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 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

Seven Things a Brand is Not (and Two It is)

Brand and branding are terms you hear used and misused daily in marketing and advertising. Once terms used only by those working in the field or by business people in large corporations, it’s now commonplace to hear in everyday conversations: “My favorite brand is…” or “XYZ has a really good brand.” Perhaps it’s the popularity of Mad Men, or maybe the proliferation of new technologies and media channels, but misuse and confusion about the terms keeps growing. Yet as a business owner or nonprofit manager, you want to understand exactly what you’re paying for when buying a brand property, or branding your product or services. Let’s look at two things a brand is, and seven things a brand is not.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 10/5/17 2:30 PM

Change Strategy: Avoid Bad Words and Message Mistakes

 

Do you worry about saying bad words? I know sometimes it feels as if I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how to avoid bad words and message mistakes. For change strategy, bad words are the ones that trigger bad frames — frames that run counter to the positive social change you want to see.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 9/14/17 10:00 AM

Changing Minds: Social math, stories and framing

While officially this is the second in a series of posts about changing minds and message framing, you may be interested because it can also be considered either a confessional about numbers, a bias for whole-brain thinking, or a how-to use social math to illustrate the need for change.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 8/10/17 4:45 PM

Avoid Sustainability Language Disconnect: Show Don’t Tell

Signs abound of a growing sustainability language disconnect between marketers’ communications and what consumer and business customers understand, or care about. If sustainability is core to your mission, you can ask yourself a few questions to avoid a disconnect in your communications.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 8/1/17 10:04 AM

How to make your content work harder: Atomization

 

Yes, it takes a lot of work to create a stellar piece of content today. And there are no shortcuts. You need to develop the content strategy idea, do the topic research, do keyphrase research, check what your competitors are doing, write the piece, develop complementary graphics, refine, proof, optimize, publish, and promote your content. Phew! Rinse and repeat isn’t very appealing for any mission-driven organization right after such an effort. How can you make that epic content you worked so hard to produce work even harder?

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 7/13/17 10:00 AM

How to Answer WIIFM or “Do I See Me Now?”

I expect What’s In It For Me (WIIFM), to be crystal clear. And your customers do too.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 7/6/17 10:00 AM

Message Framing and Your Brain: Formula for change

 

If you’re like most change communicators I know, you spend quite a bit of time keeping up on what’s known and what’s new in communication, persuasion and cognitive bias. I know our team certainly does. But a spate of new brain science research is advancing understanding of how our brains work — and raising new questions about how to apply that knowledge to change minds.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 6/15/17 10:00 AM