Need to persuade? Try verbs

Nobody takes an action until they have imagined themselves doing it. Those are wise words from Roy H. Williams — AKA The Wizard of Ads. After sponging up his wisdom for three days, I landed teeming with ideas on how to spur audiences with words and mental images.  A takeaway? Adjectives and adverbs — no matter how… Read more

Why Pavlov is a better marketer than most of us

Ivan Pavlov understood the power of creating associative memories. In his classical conditioning experiment, he linked something his “audience” (e.g. the dog)  wanted — food — with an external stimulus — the bell. Most marketers go straight to the bell — how can I ring it better, louder and more often?  But the important part… Read more

How to surprise the brain to attract attention

A purple cow stands out. A well-known song played in a minor key fascinates. An unexpected twist in a story you thought you knew the end to delights. Why? Humans owe our “need for surprise” to a part of our brain called Broca’s area. It’s a region in the frontal lobe of the left hemisphere that is responsible… Read more

Exercise: Would you pass the bulls eye test?

Here’s a fun little exercise to try. (1) Think about all the non profits you support. (2) Make a quick sketch of a bulls eye. (3) Now chart out the non profits you support on the bulls eye as follows: Put the 2-3 non profits that you will support year-in and year-out in the center… Read more

Just because it works, should we do it?

Those annoying pop-up forms that hover over web content do indeed work to build email lists. Asking your email list for money in an appeal will raise more money than sending a cultivation message. Resending the same e-appeal that someone didn’t open (AKA ignored) the first time will usually yield 1/3 of the original appeal’s results.… Read more

Three Hours

According to this Hubspot research, the average half-life of a Facebook post, Tweet or email is three hours. Better quality content lasts longer, say the researchers. No big surprise.  

Do you know the six universal shortcuts to persuasion?

I’m fascinated by the science of persuasion. How can we craft our messaging and campaigns to effectively persuade people to take part, to take action, to give, and to volunteer? Somehow I missed this great animated video that breaks down psychologist Robert Cialdini’s six universal short cuts that guide human behavior, which was released last… Read more

Language Matters

Why are right-wing extremists so much more effective than progressives at using language to mobilize the faithful? Is it just because they have Frank Luntz and we don’t? My pet theory — and yes it’s a little cynical — is that the right uses language to inflame their core, while liberals use language to avoid… Read more

Where’s the donor in your outreach efforts?

We can learn a thing from Bruno Mars about making our audiences (and donors) the “stars” of our communications vehicles. Bruno Mars is featuring fans dancing to his hit “Treasure” on a new website called The site looks for videos posted with the hashtag #TreasureDance on Instagram, takes the newest 100 videos and places… Read more