Lunchtime Links: Associations Need More Walking Billboards

Don't overlook the power of wearable messaging. Also: how to create contagious content.

Associations are all about mission—and action. But if your organization wants to be heard, it first has to be seen. How to create walking billboards, and more marketing tips, in today’s Lunchtime Links:

Walking billboards: You see it all the time: people walking around with the name of a company or a university or a sports franchise proudly plastered on their chests or their hats or their backpacks. For the companies and organizations that sell this apparel, it’s one part fashion merchandising, one part marketing. But why don’t more nonprofit organizations print and use this type of merchandise? That’s the question association consultant Steve Drake recently posed on his company’s blog. “Sitting in the airport last Saturday, I noticed a huge number of people wearing logoed clothing that identified themselves with their team, cause, city, company,” he writes for SCD Group. Drake goes on to suggest the same approach could benefit associations by increasing awareness and branding and providing an entirely untapped fundraising stream. He tells the story of one small association that made $30,000 selling t-shirts! How does your association promote its brand?

Content contagion: It’s every association marketer’s dream—to create content that the organization’s members cannot resist, to send email newsletters and other communications that members feel compelled to open and interact with. But if creating contagious content were easy, wouldn’t everybody already be doing it? Writing for Wild Apricot Blog, membership expert Lori Halley recalls six lessons learned from the best-selling advertising book Contagious, by Jonah Berger, and questions whether many of those same lessons apply to nonprofit organizations. How can your association create more contagious content? One idea is to provide members with social currency—or content that makes your readers feel smart and valuable. Another suggestion: Use triggers—or mainstream issues that are top-of-mind—to help members connect your mission with topics in their daily lives. Other tips include evoking emotion and creating engagement through storytelling. Want more? Check out Halley’s full list.

A better tagline: Communications expert Steve Cody, cofounder and managing partner of Peppercomm, wasn’t messing around when he wrote that “these are not the best of times for charities.” Writing for, Cody points out that there are “15 percent fewer charities now than in 2010.” That’s an alarming statistic, but it doesn’t have to spell doom for your organization. What it does mean, says Cody, is that “crisp, clear, and consistent messaging is more important than ever.” Cody highlights effective nonprofit taglines that have helped organizations continue to grow in a troubled economy, along with a few that he says don’t work as well. Looking to create a better tagline for your organization? Among his suggestions, be short and to the point with your messaging, never use fear-mongering as a tactic, and always be transparent about how you plan to spend other people’s money.

How does your organization get its message across? Tell us in the comments.

(photo by nick.amoscato/Flickr)

Corey Murray

By Corey Murray

Corey Murray is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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