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

Avoid Sustainability Language Disconnect: Show Don’t Tell

By Pat Heffernan on 8/1/17 10:04 AM

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 message framing for sustainability.

3 min read

How to make your content work harder: Atomization

By Pat Heffernan on 7/13/17 10:00 AM


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?

3 min read

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

By Pat Heffernan on 7/6/17 10:00 AM

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

4 min read

Message Framing and Your Brain: Formula for change

By Pat Heffernan on 6/15/17 10:00 AM


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.

4 min read

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

By Pat Heffernan on 5/18/17 12:00 PM


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 communication appears 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.

4 min read

A 3-Step Guide to Message Triangles

By Pat Heffernan on 5/4/17 10:00 AM


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.

3 min read

Collaboration versus Consultation: What’s the difference?

By Pat Heffernan on 4/6/17 10:00 AM


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.

6 min read

Forget Saying Climate Change: Words activate frames

By Pat Heffernan on 3/9/17 10:00 AM


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

For decades now I have been writing, speaking and working with others to create change on issues — issues with names you’ve heard — like climate change, gender equality, protecting the natural environment, and universal access to educational and economic opportunities.

But just when it seems the pure volume of words will make them all but meaningless, I am struck again by the impact of words and their potential to be counter-productive. The way we talk affects the way people think. If you don’t use words well, then you're denying yourself potential supporters, sponsors, donors, and even values-driven paying customers.

Here’s why I stopped using the names of causes I believe in, and what to do instead.

5 min read

Message Framing & Your Brain: Why repetition and focus matter

By Pat Heffernan on 2/9/17 10:00 AM


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.

5 min read

How to Create a Fantastic Infographic for Your Nonprofit

By Pat Heffernan on 1/12/17 10:00 AM


You’ve read the statistics about the power of visuals (especially infographics). You know visual content is more likely to have an impact, to be shared, and to be remembered. But for you and many nonprofits, creating an infographic can seem like a fantasy when just keeping up with day-to-day demands for written content and photos is a challenge. You can do it. There are five things you need to know to create a fantastic, hard-working infographic for your nonprofit.

2 min read

Your Favorite Changemaker Stories: Top 10 Blog Posts 2016

By Pat Heffernan on 1/5/17 10:00 AM


Which Change Conversations blog posts were most popular in calendar year 2016? The numbers tell us what readers liked, and shared, and commented on, and viewed the most in the past year. In 2016, our marketing blog for changemakers covered topics ranging from mission-driven event planning and video storytelling to collaborating on creative production and effective design principles. Here are the top posts of 2016.

4 min read

Crisis Communication Priorities and Protocols

By Pat Heffernan on 10/6/16 10:00 AM


Crisis communication is not something I really want our clients to gain experience with. But no matter what your industry or sector, you have at least one potential crisis lurking. (What if your manufactured product failed and caused a tragedy? If you are a nonprofit, what if an employee harmed a person in your care?) Even if you have recognized the need for crisis communication planning and developed your plan, you may find implementation challenging when you are in the midst of a crisis.

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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