Change Conversations blog

Pat Heffernan

Pat Heffernan

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

Recent posts by Pat Heffernan

9 min read

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

By Pat Heffernan on 11/14/19 11:10 AM


How can you quickly and safely create the images you need for your blogging and social media efforts and avoid common copyright risks? Unless your talents include professional photography or graphic design, it can feel like a daunting task to create a steady stream of appealing, relevant images. Yet using visuals someone else made creates a significant risk for marketers because it exposes you to copyright infringement lawsuits and fines. Let’s look at how you can meet the constant demand for fresh, engaging visuals quickly and safely while avoiding common copyright risks.

3 min read

Why Values-Based Communication?

By Pat Heffernan on 10/10/19 11:45 AM

Consistent values-based communication. I believe everyone benefits when a mission-driven business or nonprofit focuses on words, messages, issues, and strategies that emphasize shared values. So when my 14-year old grandniece asked me “Why?” -- the question brought me up short.

4 min read

How to Remove the Curse of Knowledge from Your Writing

By Pat Heffernan on 6/13/19 11:21 AM

The more you know, the harder it is to remove the curse of knowledge from your writing. After years of education and experience in your field, you may no longer even notice when you’re baffling others with the concepts, obscure language and shorthand of your daily life. But though your prospects and clients may not know something you know, they are smart and sophisticated and they will seek out a professional who’s easier to communicate with if you don’t clean up your language.

7 min read

How to Benchmark Your Marketing Performance

By Pat Heffernan on 4/11/19 11:50 AM

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?

4 min read

7 Questions for Your Marketing Strategy: A Checklist

By Pat Heffernan on 3/14/19 11:52 AM

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?

4 min read

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

By Pat Heffernan on 2/14/19 11:33 AM

 

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.

3 min read

Marketing Wuss or Wizard: Which Are You?

By Pat Heffernan on 1/10/19 11:43 AM

Wuss isn’t a word I use often, but during my drive home from the holidays it came to my mind fleetingly as an appropriate self-description. I started driving in second or third gear with my hazard lights on though there was only the slightest visible dusting of snow on the highway — 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.

4 min read

How to Frame a Powerful Social Change Message

By Pat Heffernan on 9/13/18 11:43 AM

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.

 

3 min read

Puzzled by Content Marketing vs Inbound Marketing?

By Pat Heffernan on 7/12/18 11:05 AM

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.

4 min read

How NOT to Use Customer Demographics in Your Marketing

By Pat Heffernan on 6/14/18 11:50 AM

 

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.

5 min read

How to Build a Strong Employer Brand for Recruitment

By Pat Heffernan on 4/12/18 11:00 AM

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.

4 min read

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

By Pat Heffernan on 3/8/18 10:30 AM

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.

The Guide to Inclusive Language to help you communicate

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