Pat Heffernan

Pat Heffernan — marketing strategist, writer, and founder of Marketing Partners in Burlington, Vermont — writes about strategy, words, and communication to create change.

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Recent Posts

How to Benchmark Your Marketing Performance

Last week in a client meeting I was asked a string of marketing questions that I have been asked many times before.

“Is that a good open rate, a good click-through rate?”

“How much do others spend on digital advertising?”

“How are we doing compared to your other clients?”

What’s behind these questions are deeper issues—questions that everyone who works in a mission-driven organization wrestles with from time to time—“Are our results sweet or just so-so?” “Are we doing a good job?” Or more formally, how do we benchmark our marketing performance?

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 4/11/19 11:50 AM

7 Questions for Your Marketing Strategy: A Checklist

It often happens this way. First I hear a book author on NPR talking about an interesting subject, then the issue comes up with friends, and then just before the subject is about to slip from short-term memory, I see the book. So it was recently when I saw The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, by Atul Gawande at my local library. The book got me thinking: Can the secret of marketing strategy be found in a checklist?

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 3/14/19 11:52 AM

Copyright Dangers: Is Your Business at Risk and What to Do

 

Your business or nonprofit faces copyright dangers on both sides of the copyright law:

  • For violating someone else’s copyright, resulting in hefty fines and a public relations embarrassment, and
  • For having your creative materials used improperly, violating your copyright but requiring extensive time and money for small organizations to enforce legally.

Let’s look at the reasons for the dangers, and at some practical tips for what you can do to minimize your risk.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 2/14/19 11:33 AM

Marketing Wuss or Wizard: Which Are You?

Wuss isn’t a word I use often, but it came to my mind fleetingly as an appropriate self-description during my drive home from the holidays. Though there was only the slightest visible dusting of snow on the highway, I started driving in second or third gear with my hazard lights on and car after car kept passing my (usually speeding) red roadster. But despite the weather map and my fellow travelers, I had decided I did not like the feel of the road beneath my snow tires.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 1/10/19 11:43 AM

How to Frame a Powerful Social Change Message

The strategy of framing messages for change has never seemed more important — or more difficult. Never more important because pressing issues like suicides, random acts of violence, air and water pollution, extreme weather events, and opioid addiction are surging and seemingly intractable. Never more difficult because sharing the stories of the individuals affected has never been easier — but stories of an individual’s problem hide systemic approaches and solutions. Never more difficult because inadvertently triggering a counterproductive mental frame associated with one ‘side’ or the other of a polarized debate has never been easier.

Wondering if you can successfully frame a change message today? Let's look at how (and why) to rise to the challenge.

 

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 9/13/18 11:43 AM

Puzzled by Content Marketing vs Inbound Marketing?

Know that you are not alone. You are definitely not the only one puzzled by distinguishing between the terms content marketing and inbound marketing. It is a question I hear often. Playing such marketing buzzword bingo at your next management or trustee meeting is a waste of time for you as a busy change maker. Let’s piece together the answer to this puzzle.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 7/12/18 11:05 AM

How NOT to Use Customer Demographics in Your Marketing

 

Yes, you read that correctly: How NOT to use customer demographics in your marketing. In an attempt to make research-based marketing decisions, many small businesses and nonprofits rely too heavily on the copious, free demographic data available today. Relying on numbers without context obscures your view because it invites misleading conclusions and implicit bias. Let’s look at two examples that illustrate the 'data fog' problem, as well as tips to avoid making faulty demographic assumptions about your customers, prospects and communities.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 6/14/18 11:50 AM

How to Build a Strong Employer Brand for Recruitment

Mission-driven organizations can be surprised to suddenly find themselves struggling with employee recruitment and retention. (Wasn't it just yesterday that marketing was the challenge?) For years, being in the social good sector all but guaranteed you could attract and keep like-minded employees. But today, you need to support what is known as your 'employer brand' if you want to attract the talent you need to advance your mission. Let's look at why and how to build a strong employer brand.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 4/12/18 11:00 AM

On the Power of Words, Labels and Language: Do No Harm

The power of words, labels, language and frames is often a popular topic at the water cooler and lunch table here, but it has been top-of-mind lately. One reason is a recent experience I had when filling out a form to participate in an online forum with people from around the world. The gist of one of the questions was, “How would you describe yourself so other people will like you and want to interact? Explain the social psychology of your response.”  It was a daunting exercise.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 3/8/18 10:30 AM

The Psychology of Words: Revealing more than you realize

Thoughts on the psychology of words, word use, pronouns, and social issues have been scurrying across my brain lately. Not that you can’t find me obsessing about words on a year round basis, but words and their implications have been in the news recently and thus on my mind more frequently.

Language is the most common and reliable way for people to translate their internal thoughts and emotions into a form that others can understand. Words and language, then, are the very stuff of psychology and communication. – James Pennebaker

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 2/8/18 10:00 AM

Changing Minds: The science behind visual storytelling

Do you feel that?

That tugging sensation on your heart?

You’re not sure why, but as serious, and as focused, and as grownup as you are, you likely just responded to the photo of a child’s joy.

Why?

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 1/25/18 11:57 AM

Mission-Driven Marketers: Are You Focused or Fearful?

I am worried. As I wrote earlier, part of creating a persuasive change message is to document and describe the problem before offering a solution built on shared values. My fear is that the blistering acceleration of focus scarcity, or attention deficit if you will, may soon make effective mission-driven marketing all but impossible.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 12/28/17 10:00 AM

In Marketing, Don’t Mistake a Shiny New Tool for Your Goal

One day as I flicked through a group of RSS and Twitter feeds for a client in education, I came across a sketch that made me chuckle in recognition. Bill Ferriter, a.k.a. @plugusin on Twitter, posted a reminder for educators: “What do You Want Kids to Do With Technology?” I chuckled to myself because several of the wrong answers listed for educators also regularly bedazzle small businesses and nonprofits into confusing a new tool (or shiny object) with a marketing goal.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 12/21/17 8:25 AM

How Inbound Marketing Metrics Will Save Public Relations

Rich metrics are one of the delights of implementing an integrated inbound marketing program. Inbound’s ability to track the history of an individual’s interactions along her/his customer decision journey makes documenting the ROI for various marketing activities a possibility for small businesses and nonprofits. For years the Achilles’ heel of public relations (PR) has been its lack of metrics directly linked to business outcomes and the subsequent inability to document ROI. Inbound marketing is the answer.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 11/23/17 10:00 AM

Conquer Your Website Design Accessibility and Inclusion Challenge

Making sure that your website reaches and communicates effectively to everyone requires attention to many factors—design, language, search optimization, and adherence to accessibility guidelines and regulations. I’ll look specifically at website design for accessibility in this blog post and address inclusive language and other factors in a future post.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 11/9/17 10:05 AM

Changing Minds: Frames Matter More Than Facts

Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
Benjamin Lee Whorf

I can no longer count on my fingers the number of times I've searched fruitlessly for the perfect, convincing set of facts for changing minds to advance an issue. Really, I should know better. Facts are not what change peoples' mindsets. Frames are.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 11/2/17 11:42 AM

Common Copyright Risks To Avoid (and Tips for Quick Photos)

Confusion about copyright law is common these days — fueled by the rise in online content and easy sharing. And the constant demand for fresh, engaging visuals to be shared drives more and more copyright confusion about photography in particular. But confusion creates a significant risk for marketers because it exposes you to copyright infringement lawsuits and fines. Let’s look at common copyright risks you can avoid, and tips for quickly and safely creating the images you need for your blogging and social media efforts.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 10/26/17 10:00 AM

Why Your Nonprofit is a ‘Best-Kept Secret’ and How to Fix It

If ‘best-kept secret’ is a phrase you’ve ever heard used to describe your nonprofit, you are not alone. Perhaps it’s just the popularity of the Best-Kept Secret book, but it seems as if a larger-than-usual number of reluctant marketers self-described as a ‘best-kept secret’ have crossed my path lately. Yet knowing you are not alone does not ease your concern about knowing you cannot advance your mission if no one knows you exist.

 
Posted by Pat Heffernan on 10/12/17 10:00 AM