The charity connection

Coventry_branch_logoIf you’ve already signed up to my 21 Steps to Communication Success you’ll know I’m a Listening Volunteer with Coventry & District Samaritans.

(If you haven’t signed up, you might find it useful.  Click here to take a look.)

We’ve just received an incredible donation from the combination of Coventry & Warwickshire First and Barclays Bank.  I’m on the board of the former and we made Coventry & District Samaritans the charity for our gala FirstPro Awards.  Barclays generously agreed to match fund the sum raised, doubling the income from the night in one quick step.

At Samaritans’ we’re incredibly grateful for the support.  It covers the cost of running the service for over six weeks.

But for commercial organisations there can be more to it that just handing over the money and feeling warm and cuddly.  Such a donation is obviously good fodder for a local news story, inclusion in the staff newsletter, popping on the website and spreading on social media. But if you really want to make the donation pay there is plenty more you can do.

Take Samaritans.  By definition we have to be good at listening and are given a lot of training on how to do it well.  Why not tap into this.  As you’ll know if you’ve signed up to my 21 Steps, listening is an incredibly important to good communication.

Charities like Samaritans are happy to share their expertise*; the more good listeners out there the better!

Think about a more structured partnership. Coventry & District Samaritans has a shop.  Working in collaboration, it could provide a tool for getting new, young employees to improve their commerciality.

Get the charity to set a commercial challenge for your young employees.  It could be anything; re-structuring the service (improving efficiency in commercial parlance) or increasing donations (driving sales to you).

And, of course, each activity provides material for the media, social media, your newsletter, and internal noticeboards.

Think laterally about your charity donation and you’ll get a far bigger return on your investment.

* Calls to Samaritans are completely confidential.  Information is not shared outside the organisation.

The power of social proof

Don’t panic this isn’t a party political broadcast.Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 08.48.41

I’m a member of the Labour Party. I joined over 20 years ago and stand every year in the local elections in an unwinnable seat.

To me the Labour Party stands for equality, compassion and social justice. I may not agree with everything and when that happens my responsibility is to argue my point within the party.

You’re now either with me or think I’m a delusional fool; politics rarely conjures up neutral positions and this dynamic and productive conflict is one of the reasons I love it.

But why am I writing about this now in my role as a communication consultant?

You’ve probably noticed there’s an election going on. Campaigning costs, so the Labour Party is sending almost daily emails to members asking for donations.

And they’re excellent. They get the job done.

I have a monthly standing order to my constituency party, another for the national party and I made a donation earlier in the year. I thought I’d done my bit. But I still clicked on the link and donated.


The emails use positive social proof.

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people follow the behaviour of others so they do the ‘right thing’ in a given situation.

Positive social proof encourages the behaviour you want and negative encourages the opposite.

Visitors were picking pieces of wood from the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona as souvenirs. The authorities wanted them to stop so they put up a sign telling people their heritage was being vandalized every day by the theft of wood, mostly a small piece at a time. The thefts tripled*!

The emails from the Labour Party told me about the 11,000 plus people just like me who have donated in the last two weeks. Before I really knew it I was clicking on the link.

* Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert B. Cialdini.

Warm up your cold clients

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 10.42.50Everyone has them, clients who for one reason or another you’re not in contact with anymore.  You did a good job, they were pleased but the project finished and because of the pressures of work they slipped off the agenda.

You know if you get back in touch there’s likely to be more work but you are never quite able to find the time to do it properly.

I have worked with Lorraine Francis for over 15 years in many different guises.  We are now collaborating a little more closely on specific projects and have developed and launched Cold Clients.

Our simple and effective three-month programme will re-connect you with old clients and deliver the return you want.

Call me now on 07976 669089 if you want to find out more.

Some brief advice

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I have spent the majority of my 25 years in PR and communications on the consultancy side of the business so I have seen more than my fair share of briefs. From the clear and concise to the rambling and vague I’ve seen them all.

The brief is an important document if for no other reason than it helps you order your  thoughts. There is little or no point in negotiating with a PR consultant if you don’t have a clear idea about what you want to achieve.

Your brief should include some key information:

The context

What’s your strategy? What are your ambitions? Are you launching new products or services, moving into new areas? What are your competitors up to? What’s happening in the industry?

Your goals

Focus on outcomes not outputs. By this I mean think about what you want to happen as a result of your efforts. You want more than the piece of coverage, the publication of a newsletter or Likes on your Facebook page. You want engaged customers buying your products and services. Everything else is vanity.

Your customers

Who are they? What motivates them? What worries them? Where can you find them?

Your messages

What makes you different and how does this match with the worries, concerns and interests of your customers?

The timescale

How long have you got? When do you want results by?

The budget

Be honest and realistic. There is nothing more frustrating than being told you have to say what you think they should spend. It makes the whole process meaningless. Instead of devising a programme aligned to your commercial goals and resources they’re trying to second-guess your budget.

Measuring success

How will you judge if the programme is a success. And again, be honest. People often have a particular thing in mind at the start, like the number of delegates to an event or coverage in a specific newspaper or magazine. Tell us; then we can make sure we tick this box.

And finally …

I’ve had people refuse to answer questions to supplement the brief. At a push this is okay if you all you are doing at this stage if picking between providers (presuming you have clear criteria against which you’ll measure their performance). But it’s a little weird to do it like this when you think that the communication programme will only really work if there is a good relationship between you and your consultant.

To get more information from an independent source contact the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

Say It Once, Say It Twice, Keep On Saying it!

Cathy Connan Small Logo

People will buy if you get the product, price and service right. But only if they know about you, like the sound of what you have to offer and can find you!

A strategically sound PR campaign rooted in your commercial strategy will address all these issues.

The first step is to understand exactly what you have to offer, whether it’s a commodity or high value service. What makes it different? What makes it interesting? Why do you think people will engage with it?

You need to understand who you’re targeting

Then you need to understand who you’re targeting. Get under their skin. What motivates them? What pressures do they face? What do they need? How do they make their purchase decisions?

Overlaying the interests and preferences of your targets with your points of difference will shine a light on the elements to focus on; your key messages. Everything else becomes secondary.

Use different ways to embody your messages

Now you know what to say, you have to find ways to say it again and again without boring the audience. This means you need to do more than just state it repeatedly using slightly different words each time. You need many and different ways to embody your messages and then use multiple channels to communicate.

If your targets are seeking expertise and knowledge is one of your points of difference then don’t just say you’re an expert. Write an insightful and incisive article and place it in the right media platform, share it on social media and give a relevant talk at a key trade exhibition.

Once you have reached the point you think you’ll scream if you hear the message one more time then it’s just about getting through to your target audience.

Contact Cathy Connan of Communication Strategy on 07976 669089 or email