Facebook – the Ultimate Word-of-Mouth Tool

In a recent survey on synagogue marketing that I conducted, Jewish leaders said word-of-mouth is their most effective marketing technique. In the same survey, they admitted that while they have Facebook pages, they mostly can’t say whether Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild is worth their effort.

Word-of-mouth is successful because it’s a marketing message from the most trusted source: someone you know. (Admittedly, not everyone I know carries the same amount of trust.)

Facebook, with its extensive friend networks and ability to communicate personally and honestly, ought to be the ultimate word-of-mouth tool.

If you’re a synagogue executive director or a leader of any non-profit, some of these ideas might help you get more out of Facebook. (Feel free to ask me for help!)

Make Facebook more effective in a synagogue, membership organization or non-profit
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Posted in Non-Profits, Social Media | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Marketing the Shul: What’s Working and What Needs to Work

Presented to The Future of Jewish Non-Profits Summit, July 11, 2011, Chicago, Ill.

When it comes to synagogue marketing (and very possibly marketing churches, too), technology is trumped by the old stand-by: personal contact. Paid newspaper advertising doesn’t seem to work well, and the jury’s still out on the effectiveness of social media.

As a lifelong professional communicator, and former president of Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah in Wilmette, Ill., I constructed an informal survey (using Google Docs) which I sent to Chicago-area synagogue executive directors and randomly selected rabbis, as well as Conservative synagogue presidents on a national listserve.

Facing competition from the Internet, iPads, the golf course and other non-religious distractions synagogue leaders are eager to find marketing techniques that will engage current members and attract new people, without draining the temple’s resources.

What’s working and what isn’t

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Presentation: Anatomy of a Blog

This presentation was prepared specially for a training workshop about blogging at the Jewish Vocational Service of Chicago. Contact us if you’d like to have the full presentation at a meeting of your organization.

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‘Live Drafting’ plus Google Docs Creates the Ultimate Team Collaboration Experience

My client was amazed.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he exclaimed to me recently, as we were working together to draft his responses to an important questionnaire. (As his consulting wordsmith, my role was not to create the responses, but to help him express his ideas in clear, accessible language.)

Google Docs plus Jonathan Lehrer's "live drafting" technique add up to effective brainstorming.

Google Docs plus Jonathan Lehrer's "live drafting" technique add up to effective brainstorming.

The client was talking about my technique of “live drafting,” which I recently described at Chris Ruys 1 on 1.

Live Drafting is a brainstorming technique that uses a large screen to make  collaboration quicker and more effective for team members. Rather than relying on flipcharts or dry-erase boards, I connect my computer to a projector and write or edit language live on the screen while all the participants watch.

Live drafting with Google Docs

This client, a successful engineer and businessman, surely has been involved in brainstorming, but the revelation was how Google Docs improved the process.

The statement that I had created as a Google Docs document was projected from my PC onto the wall of his office. I showed him how to log into his Gmail account and open the link to the Google Doc I had just sent him.

In a moment, he was able to simultaneously edit what I was writing.

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3 Reasons I Won’t Give 3 Reasons

Man cannot live by bullet points alone

I have this recurring nightmare that I’ve been found slumped over my keyboard. The medical examiner determines that my brain is riddled with bullet points.

Bullet points and Top Ten lists are everywhere

Bullet points and Top Ten lists are everywhere: Image from LinkedIn group email.

PowerPointization is evident everywhere. Even the TV newscasts have resorted to summarizing their stories in bullet points on the screen, as the anchorperson reads a voice-over. Now it’s creeping into the Public Relations and Communications community on LinkedIn.

While we may blame David Letterman for injecting Top 10 lists into our culture, let’s admit that enumeration serves a purpose. But as professional communicators let’s also promise to stretch our creativity in different ways.

3 reasons I won’t give 3 reasons

1. Everybody else is making numbered lists. My message gets more attention if it doesn’t look like everybody else’s.

2. There aren’t enough good points. I started out to write Top 10 Ways to Work Less and Earn More, but I can only think of two, and I risk wasting the reader’s time by inventing another eight.

3. Enumeration interrupts storytelling. Journalism schools teach how to tell stories, not write articles. Numbering my content distracts the reader from a smooth flow (unless I’m writing about Snow White and those guys who hung around her).

Wait, what? Can’t bullet points help?

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“Critique My E-Newsletter” Yields Tips for a Better Email

Does the banner image on your email newsletter need to be as large as my house?

That’s the question I considered today while reviewing some email newsletters on the Constant Contact user feature call, appropriately “Critique My Email,” a page where I landed while working on the enewsletter for my client, the Middle East Peace Network.

Regardless of which email newsletter service you may use, the suggestions I gave my fellow Constant Contacters may be useful tips for a better enewsletter for you.

BANNER IMAGE: Should be attractive, engaging and compatible with your Web site. And it should be fairly small. Try looking at your newsletter on a tablet or netbook computer. If the banner takes up more than a third of the page, it’s too big. Why? Because you want readers to see your most important content without scrolling.

BOREDOM: Engage your readers by replacing generic headings — especially in your Table of Contents — with specifics. Instead of “April Newsletter,” use something like “Spring Cleaning Tips You Can’t Live Without.”

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Posted in Email Marketing, Social Media | 3 Comments

National Weather Service Caves in to Chicago TV Weather People

Perhaps I missed the Call for Entries in an obscure award competition, but is someone giving prizes for the worst snowstorm in history?

Maybe Chicagoans are desperate for another national championship (after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup), or possibly we just want potential visitors to know we have The Worst Weather on Earth.


Regardless of whether it was the third or fourth worst blizzard in Chicago, my car was still buried under a lot of snow.

The Chicago Tribune’s Rex Huppke reported that a “meteorological coup broke out” when “For a short time Friday (Feb. 11), the National Weather Service tried to shave 0.2 inches off the Blizzard of 2011′s snowfall total and downgrade it from the third-worst snowstorm in Chicago history to the fourth-worst.”

The weather “coup” shared the Trib’s Saturday front page with news of Hosni Mubarak’s reluctant resignation. (Might as well note that the Tribune’s layout staff missed an opportunity to run this head over both stories: “Emotions boil in Cairo while Chicagoans freeze.”)

Huppke reports that the National Weather Service decided to classify the recent blizzard, which dumped a hundred feet of snow on my car, as two snowstorms, not just one. This effectively reduced the officially recorded depth of the snow. Then, in a moment of meteor-illogical revisionist history, the weather service went into the record books and re-calculated the snowfall total for the 1979 blizzard.

At a time when they should have been trying to forecast when (if ever) the snow will melt, Chicago’s TV weather folk got on a conference call to express their displeasure with the weather service’s Jim Allsopp, complaining that the change in ranking would “shake the public’s confidence in weather forecasts,” as the Trib put it.

“It’s a psychological thing. What are people going to think?” WGN’s Tom Skilling is reported as saying.

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A creative marketing plan to help Panera Bread maximize free Wi-Fi ROI

“Help us continue to offer our free Wi-Fi.”

Free Wi-Fi at Panera bread

Portion of the Panera Bread splash screen displayed when users log on to the Internet. My PR plan could help Panera Bread maximize the benefit of their free Wi-Fi

On a beautifully sunny (but freezingly cold) weekday afternoon, I’m sitting at Panera Bread in Skokie, Ill. using the free WiFi. There are at least a dozen other people doing the same thing.

At that table, three people are having a business meeting, reviewing printed documents and gazing at the screen of their laptop. At the next table, two women are having some kind of meeting involving something on their computer screen.

Several years ago, Panera made me a customer for life by establishing the trend of offering a free wireless Internet connection to diners, office-less road warriors and work-at-home types who were bored by their basements.

It became so popular, that now the fast-casual restaurant chain must remind me at every login not to stay in the cafe too long and not to single-handedly hog a table for four. That’s cool.

Here’s my creative idea, a sample marketing plan outline offered for discussion at your favorite business school.

These creative marketing ideas might help Panera expand on their popularity with the Internet-addicted masses, specifically the business folks.


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Black-Eyed Peas Guaranteed 30 Years of Bar Mitzvah Party DJ Play

Mazel Tov!

Many, if not most Americans, I’d guess, know this phrase is used by Jews when congratulating other Jews on such happy occasions as weddings, bar mitzvahs and the birth of a child.

But, seriously, how did this most Jewish of Jewish expressions make its way into the wildly popular “I Gotta Feeling,” performed (annoyingly auto-tuned) by the Black Eyed Peas at halftime of Superbowl XLV?

Chicago musician Stuart Rosenberg, a talented bandleader who has played for countless simchas (happy occasions), provided an explanation for me on Facebook: “The Peas put that in to guarantee that song would be played by every DJ at every bar mitzvah for the next 30 years.”

Rosenberg, founder of the League of Creative Musicians, is probably right. The seventh graders who populate bar mitzvah parties love to shout “Mazel Tov!” when it comes up in the lyrics, seemingly at random, during the song.

Actually, the bar mitzvah DJ playlist might be more diverse if other groups also had injected their tunes with some Yiddishkeit (Jewishness).

For example, what if…

  • Elvis had used fermisht as a synonym for ”All Shook Up”?
  • Stevie Wonder had thrown kine-ahora (ward off the evil eye) into “Superstition”?
  • KC and the Sunshine Band had sneaked shep naches (experience joy) between the lines of “That’s the Way I Like It”?

Other suggestions are welcome, of course.

Meanwhile, the overuse of “I Gotta Feeling” seems to drive Stuart Rosenberg crazy:

“All the more reason to have a live band, not a DJ,” he says.

And to Stuart, I’ll shout “Yasher koach” (may you have strength), something that’s often said to scholars after they give a particularly insightful commentary.

Posted in Humor | Tagged | 4 Comments

Blizzards, bread and Internet fractals

Chicago is literally “under the weather” today, meaning that we are under a thousand feet of snow.

Does it seem that when there’s a blizzard, people crave bread?

Lia Lehrer has a humorous take on that question in a post today.

BTW, this blog had its official debut yesterday. I would have been online long ago, but I got confused and started paying attention to the Blagosphere (news about former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich).

But I’m here now. Michael Lehrer poses the question of where I fit in to the Blogosphere, and he offers a the Blogofractal cartoon from XKCD as a reference. I think I’m in there somewhere between liars and ponies.

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