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

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 language and other factors in a future post.

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

Paid, Owned, Earned Media: Are You in the Right Place?


You may have heard the terms "paid, owned, earned media" bandied about recently and been curious. You want to know more—understanding where and how your communications appear is as critical for those committed to social change as it is for major brand managers. eMarketer is a helpful start: "paid media is advertising inserted next to another’s content; owned media is brand-created content; and earned media is getting someone else to provide content about a brand." But these definitions are blurry in practice and not everyone is using them in the same way. It seems it's time for this marketer to share my view of how to use the paid, owned, earned media framework for your marketing strategy.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 5/18/17 12:00 PM

A 3-Step Guide to Message Triangles


For many years the message triangle has been one of the tools I use most often for clients and for myself. Whenever a major speech, news event or media interview looms, developing a message triangle is my starting point. Here’s why — plus a three-step guide to developing and using a message triangle effectively for your next speaking opportunity.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 5/4/17 10:00 AM

Collaboration versus Consultation: What’s the difference?


We were ‘talking shop’ over breakfast recently, as business people are wont to do. After several mentions of ‘collaborative this’ or ‘collaborative that,” one of the group remarked that he wasn’t interested in collaborating with his professional advisers – what he wanted (and was paying for) was a consulting expert. It was a casual comment by a friend and fellow business owner, but it made me pause.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 4/6/17 10:00 AM

Forget Climate Change — There is work to be done


When you believe in a cause, it becomes your baby, and one of the hardest things to do is let go of its name.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 3/9/17 10:00 AM

Changing minds: Why repetition and focus matter immensely


If you are seeking positive change, you know your language choice matters. Your nightmare is to inadvertently use a word that triggers a frame in opposition to the change you want to see. Worse yet is to witness a counter-productive frame or an outright lie being repeated over and over again. Let’s look at why repetition matters, why what changemakers focus on matters, and what you can do to be sure you are advancing your mission rather than hurting it.

Posted by Pat Heffernan on 2/9/17 10:00 AM