside some time to put your strategy in place. If you can find an hour, make that a really productive hour focused on the very short-term. If you have a half day, think further out. If by some miracle you can find an entire day, think six months or a year out. But make this time intentional. Remove distractions. And after it's done, reap the benefits. I promise, you'll see them.

And if you need some assistance, I'd love to help. I get all kinds of giddy about helping people think through and create strategies. Nerdy, I know, but hey, we all have our gifts!

Additionally, I've created a sample content calendar that you can use for your planning. I'll talk more in-depth about a marketing plan soon!


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Marketing Strategy Made Simple

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Know Your Audience

KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE DETERMINES HOW YOU COMMUNICATE YOUR MESSAGE.

Not long ago, I was sitting in a meeting for a nonprofit's benefit dinner. We were brainstorming various ways to communicate the message for the evening, and make the big "ask" for donations. This was THE annual benefit dinner, so obviously, a lot of pressure was riding on how well this evening went.

There were a lot of smart people in the room. A lot of great ideas. And a whole lot of perspectives. 

So, how were we going to decide which idea to act on? 

I decided to ask a couple of questions that changed the conversation:

1. Who will be in the room?

2. How do they need to hear the information?

Turns out that this audience was actually a little different than the three previous years. This was the first benefit dinner in which a lot of new people would be in attendance. Previous years had included a lot of friends, family, and personal connections. This year, there were new partners, more sponsors, friends of friends, and a few others who were newly interested in this organization and their cause. So, they weren't as close to the issue as those who had come in the past. 

This meant they needed to be spoken to not as insiders, but as those who were just learning about the organization and its cause—because that's exactly who they were. 

And given the answer to the first question, how did they need to hear the information?

We actually decided to do this in a few different ways based on learning styles, attention spans, and wanting to spread information out over several hours to be less overwhelming. First, we had an interactive exhibit which brought the issues to life as people entered the doors. Second, we decided to include not only video testimonies, but also have the people in the videos there to meet attendees. Third, the founder and his son gave a compelling "ask," which included some background on how they started the organization as a family, and how it's grown. And finally, as they exited, those in attendance were given a keepsake and a handout with next steps.

All of these things wouldn't have been necessary if the audience had been filled with people who were already familiar with the organization and their mission. 

KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE DETERMINES HOW YOU COMMUNICATE YOUR MESSAGE.

But, of course, before you get to your "how," you have to know your "who."

One of the most popular ways to know your audience is to develop a persona. That is, give your "who" a name. There are some marketers who get super detailed about their persona. They delve into every facet of this "person's" life—their spouse's name, the type of pet they own, what they wear on a Tuesday, their birthplace, etc. It sounds a little like coming up with an alias, which I kinda dig. Often, this are fictional personas that represent large groups of people. However, mine isn't that complicated. Maybe that's because I have two personas . . . which can likely lead a number of jokes about having multiple personalities.

But way back in blog post numero uno, I gave some background on why I started SIGNIFY, and who I started it for—my friends. So, because I speak to both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, I have two actual, real-life friends that represent each of those areas. Much of what I've been talking about on the blog has come from conversations with them, or people like them that I've met or helped along the way. That makes my audience persona(s) easy. I write and create content that I think they'd find helpful and useful.

WHEN YOU IDENTIFY OR CREATE A PERSON TO REPRESENT YOUR AUDIENCE, YOU CAN SPEAK TO ONE WHILE SPEAKING TO ALL—AND ACTUALLY BE HEARD.

You have a great message. I know that, and you know that. But do you understand who your audience is, and how they need to hear it?

The chief complaint I've heard about this process sounds something like this, "But our organization (or product, etc) appeals to everyone. Why should we narrow that down?"

In theory, it's a great question. You don't want to feel like you're eliminating anyone that could support or advance your cause. 

But it's actually quite short-sighted. There really isn't one thing that appeals to everyone. Not everyone shops at the same stores, eats at the same restaurants, buys the same phones, wears the same closes, donates to the same causes . . . you get the point. That's why we have variety. Otherwise, we'd only have a couple of options for each of those things, and we'd never be overwhelmed on Amazon again.

You can't speak to everyone. You need a message that's tailored to someone. When they read your website, or open your emails, or see you on social media, they need to feel a kinship with you. They need to relate to what you have to say. Giving them that kind of connection is what turns them into fans, or buyers, or donors.

WHEN YOU TALK TO YOUR AUDIENCE IN A WAY THAT COMMUNICATES YOU UNDERSTAND THEM, BOTH IN WHAT YOU SAY AND HOW YOU SAY IT, YOU CREATE A RELATIONSHIP. AND RELATIONSHIPS TURN FOLLOWERS INTO FANS.

This is a process that grows and gets shaped over time. And the good news is that if something isn't effective, you can always try again!

I've created a resource for you to continue working through your "who" and "how."


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KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE DETERMINES HOW YOU COMMUNICATE YOUR MESSAGE.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Alexander Hamilton: Marketing and Communications Icon

Image Credit: TheFederalist.com

Image Credit: TheFederalist.com

As I write this post, I'm sitting in a fantastic restaurant in Washington, D.C., called Farmers & Distillers. It's definitely a menu that induces creativity! Check out the Founding Farmers restaurant group next time you're in D.C.! It's yummy! 

Anywho, welcome to week four of the "Foundations" series. I'd like to discuss communications, and D.C. seems like a fitting place to chat about both foundations and communication.

SPECIFICALLY, I'D LIKE YOU TO COMMUNICATE BETTER.

Like thousands of other people, I'm currently obsessed with the musical, Hamilton. It's pure genius. I've been listening to the soundtrack over and over, and it seems to still play on repeat in my head long after I get out of my car. 

One of the things I've realized through diligent "study" of the musical, watching the PBS Special, reading a book about the Founding Fathers, absorbing A. Ham's Wikipedia page, visiting relevant D.C. museums, and my current stay at The Hamilton Crown Plaza (which is actually just a coincidence because I had points here), is that Alexander Hamilton was a true marketing and communications pro. He was BRILLIANT at it. 

Communication, whether it's to your internal team or your external audience is vitally important. That's not a revolutionary statement (pun intended). In fact, I'm sure you'd agree. But how well do you actually feel like you communicate to those groups?

GOOD COMMUNICATION COULD MEAN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAVING BOTH INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL SUPPORT—AND NOT HAVING EITHER.

Examples of internal support might be getting your project off the ground, receiving a promotion, department harmony and team synergy. External support can include sales, donations, sponsors, partners, or volunteers. 

And you may think that to communicate better means that you need to write well or be articulate. But I believe it has more to do with two things: Frequency and content. Sure, writing well and being well-spoken are bonuses, but I think I can argue a strong case for frequency and content.

For example, I tend to over communicate, but I think that's a good thing. And, from what I'm told, so did my previous co-workers. Like any job, there's always a lot going on at the company, and it's super easy to lose track of what's happening. But in over-communicating, I tried to make sure that everyone was in the know with my marketing endeavors. I'm a words girl, so this mostly meant email for me. But this may also be the reason you hold regular team, department, or staff meetings. (Find what works for you.) I was the Event Marketing Director, and there was always an event going on—or about to go on! So, I regularly emailed staff about promotions, ways they could share the event on social media, questions they might get asked, and things like that. I tried to be proactive, and prioritized teams that would be directly effected. Without a doubt, I sent more staff emails than anyone else. But no one ever said stop. They only told me that they appreciated having the info and being up-to-date.

I gave them the information they needed (and wanted) in order to do their job better, and stay current with the event. I treated them like valuable insiders.

And, on the flip side, I made a huge effort to do that with the audience, specifically event attendees. Our annual conference had what felt like a million moving parts that guests needed to understand to enjoy their experience. So, I had an FAQ page on the website, a Facebook group for attendees, a network of bloggers to help spread the word, and a series of regular email blasts, to name a few efforts.

I gave them the information they needed (and wanted) in order to have a better experience, and stay current with the event. I treated them like valuable insiders.

And guess what? Staff members and attendees felt better equipped and more satisfied. (And event attendance steadily increased.)

Back to our friend, Alex. Yes, he possessed excellent writing skills and was a skilled orator, but he also understood that an important message had to be repeated. It had to sink in over time to gain traction. If you're familiar with The Federalist Papers, he and two others wrote a series of essays defending The Constitution, because this new legal doc had created a whole lot of controversy. Hard to imagine, isn't it? But one essay just wouldn't do. No, sir! They were originally supposed to write 25, but ended up writing 85! And Hamilton wrote by-and-large the majority of them. He kept coming up with new things to say, or repeating what he felt needed to be clarified or underscored. He did this to gain support from the public and other government officials for the document that would literally be the law of the land. These were published in print, of course, but I like to equate them to email marketing. ;) 

I realize that communicating seemingly small (or large) details on a regular basis might seem like a lot to remember. Without a doubt, you have a lot on your plate already. But believe me, it cuts work on the back end down, and might even improve internal and external relationships. So, put a sticky on your computer, a reoccurring entry in your day planner or a reminder on your phone. You want to get better at this, trust me.

COMMUNICATING FREQUENTLY ALSO HELPS ENSURE THAT YOU BECOME KNOWN AS THE EXPERT.

Think about it, if yours is the most consistent voice on any subject, people will come back to you when they need more info on that subject. And that is exactly what you want!

Even after working in communications for years, I still need to be better too. Siri reminds me of this constantly! I'm not sure if she thinks I have a lisp, or just slur my words, but we do not communicate well. (Apologies to anyone I've misdialed.)

And like you, I get busy too. I forget things. Or even worse, I think I've done a terrific job communicating, and I still find my audience confused. This happened a lot with the IT department. It's a different language you have to speak, after all. (Love to my IT guys and gals, but whew, I do not speak the language!)

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. IT'S A CLICHE FOR A REASON.

You're reading this blog because you want to improve your marketing and communications. You're also reading this blog because you have an important message to share. These two facts only highlight the need to communicate better.

So, what are you waiting for?

This week's homework is to assess your communications efforts, both internally and externally. Take a hard look, and give them a grade. If you have a team, go through it together. But you have to be able to spot the holes in order to fill them. This is where my spreadsheet friends will really excel! (Again, pun intended.) You may also consider sending out an anonymous survey.

And if you need an outside perspective, I'm here too

By the way, this is just one example of A. Hamilton, marketing and communications extraordinaire, but there are so many more lessons to draw from! In fact, I'm headed to NYC to see the musical next month, so I'm sure I'll have another one or two for you.

Do you have any wins or tips to share from your own experiences? I'd love to hear them!

PS: You can listen to the entire Hamilton soundtrack here, or watch the cast perform at the Tony's here. (Warning: You may become addicted too! Oh, and not suitable for the kiddies.)

PPS: A fun fact. A few years ago, they were considering replacing Hamilton with a woman on the $10 bill. But then the musical blew up, and he saved face, literally. ;) Told you I was obsessed! #10dollarfoundingfather

“Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this; when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”  - Alexander Hamilton

Read the other posts in this series:


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Communication, whether it's to your internal team or your external audience is vitally important.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Get Organized

If you want to improve and increase your marketing and communications efforts, there's just no way around it. You have to get organized.

It's week three of the "Foundations" series, and I just kicked someone in the gut with the title, "Get Organized."

Whether you formally resolved to do this in the New Year, or just made a mental note, I know this topic makes a lot of lists. But if you want to improve and increase your marketing and communications efforts, there's just no way around it.

YOU HAVE TO GET ORGANIZED. #sorrynotsorry

The first reason is for yourself. In order to do what you do well, you need a system that keeps you organized and on track. If you don't know where your files are, which marketing tasks you're supposed to be focused on this week, or have asked someone to email you a graphic three times, you won't make much of a dent in your To Do list. It will only get longer, and you'll find yourself more frustrated.

The second reason is for those you work with. They're begging you. You may not realize it, but you may be the bottleneck in your office, where good work goes to die . . . or at least takes an extended vacation. Even if you're a solopreneur like me, you still work with people (accountant, designers, contractors, etc). And even though us introverted types might sometimes want to work in a vacuum, that's largely a myth, unless you are some kind of unicorn who can do it all. (For the record, I am not.)

I'm not going to dictate any type of organizational system that works across the board. I just don't think that's out there. But I do think you need to find one that works for you. That could be paper and pen, stickies (digital or physical), a white board, online storage applications, or a variety of other options. You may even want to invest in one of those fancy day planners, because like the gym, it may mean more when you pay for it. Just find something that's easy for you to use and can become part of your routine. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

Did I just blow your mind? Nope, probably not. None of these should be shocking to you. They're all simple and readily available. But they work for me. If you try to hand me something on actual paper, I'll likely ask you to email it to me. I don't like keeping up with paper, but I can easily file it away on my computer. However, I know people who are the exact opposite, and that works for them.

It's 2017, and the options for organization are limitless. Yes, it may take some time to find a system that works, or even dig yourself out from underneath the pile on your desk. But you need this. The people you work with need this. And you'll be a happier, more productive person when you get organized.

What's your favorite organizational tool?

* Please, for the love of all things, stop emailing files to people and wondering who has the current version. If you collaborate with people, these are a MUST for file sharing and storage.

Read the other posts in this series:


PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

If you want to improve and increase your marketing and communications efforts, there's just no way around it. You have to get organized.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


Expand Your Curiosity to Improve Your Marketing

The ability to ask good questions, the desire to learn, and the drive to understand what you don't know will take you far, which in turn, can be a huge benefit for your company and your cause.

It's week two of the "Foundations" series, where I'm covering the basics for developing a great marketing and communications strategy for your business. Today I want to talk about curiosity. Whether we're talking about life or business, the ability to ask good questions, the desire to learn, and the drive to understand what you don't know will take you far, which in turn, can be a huge benefit for your company and your cause. Curious people tend to excel because they are always seeking to improve themselves.

Do you want to learn a new skill you can use in your job? (Ex: design)

Do you want to learn more about your role and the latest trends? (Ex: public relations)

Do you want to learn about your cause? (Ex: human trafficking)

I am a curious person by nature and love to learn. But it took me a long time to figure out exactly how to make this work for me. I was a good student, but my mother always reminded me that I had potential for better grades. (Thanks for believing in me, Mom!) I soaked up new information with eagerness, but I didn't enjoy reading. I wanted to talk to people who knew things that I didn't, but I didn't know how to find them. I have a lot of passions and interests, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by them.

And then three things opened the doors for me

The first was when I attended my first major conference, Catalyst, which will always hold a special place in my heart for this reason. Oh my, I was in heaven! Where had these gatherings been all my life! (Evidently, they'd been having them without me.) My friend had a ticket, and he couldn't go, so I filled in. I mean, I had NO IDEA what I was in for! I'd found my people. It was two glorious days of note-taking and hearing from people who were so smart and generous enough to share what they knew. I. WAS. HOOKED. That was about 12 years ago, and now conferences are a regular part of my life. In fact, when I worked full-time with a regular vacation policy, most of that time was spent at conferences. I can't get enough, and am always looking for new conferences to attend. This love was also a big reason I accepted my last full-time job as an Event Marketing Director. I got to help create a great conference experience for others, which was exciting.

The second thing was Audible. If we've had an hour-long conversation at any point, I've probably brought up something I listened to on Audible. This was an absolute game-changer for me. Another friend dragged me down this rabbit hole, and I'm so glad he did. Honestly, I didn't think I'd enjoy it. As I said, I wanted to learn, but I didn't enjoy reading. And I am not really an auditory learner, so I didn't think I'd pay attention. In the beginning, I definitely had to rewind and replay the sections I'd spaced out on—a lot. But once I got the hang of it, I was absolutely smitten. It's pretty much the only way I read books now. In fact, I rarely listen to music in the car. And up until this self-employment gig, I had a long commute, so I'd easily get through 30+ books in a year. (TIP: I always recommend that people start with fiction since there is a narrative you can follow, and you won't get lost as easy if your mind drifts.) It's been an invaluable tool for me, and in fact, one of the best books I read last year was called A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer.

The third was finding a mentor. I actually didn't know I needed a mentor until I had one. It was kind of like walking through the aisles at The Container Store, and realizing how unorganized you were and that they had exactly what you've been looking for all your life. Just me? My first mentor was a group experience with some ladies at my church. There were two mentors, and six of us single girls. It's such a special memory to me, and I learned so much from all of them. After that ended, it took me several years to find my next mentor. But a mutual friend introduced us, and now I've been meeting with Holly almost monthly for about six years. She is amazing. Such a smart business woman, a kind individual, and someone I definitely want to be more like. It's been a terrific experience. I always have so many questions to ask her, and she is always patient with me. Additionally, one of the things Holly has taught me is that you can have multiple mentors that fill different roles in your life. So, this year, I'm seeking a new mentor that has similar experience to mine, and can show me the ropes in this new role as entrepreneur. Should be exciting!

So, let's circle this back around.

My curiosity has served me well, and I know it can do the same for you.

It has led me to learn all kinds of things I might not have known otherwise. It keeps me asking questions, and it helps me strive to be better. I'm certainly better at my job because of conferences, books (or podcasts, etc.) and mentors. They have all played crucial roles in my life, and now, I can help you be better at your job too!

Undoubtedly, you know of books that you can read to develop a new skill, or learn more about your role, or gain more understanding about your cause. That one is easy, you just have to go for it. Similarly, podcasts of all kinds are out there to do the same. 

Conferences of all shapes and sizes are are just waiting to be discovered by you as well. I have another friend who is a math teacher, and has attended math conferences. To me, this sounds like a nightmare I can't wake up from, but she loves what she does and wants to improve. Now she's looking at a conference for educators. Google will be your best friend here if you don't already have a few events in mind. And just maybe, your work will foot the bill, or at least part of it, which is the absolute best!

Mentors are definitely the trickiest. Start by asking around. That's what I'm currently doing. And if you sit and think about it, you may already know of someone that would be a great fit. Never assume they're too busy, just ask. If they are, move on. If not, problem solved! But your friends or networks are the best place to begin. And if it takes you a while, hang in there! It took me about three years to find Holly. Until it happens, find wisdom through books and events and use those smart people as virtual mentors. 

I hope you have an insatiable curiosity as well, but if not, I hope you'll take the time to develop it. I cannot stress how important it is, and how much it can do for you, both professionally and personally. You will improve. Your work will improve. Your cause will benefit.

If you're curious about my favorite resources, including books, podcasts, conferences and more, you can grab that RIGHT HERE. You can also share your suggestions or experiences in the comments below.

And if you'd like to try Audible free for 30 days, click here. It might just change your life.


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The ability to ask good questions, the desire to learn, and the drive to understand what you don't know will take you far, which in turn, can be a huge benefit for your company and your cause.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


My #1 Marketing Tip

My #1 marketing tip: Be consistent.

Welcome to the second blog post! You’re now considered an early adopter and a trend-setter!

Last week I wanted to share a bit about me and Signify, so you’d have a little context for our budding relationship. So, I hope you had a chance to read that post, but if not, you can do that first by clicking here.

Now, we’re going to get right to work! I’d like to spend the next six weeks on a series I’ll call “Foundations.” These are my go-to pieces of advice. They are the things I continually talk organizations through, both for- and non-profit, and I believe they are, well, the foundations of any successful business. (Clever name, huh?) Some of them will probably be easier for you than others, but all will be well worth your time. Whether your organization has been around for many years, or you’re still in the concept stage, consider this your “Start Here” series because you likely need improvement in at least one of these areas.

Okay, so straight out of the gate, I’ve decided to give you my number one tip for just about everything. That’s right: Business, personal, relationships. Pretty much anything except sugar and carbs can benefit from this advice, which is really unfortunate for me, and sugar, and carbs. But it’s so important that it tops my list. And that is . . . drumroll, please . . .

CONSISTENCY.

That’s right, repeat after me, consistency. It’s one of the top mistakes, if not the top mistake, that I see people making. And that could show up in a number of ways, but for this purpose, we’ll discuss it in relation to your marketing and communication efforts.

I don’t have to tell you that good intentions really don’t get you anywhere, and they’re certainly the enemy of consistency. I’ve spoken with scores of well-meaning individuals who had good intentions for a weekly blog post, daily social media content, an updated website, new head shots, monthly white papers, or ______. (Feel free to fill in the blank.) But every day, our To Do list spirals out of control, co-workers drop by with the latest news, customers or donors call to complain, coffee breaks or lunches linger—and on and on and on. So, before you know it, all you’re left with is a pile of ideas and no time left to execute them.

IF YOU WANT PEOPLE TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOU AND YOUR CAUSE, YOU NEED TO BE CONSISTENT. 

Your supporters want updates. Did you hear that? They WANT updates. They don’t need them, they want them!

Now, if you consider yourself a business that doesn’t need any more fans, followers, supporters, donors, customers or friends, you have my full permission to stop reading now. You’re nailing it, and we’re all looking forward to your upcoming class. But if you find yourself lacking in any of those categories, you probably need to work on your consistency.

Think about it: Do you want to know when your favorite brands are having sales or launching initiatives or holding events or celebrating milestones or building wells or rescuing survivors? Yes—you do! And that’s because you’ve signed up for their updates. So, why wouldn’t you return the favor for your fans?

Maybe you’re great at Facebook, but not so much with Twitter. Maybe your email list hears regularly from you, but your social media is quiet. Maybe your website is new and beautiful, but you haven’t actually directed anyone there. Maybe you have an event coming up in a few months, but have done nothing to promote it.

Take a moment to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Write it down somewhere, physically or digitally. And then make a plan to start making small, regular improvements.

If you’re just starting out, don’t get caught up in what you’ve heard about how frequently you should be doing any of these things. That will lead to overwhelm and frustration if you start falling behind. To begin, just figure out what is realistic for you and build from there. Then, make adjustments as you go.

CONSISTENCY BUILDS CREDIBILITY.

Work toward consistency. Your fans will take notice and grow. And you’ll be able to deepen your relationships with them as well. Because let’s face it, if you’re only talking to them when you need something, you’ll become a bad taste in their mouths.

One of the push-backs I often hear in regards to this strategy is, “What if I don’t know what to say, or run out of things to say?” Good question!

I used to work at a public relations firm. And I spent a lot of time both announcing news, and making it up. The latter is because we didn’t want to be out of sight, out of mind with the fans of our clients. I know you don’t want that either, and I realize it’s a valid concern. But the truth is, you can always make something up. I don’t mean to be deceptive, of course, but there is likely information you’re sitting on that you didn’t think about releasing. For example, you can give a shout out to your employee of the month, show a photo of the company office, relay a famous quote that fits your mission, or remind people of other places they can follow your brand online. There really is always something.

No one knows your brand like your employees, but often we treat fans as if they are employees, disregarding that they need further education, or at least a reminder.

So, there you go: Consistency is key. It’s my number one tip. And if we had a conversation, I can almost guarantee that it would come up at some point.

Do yourself a favor and take a look at your current marketing and communications efforts to spot the areas lacking in consistency. This one concept can be a game-changer! Yes, it’s hard to do, whether you run solely on volunteers or have 5,000 employees. But it’s something you owe your organization and your fans.

And if you are consistent at something, by all means, brag about it! Share it in the comments below.

By the way, I also touch on this idea in my guide to the "5 THINGS TO STOP DOING THIS WEEK" to jumpstart your marketing and communications if you’d like to dig a little deeper.

Read the other posts in this series:


PIN THIS POST FOR LATER:

My #1 marketing tip: Be consistent.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.


And So It Begins...

The founding of Signify—writing, consulting and strategy for nonprofits and for-profits with a social mission.

Well, hi there! Thanks for reading my very first post! To kick things off, I just wanted to share a little about me and why I decided to create Signify. Let’s consider this a get to know you kind of thing—like a first date, but way less awkward.

I’m Kristi Porter, the founder of Signify. I’ve been a professional writer for 13 years, which includes both full-time and freelance work. I’ve written for the hospitality industry (primarily restaurants), lifestyle profiles, churches and ministries, an environmental foundation, a Christian events and curriculum company, a footware retailer, a skincare company and spa, a Christian event planner magazine, a frozen yogurt company, and a few others—and that was all before Signify! I think good writing translates across just about any industry, so I took advantage of most every opportunity that came to me.

Through those varied experiences, I realized that my most fulfilling work came from collaborating with cause-focused organizations. That is, for- and non-profit companies that began with, or centered, on a social mission. (If you need some examples, take a look at my stellar clients.) Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a number of them, and often, it began with friends.

I am lucky to have a number of friends who started nonprofits, social justice organizations and social enterprises. And in learning from them and others like them, I kept coming back to the same conclusions. First, most all of them got into their profession because they had a heart for the work, and were fantastic at their mission, but few had any real marketing and communications training. Second, because many of them were small, they couldn’t afford to hire someone like me permanently, but they could often find the funds for project work. Third, there were a lot more businesses out there like them.

So, when I began thinking about leaving my full-time position as an Event Marketing Director, all of these thoughts kept running through my mind.

I loved what my friends were doing.

I wanted to help.

I had the skills to do so.

And Signify was born. (Ok, more or less born. This took months to flesh out!) But my friends were my inspiration, as has been true so many times in my life, and these were the types of companies that I wanted to succeed so others would support them too.

I chose the name Signify after months of agonizing. I love single words with multiple meanings, so I did a lot of brainstorming, stream-of-conscious writing, and looked up about a thousand words on thesaurus.com. I liked Signify right away, but still sat with it for a couple of weeks before telling anyone. This is so much easier when it’s not your own company, am I right?

SIGNIFY MEANS TO MAKE KNOWN,

TO SYMBOLIZE,

AND TO BE IMPORTANT.

I didn’t want to just name the company after myself, which is totally fine, but I wanted it to represent more of the synergy between myself and my clients, and the community of do-good organizations everywhere who are championing a purpose and mission to make things better. So, I felt Signify did that . . . all in one little word.

One final note is that I especially love small businesses. I’ve worked in a number of them. They’re scrappy, interested in learning, and teach employees a variety of skills instead of just focusing on one. They’re budding with potential, and often just need some knowledge and a nudge in the right direction. Now, don’t get me wrong, if you’re huge and have piles of money to throw at someone, I’m your girl! But I try to remain reasonably priced and accessible so I don’t leave the little guys behind. They got me to where I am!

Ok, so that’s a bit about me and Signify! Questions? Ask me in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer. You can also read a few fun facts over on my About page.

If you’re a cause-focused organization, and you’d like to work together, hop on over to my Contact page and shoot me a message! And you’re also more than welcome to join our Facebook Group where you can connect and learn from like-minded do-gooders. I want to help you FOCUS your message AND SHINE in the world!

PS: A big shout-out to my inspiration: Katrell, Latasha, Eryn, Anne, Jeff, Patti, Holly, Nelli, Mark, Meier...and the others I’ve undoubtedly forgotten (So sorry)! You are amazing, and the world is a better place because of your work—and so am I!


Pin this post for later:

The founding of Signify—writing, consulting and strategy for nonprofits and for-profits with a social mission.

Kristi Porter, founder of www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.