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

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.

5 min read

The Psychology of Words: Revealing more than you realize

By Pat Heffernan on 2/8/18 10:00 AM

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

4 min read

Changing Minds: The science behind visual storytelling

By Pat Heffernan on 1/25/18 11:57 AM

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.


5 min read

Mission-Driven Marketers: Are You Focused or Fearful?

By Pat Heffernan on 12/28/17 10:00 AM

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.

4 min read

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

By Pat Heffernan on 12/21/17 8:25 AM

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.

3 min read

How Inbound Marketing Metrics Will Save Public Relations

By Pat Heffernan on 11/23/17 10:00 AM

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.

6 min read

Conquer Your Website Design Accessibility & Inclusion Challenge

By Pat Heffernan on 11/9/17 10:05 AM

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.

6 min read

Changing Minds: Frames Matter More Than Facts

By Pat Heffernan on 11/2/17 11:42 AM

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.

2 min read

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

By Pat Heffernan on 10/12/17 10:00 AM

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.

4 min read

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

By Pat Heffernan on 10/5/17 2:30 PM

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 began with the popularity of Mad Men on TV, or maybe the proliferation of new technologies and media channels, but misuse and confusion about brand 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 for growth. Let’s look at two things a brand is, and seven things a brand is not.

5 min read

Change Strategy: Avoid Bad Words and Message Mistakes

By Pat Heffernan on 9/14/17 10:00 AM


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

6 min read

Changing Minds: Social math, stories and framing

By Pat Heffernan on 8/10/17 4:45 PM

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.

Check out our Guide to Inclusive Language to help you communicate
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About Change Conversations

The Change Conversations blog is where changemakers find inspiration and insights on the power of mission-driven communication to create the change you want to see.


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