Influence people

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Marketing Prediction for 2016


Lacking results, B2B marketers will quit more social media networks than they join.

YEAR-END NOTE: To mark a change in direction, I'm giving Copy Points a new name today, Goodly. I hope you'll keep following my blog, for more good stuff. Happy 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Glitch or Kitsch?

In their relentless pursuit of authenticity, marketers are embracing "glitch art," Guy Merrill, senior art director at Getty Images, tells Chief Content Officer.

Marketers are posting crooked photos with arbitrary compositions and shaky videos that look like outtakes.


The errors featured (such as oversaturated colors, lens flares, overexposure and pixelation) are made intentionally or added in post-production.

Marketers like glitch because, by displaying realism, it eradicates the difference between user- and influencer-generated content.

Kitsch, on the other hand, eschews realism.

Well-known examples include those paintings of dogs playing poker; paintings of Elvis on velvet; and everything painted by Thomas Kinkade.

From the German word for garbage, kitsch "appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality," according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.

Can you tell the difference?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Make a New Year's Revolution

Next year, instead of a resolution, make a revolution.

Rewrite your "fail script." 

Leave the catastrophes for the nightly newspeople.

Self-talk about rejection predicts both long-term success and long-term failure, psychologists have proven.

Your default fail script goes, "This always happens. It's all my fault. And it's going to ruin everything."

Instead, when you're next rejected—and every time thereafter—tell yourself, "It's temporary. Situational. And not about me."

Novelist James Lee Burke once said, "Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work."

Vive la Revolution!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Marketers, Keep Out

The chief reason Adobe's CMO.com is among the web's best branded content titles is its chief editor, Tim Moran.

When it comes to repulsing over-eager marketers, he's combat hardened, thanks to 20 years' experience as a trade editor.

Moran has kept Adobe's marketers from meddling with the corporate blog—without resorting to hands-off policies.

"We don’t have any official or formal policies about church-and-state," he told Velocity.

"The traditional marketers at Adobe have simply come to realize that CMO.com’s job is not to push brand or sell products—there are many other places for that to be done within and around Adobe. They understand our role as the purveyor of thought leadership and insight and have been quite clever about finding ways to get the Adobe POV across on the site in ways that are perfectly acceptable to our media image."

Adobe bought Moran's blog six years ago because it wanted to become a thought leader.

Moran has made it clear to marketers in the meanwhile thought leadership is different from lead generation, and that the two don't mix.

If you want to understand the difference, check out The CMO's Guide to Brand Journalism, courtesy of Hubspot.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Wintry Discontent

I get terrorists.  

But why does someone who's not politically minded relentlessly bully schoolmates, shoot up a theater, drive a speeding car into a crowd, or hike the price of a life-saving drug 5,500 percent?

Pessimism. A First World problem, if ever there was one.

In The Conquest of Happiness, philosopher Bertrand Russell devotes a chapter to pessimism, a feeling he has little patience for.

Pessimism, he says, "is born of a too easy satisfaction of natural needs."

When too much falls into your lap, struggle, "an essential ingredient of happiness," ends; and, with it, desire.

"The man who acquires easily things for which he feels only a very moderate desire concludes that the attainment of desire does not bring happiness. 

"If he is of a philosophic disposition, he concludes that human life is essentially wretched, since the man who has all he wants is still unhappy. 

"He forgets that to be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Content is Kaput

Many content-crazy marketers have lost their zeal, according to the Content Marketing Institute's 2016 Content Marketing Budgets and Trends.

Institute founder Joe Pulizzi predicts, "Now is when we will witness the greatest content marketing failures of all time."

Their disaffection was predictable.

"Lots of companies bought into the hype and started what they thought was content marketing," Pulizzi says. 

But these companies "either didn't have a strategy or didn't execute it well… or both," and have already moved on, in search of another magic bullet.

Will they ever learn the difference between idea and execution?

In my brief time, I've been told in no uncertain terms that advertising was dead, direct marketing was dead, email marketing was dead, PR was dead, telemarketing was dead, and trade-show marketing was dead.

Now content marketing has joined the angels.

Rest in peace.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Disruption is for Idiots

Technology journalist Michelle Bruno's most recent article, "What Disruption Really Looks Like," prompted me to phone her. 

In the course of our conversation, she asked me why tech company executives—disruption's tireless cheerleaders—so often rest on their laurels.

In my answer, I fell back on one of my favorite words, hidebound.

Tech company execs who succeed, with few exceptions, turn hidebound; and their standpatism leaves their companies exposed.

Hidebound is often applied to larger-than-life figures of military history.

Major General Ambrose Burnside, a West Point-trained insider, was one.

In December 1862, he caused 13,000 casualties in one day, when he threw his troops against Robert E. Lee's entrenched Confederates in two assaults at Fredericksburg.

Burnside wasn't an idiot. He simply assumed he could use tactics that had worked for his century's greatest soldier, Napoleon. But Napoleon's soldiers faced smoothbore muskets, not rifles.

Too bad he wasn't an idiot.

Like all West Point insiders of his day, Burnside was blind to the effect of a disruptive change in technology.

Idiot comes from the Latin word idiota, an "outsider."

Disruption takes an idiot: an outsider unschooled in the assumptions, unversed in the tactics, and unacquainted with the rules, the business models, and even the names of the players.

The insiders are all hidebound.

Disclosure: The hero of Michelle Bruno's extraordinary story is my employer.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Do Long Engagements Lead to Marriage?

In the penultimate scene of When Harry Met SallyBilly Crystal tells Meg Ryan, "When you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as quickly as possible."

As we know from chick flicks, long engagements don't usually lead to marriage.

Only in the Bizarro World of the web does anyone promise otherwise.

Advocates of long-form content insist long pieces lead to long engagements; long engagements, to sales.

How long? 

Their tests show 1,500 words are good; 2,000, better; 2,500, best.

But Kevin Delaney, editor-in-chief of the news blog Quartz, thinks differently.

As he told RetailDive, most long-form content is padded with uninteresting, B-grade matter.

“What people read online, when you look at the data, is shorter stuff that’s focused, creative and social with a really good headline. It doesn’t mean it’s unsubstantial. It just means it’s really clear about what’s interesting and focuses on that."

Long's fine, provided it's riveting; when it isn't, you want it to stop as quickly as possible.

As critic Roger Ebert once wrote, "No good movie is too long, just as no bad movie is short enough."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

7 Required Reading Containers for Every Marketer

Need that perfect gift for the marketer in your life?

Try a reading container (book).

Here are my top seven picks for the year:

Daily Rituals. Mason Currey's little book delivers an enchanting look at the work-habits of nearly 200 composers, filmmakers, novelists, philosophers, playwrights, painters and poets.

Email Marketing Rules. Moses took four decades to write his laws. So we should be grateful it's taken only half that time for someone to codify the rules of email marketing. Chad White's encyclopedic treatment is a must-read.

The Content CodeMark Schaefer makes all the other social media gurus look like chumps. Want to crack the code? Crack open this book! And if you want more social media marketing secrets, read Jeffrey Rohrs' Audience.

Communicate to Influence. Speech coach to the stars Ben Decker shares his secret method for swaying any audience. Learn why triads are the "perfect framework" for sales pitches, product launches, motivational talks and business briefings.

Trust Me, I'm Lying. Media manipulator Ryan Holiday's book does for the Internet what The Jungle did for meat packing. Trust me, you'll never read Business Insider, The Daily Beast, Drudge Report, BuzzFeed, Politico or Huffington Post with credulity again.

Writing ToolsRoy Peter Clark's advice to writers, simply put, is the best book of its kind. And if you want to really impress the marketer in your life, pair it with a copy of William Blundell's classic, The Art and Craft of Feature Writing.

Born to Blog. Blogs are foundational to social success, and Mark Schaefer's street-smart advice is priceless.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How to Take Advantage of the Challenges Facing News Organizations

PR expert Edward Segal contributed today's post. He has placed stories in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is author of Profit by Publicity.

The challenges you face in convincing the media to do stories about you or your company is matched only by the challenges editors and reporters face in gathering and reporting the news.

In order to produce their news products—such as a daily newspaper, the latest posts on their Web site or social media platforms, or nightly TV news program—editors, producers and their staff must contend with a never-ending series hurdles. These include:

  • Making decisions on which events or activities to cover, especially in the face of late-breaking news.
  • Weeding out the truly newsworthy press releases from the hundreds of apparently superfluous, irrelevant or poorly written ones that they receive every day.
  • Fact-checking stories.
  • Finding the best available experts to interview, explain or provide perspective on  technical or complex stories.
  • Maintaining staff morale in the face of budget cutbacks, mergers and acquisitions among news organizations, and the creeping influence of some advertising departments on the news judgments of editorial personnel.
  • Providing enough time and resources so reporters can adequately research stories and be properly prepared to interview people for them.
  • Ensuring that the work of their reporters, editors and producers meets the criteria of good journalism. 
How do you turn the media’s lemons into your lemonade? To ensure that, despite their problems and difficulties, you’re able to convince news organizations to do the stories you or your company want done? By going the extra mile to help make their jobs—and their decision to do stories about you—as easy as possible. Here’s how:


Help them with their homework. Provide them with as much background information as you think is appropriate about your story, including news releases, fact sheets or other stories that have been written about you or the topic. 

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Give editors and reporters as much advance notice as possible about scheduled events such as news-making special events.

Show them the story. Find the best possible visuals to "show" your story as well as tell it; and be sure to let the news organizations know about your visuals when you contact them. 

Give them ideas. Call editors and reporters with story ideas that you think they may be interested in, even though those ideas may not result in news coverage about you. By showing them you are a resource of information and ideas, they will be more receptive to your calls later when you pitch them a story about yourself. 

Provide good sound bites. Once you have the media’s attention, take full advantage of the opportunity by providing them with the quotes they need to help tell their story to their audiences. The better your quotes, the more likely it is that they’ll be used… and that the reporters will come back to you in the future for more interviews.

3 Phrases You Must Not Use in 2016

The year's about to end.

It's list time.

Mine consists of three pretentious phrases everyone in business should retire.

Across the enterprise. Romulans fired torpedoes across the Enterprise. Throughout the company is clear enough.

Take offline. Employed by teleconference leaders to quash unwelcome discussions. If drop it is too brusque, hold that thought would work.

Go viral. Shared content shouldn't be likened to SARS and Ebola. Become popular sounds just fine.

Which phrases would you ban?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Trust versus Trustiness

Word derivations say a lot.

The English word trust comes from the German word Trost, which means "comfort."

It's no secret marketers face a comfort deficit of Biblical proportions, as betrayal feels like the new normal.

Without warranties from their friends—and even with them—customers aren't comfortable doing business with us any more.

How, as a marketer, do you narrow the trust deficit? How do you build a comfort zone where customer engagement and conversation can begin?

Not by erecting a facade, a put-on Seth Godin calls trustiness

Four years ago, Godin said, "Building trust is expensive. You can call it an expense or an investment, or merely cut corners and work on trustiness instead."

Marketers who labor at building trustiness go for the cheap fix. Trust, on the other hand, takes time and money.

"Trust is built when no one is looking, when you think you have the option of cutting corners and when you find a loophole," Godin says. "Trustiness is what happens when you use trust as a PR tool."

While a minority, the Real McCoys are patently obvious, Godin says. They are "the people and institutions that will do what they say and say what they mean."

Godin points to the "perverse irony" in masquerading as trustworthy: "The more you work on your trustiness, the harder you fall once people discover that they were tricked."

What are you working on?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Think Evergreen

Pity the poor cereus, which blooms but a day.

Marketing content's a lot like that.

When measured by clicks, most content flowers but a day or two.

And deservedly so, when marketers are conditioned to think news.

But after all the work of content creation, you'd hope your effort enjoys more than a moment in the sun.

That's why I like evergreen content.

"Evergreen content answers your customers' most common questions, and rarely goes out of date," Mark Schaefer writes in The Content Code.

You can, for example, Tweet once every month about an old evergreen blog post, and receive new rounds of likes, comments and shares from people who missed it, Schaefer says.

You need to stop worrying the content is old and "view evergreen content is an investment in an asset for your business," Schaefer writes.

"If you bought a new tractor for your farm or a new truck for your plumb business, you wouldn't let it just sit around not being used. An investment in content is no different."  



Sunday, December 13, 2015

2016: The Creative Comeback

The Creative Revolution inspirited marketers in the mid '60s.

Will the Creative Comeback do so again in the mid teens?

CMO predicts it will, in a year-end roundup of expert opinions.

The technicians have had their day.

The results?

One in three campaigns fizzle.

Perhaps the creatives' time has returned.

"Blow up any process that isn't dynamic and collaborative," Darren McColl, SapientNitro, told CMO. "Creativity in a world of technology takes constant collaboration, not process."

Here's what others had to say:

Marketers, please come out from behind your tech and data and start acting like humans. You’ll be amazed at what can happen. — Jeff Pundyk, The Economist Group

Do something unexpected, launch a breakthrough, challenge a leader, 'wow' consumers, make memorable moments, engage in new conversations. — Ed Vlacich, National Brands

Effective creativity now requires pairing shrewd psychology with showmanship. In 2016, I resolve to channel, daily, Daniel Kahneman and P.T. Barnum. — Marsha Lindsay, Lindsay, Stone & Briggs

In an age where brands know more than ever about our customers, embracing creativity and fearlessness should no longer be seen as risk taking but instead as smart, innovational thinking. — James Earp, Razorfish

Be bold, be creative, but be human. Think beyond getting attention; design for engagement. And design beyond impressions, think expressions. — Brian Solis, Altimeter Group

Next year, we’re daring to go from being valued to being loved. We’ll be showcasing the power and value of creating an emotional connection. — Susan Ganeshan, Clarabridge

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Child Speed

Every week, my two-year-old granddaughter dashes past another developmental milestone.

She's unafraid to ask questions or state her observations. 

For their part, the googly-eyed adults around her make a willing audience. 

Of course, it does't hurt to be adorable.

Eighteen years ago, designer Bruce Mau wrote his 43-point Incomplete Manifesto for Growth to inspire the designers in his studio in Toronto.

Point 15 of the Incomplete Manifesto reads:

Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.

Were it possible to learn for a lifetime at my granddaughter's present speed, we'd all be geniuses. 

Unfortunately, brain physiology holds us back.

In fact, most minds fossilize before their owners turn 30.

But destiny shouldn't deter you from asking stupid, innocent, childlike questions.

Who knows?

Once in a while, you might get an adult answer.

Disclosure: Bruce Mau is now my employer's Chief Design Officer.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

10 Compelling Reasons to Blog

Why blog, when you could chat with a customer, scroll through Facebook, dust the blinds or straighten your desk?

Blogger Helen Nesterenko has combed eight credible websites for statistics that add up to "58 Unbeatable Reasons to Run a Blog for Business."

Here are her 10 most compelling:
  • 46% of web users read more than one blog a day
  • 81% trust information from blogs
  • 13% have been inspired by blogs to make a purchase
  • 61% have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a blog
  • Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors
  • Companies that blog at least 15 times a month get 5 times more traffic than companies that don’t blog
  • 70% of companies that blog 2 or 3 times a week have acquired customers through their blogs
  • Blogging is the most popular content marketing tactic, used by 73% of marketers
  • 59% of B2B marketers believe blogs are effective in achieving their business goals
  • 86% of B2B small business marketers think blogs are their most effective content marketing tactic

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Nation of Quitters

Where have you gone, Evelyn Wood?

We need you.

Steve Peck, writing for Heinz Marketing, reports the average reader devotes no more than two minutes to branded long-form content.

No matter the content's quality, after two minutes, the average reader quits.

Peck reaches this conclusion after a study of 180,000 readers and 1,700 white papers, e-books, reports and guides.

Because Americans' average skim-reading speed runs from 400 to 700 words per minute, most content exceeding 1,400 words is wasted.

"Blink and you’ve lost them," Peck says.

While in the White House, self-taught speed-reader John F. Kennedy sent a dozen members of his the staff to the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Institute, so they could keep pace with the cerebral president.

Mrs. Wood promised students she could teach them to read at the rate of 1,500 words per minute, and produced some who could read four times that many.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Unnatural Acts

Why do we encounter so many inexpert emails, articles, ads, books and blog posts?

The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, says psycholinguist Steven Pinker in The Sense of Style.


As Darwin observed, for human beings the act of writing, unlike speaking, is unnatural.


While we master the art of conversation as kids, we wrestle for years—decades—to learn to communicate artfully in writing.

Unlike speaking, writing isn't genetically wired. Good prose, in fact, demands that writers commit "unnatural acts," Pinker says.

Those acts begin in a fairy tale.

To communicate well, the writer must make believe she's conversing with someone.

"The key to good style, far more than obeying any list of commandments, is to have a clear conception of the make-believe world in which you're pretending to communicate," Pinker says.


What should your make-believe world look like?

Pinker describes it eight minutes into his delightful 50-minute talk before the Royal Institution, Linguistics, Style and Writing in the 21st Century

Check it out.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

True Underdogs

Acclaimed work-life balance expert Berkeley contributed today's post. He is the author of two national bestsellers, The 4-Minute Work Week and Who Moved My Bowl?

While journalists are riveted on news stories of micro-agression by yoga instructors, law professors and standup comics, little coverage has been given to a trend that—by any measure—is vastly more disturbing.

I refer to the ever-growing number of state laws that permit restaurants to open their dining areas to dogs.

While health laws expressly exclude felines from public dining areas (even in cat cafés!), these so-called "Dining with Dogs" laws allow canines to go anywhere they damn well please.

Nothing gets my back up like species-based discrimination.

The new laws, moreover, add insult to injury, when you consider cats receive no compensation for their appearances on YouTube.

Speaking for my kind, we understand victimization by cultural oppressors full well.

Every time big guy doesn't feed me on time, I know it's not merely neglect.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bye, Bye, Millennials

Marketers now target Millennials by hobbies, not age, according to Hotwire's Communications Trends Report 2016.

No longer youth-obsessed, brands strive to engage customers through "age-agnostic content" that emphasizes the "hobbies we do for fun and the causes that pique our emotional interest."

Marketers should "forget about age," the report says. 

"Let’s focus our marketing on what really motivates our audience—their passions and the life they choose to live."

The PR firm's report is based on data from 400 communicators in 22 countries.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Face Facts


In a controlled experiment, the UK's Behavioural Insights Team studied the effect stock shots of faces had on the responses of 1 million visitors to the website of a charitable organization.

The researchers found the use of stock photos of people's faces significantly reduced conversions.

They concluded that, because marketers over-expose web users to these kind of photos, users simply tune them out—and ignore any content that accompanies them.


"The use of a stock photo discouraged individuals, who saw it as a marketing gimmick," the researchers said.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Swallow Your Pride

Why do we ask someone to eat "humble pie" when he overreaches?

The expression is a corruption of "umble pie," a tasty 13th century dish filled with spiced bits of animals' hearts, livers, kidneys and lungs. "Umble" derives from nomble, French for "deer innards."

The words "umble" and "humble" are in fact unrelated (the latter derives from the Latin word for "lowly"). But by the 19th century, "umble" had been dropped from the language and, because many Brits omit the spoken "h" at the beginning of words, the expression "umble pie" was mistakenly spelled "humble pie."  People assumed the mysterious dish had something to do with humility.

Chew on that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Tweet Dead People

To paraphrase Faulkner, the past isn't dead; in fact, it isn't even offline.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, devoted decades of his life to spiritualism, the art of communing with the dead.

He wrote 20 books on the subject; lectured about spiritualism throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and North America; and was an active member of the Society for Psychical Research for 37 years.

My medium for communing with the dead is Twitter.


Presently, I receive regular Tweets from Sir Arthur, Thomas Jefferson, the Ancient Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, and the Victorian lawyer and diarist George Templeton Strong.

Tweets from the dead entertain and uplift me while I traverse the underworld (on Metro, not a raft) during my commute.

Indeed, communing with the dead is one of the very best uses of Twitter, which is otherwise largely wasteland. 


I recommend it wholeheartedly, and enjoy the fact the dead can Tweet and pay nothing for their mobile phones.


Woody Allen once wrote, “If man were immortal, do you realize what his meat bills would be?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fancy Pants

The term fancy pants first appeared in 1843 in an ad in The Bangor Daily Whig & Courier. 

In a time when most pants were coarse, the soft twill trousers advertised for sale by auction house Williams & Prince were, indeed, fancy.

Style manuals discourage writers from putting on fancy pants. Never use a fancy word, when a plain one will do.

But, as pscyho-linguist Steven Pinker says in The Sense of Style, the rule is overstated: 

"It's certainly true that a lot of turgid prose is stuffed with polysyllabic Latinisms and flabby adjectives. And showing off with fancy words you barely understand can make you look pompous and occasionally ridiculous. 

"But a skilled writer can enliven and sometimes electrify her prose with the judicious insertion of a surprising word. According to studies of writing quality, a varied vocabulary and the use of unusual words are two of the features that distinguish sprightly prose from mush."

In a 1739 letter, Voltaire offered similar advice to the 24-year old writer Helvétius:

"Beware, lest in attempting the grand, you overshoot the mark and fall into the grandiose: only employ true similes: and be sure always to use exactly the right word."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What Do Women Want?

What do female executives—or male ones, for that matter—want from B2B salespeople?

Personalized content.

Channeling Freud, Harris recently asked, When it comes to sales pitches, what do you want?

Harris learned executives want pitches that are personalized:
  • 89% want pitches personalized to their company’s industry
  • 83% want pitches personalized to their specific problem
  • 70% want pitches personalized to their role in the company
Harris also asked, When it comes to sales emails, what do you want?

The pollsters learned executives want sales emails with content:
  • 84% want case studies
  • 81% want articles
  • 78% want white papers
  • 72% want brochures
  • 72% want videos
We live in an on-demand world; we want what we want, when we want it. Do your salespeople provide it?

NOTE: Today's post is yet another milestone for Copy PointsNo. 500. Coming soon: Post No. 501.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Code Eats Content for Breakfast

Lamenting developers' complicity in content piracy, marketing guru Mark Schaefer recently wrote, "Coding is cheap and fast and plentiful and we seem to be in a media world dominated by cleaning up unintended consequences."

Developers know they're killing creatives, the geese that lay the golden eggs. But, wantonly, they continue to pump out code that rewards content pirates.

There's no real news here, alas. Just old-fashioned avarice.

While encouraged by investors to "disrupt" moribund industries, developers continue to fleece creatives, as they have since the days of Napster.

The injustices they perpetuate make literal the economist's term creative destruction.

Market-oriented, Schaefer recommends a return to patronage, the "Renaissance monetization model," to support content creators.

Raised by parents who worshipped FDR, I recommend revival of the WPA (funded by taxing companies like Facebook.)

What's your idea?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Effecting Change on a National Level: 3 Lessons I've Learned

Youth leader and activist Susan Rosenstock contributed today's post. She is a cofounder of umttr, a nonprofit that champions the caring support and mental well-being of teens.

My 16-year old son Evan, a high school sophomore, took his life on May 20, 2013, leaving a community shocked and saddened. 

Evan had never suffered from any mental illness prior to a basketball injury. That injury led to a back surgery, which then led him to feeling as though he'd lost his identity as a varsity athlete.

Four of Evan's friends came to me and said, “We have to do something to raise awareness about depression and teen suicide because, if this could happen to a kid like Evan, it could happen to anyone.” Their concern became the foundation of our non-profit umttr (you matter).

umttr has grown more than I would have believed possible only two years ago. With that growth, I have learned what it takes to create positive change in a community and on a national scale.

How do you do it? Here are the three most important lessons I can pass on to anyone hoping to effect change:

1. One size does not fit all.

To reach a large audience effectively, you need to understand what motivates that audience. What may work for adults may not work for teenage students. Be sure to tailor your promotional activities to the audience you want to reach by asking that audience what would work. Don’t guess! 

We work with teens and often find ourselves in situations where the adults and teens disagree about how to market to the “teen” audience. We always go with the teens.

2. Ask, ask ask.

Ask a sample of your audience about your promotional plans. Ask sponsors about the best way you can work with them for mutual benefit. Ask other activists if you can help to advance their goals. When in doubt, ask

Here's an example. When the Campaign to Change Direction, a White House Initiative launched by Michelle Obama in March 2015, asked umttr to become a founding member, we made a pledge to educate 70,000 students about the five signs of emotional distress over five years. In just six months we have already reached 50,000. All the campaign had to do was ask.

3. You're only as good as your words.

Language matters. Check with other activists, educators, nonprofits and companies in your field, to make sure the language you’re using promotes effective change.

We try, for example, never to say an individual “committed suicide.” That language still carries the stigma of suicide as a crime. Saying someone “died by suicide” or “ended his life” is preferred. This may seem like a small difference, but changing word-choice alone represents a big step toward recognizing that every suicide can be prevented.
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