Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Carnival: The Best Development Resources

This week's Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants is: "The best professional development resources and strategy for nonprofit marketers. This includes professional development resources for nonprofit marketers, and my own strategy for sustaining your learning, inspiration and information sharing in the field. I'll leave the list linking and resourcing to folks who are much better at it than myself and address my own strategies.

This post will also attempt to answer the question that I get from time to time from friends and colleagues:

"When do you sleep?"

I do in fact get 7 hours of sleep every night (which if you are counting, means that I TIVO Lost and watch it the next night sans commercials like you are supposed to!!!). I've refined my strategy for learning, inspiration and information over the years quite a bit.

There are 3 main ways that I stay current and inspired.

1. Reading books. I pride myself on the fact that I'm a reader. You may have stumbled on my list of business and non-business books. I always have a huge stack of books on my nightstand that I queue up over time depending on what I want to learn, brush up on or explore. I mix up my reading as much as possible between pure biz/marketing books, biographies and sci-fi/fantasy stuff. My favorite way to find new books is by flipping through bibliographies of my favorite books or best of all - visiting author web sites or blogs and finding what they are reading. I've gotten a TON of great book ideas from Tom Peters and Seth Godin's blog. You can also stumble on some terrific books by reading blog comments or scanning amazon book reviews.

It's also worth noting that sometimes books will simply help you connect the dots on stuff that you have been thinking about. This happened as I was finishing up Obama's latest book, and especially as I was reading Man's Search for Meaning a few weeks ago. I still can't articulate it, but there is something VERY powerful about connecting disconnected things and coming up with unique ways to solve problems.

My MP3 player is also a massive resource. I download anywhere from 3-5 podcasts per week and listen to them during my commute. There is some great content out there including TED Talks and IT Conversations.

2. The blogosphere. I do read the Wall Street Journal every day, but the truth is that I get most of my best content from bloglines. I've added a TON of blogs and feeds that I scan a few times a day. I absorb new concepts best on paper. Reading on screen is fine, but I really love printing a few articles and stuffing them in my bag. I'll find them a few days later and read them on the train or in bed.

3. Talking to People. I call experts up all the time and introduce myself. Then I ask them good, solid questions about what they are doing about something I want to know about. I talked to 4 different mobile marketing consultants and service providers to educate myself. I talked to just about everyone who'd take a few minutes with me to discuss gaming and Second Life. The networking is actually incidental and not intentional (but a wonderful side benefit) - I'm mining for knowledge!

Once I've absorbed new concepts and ideas, I typically do one of two things.

If the concept or idea sounds like a no-brainer (mobile marketing did), I typically jump in immediately and start experimenting as fast as possible. This past week for example, I attended a great SEO seminar with SEOClass. During the seminar they talked a lot about social marketing. After learning that Netscape was quite Digg like, but more focused on Politics with a slightly older user base I knew I was going to try it. Within a few hours I had an account, had posted a story and was seeing how I could drive votes from myspace and facebook. I'm literally fearless when it comes to experimenting with these types of marketing ideas. I take the concept, prove it for myself and turn it in to a best practice. I'm in the midst of doing this with Squidoo as well. The act of doing completes the act of learning for me.

If the concept or idea is shaky or needs marinating, I'll let it sit or continue to read or look for examples. As I search, I'll use Delicious to tag "references" so I can go back later to review before making any moves. My tags become like a tickler file - never too far from me and festering just under the surface. I've noticed that if I leave stuff on the backburner, a random randomly connected thing will bring me back to the idea and it will either click on or off at that point. Or not, which is also good because it indicates that I've wasted enough time.

To summarize:

1 part love of learning.
Huge amounts of reading (and listening)
Willingness to try new things
Sheer curiosity

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Graphic Designer Position

Are you a graphic designer? Do you know one? If so, this post is for you!

I'm excited to post that I'm hiring a full-time senior level graphic designer here at International Rescue Committee. Before you get too excited, see my non-HR approved job info below.

Please consider contacting me immediately if...
  • You have lots of experience (noobs need not apply for this gig) because...
  • You like working on a huge variety of things from print brochures and marketing materials to web sites, microsites, flash pieces and a plethora of other web goodness which means...
  • You are very flexible, and not just with Down Dog. If you don't know the difference between GIF and JPEG and have no web experience you should not apply.
  • However... please do apply if you've been trained in print production but have been working on the web for the past few years.
  • You are in NYC (we're across the street from Grand Central for an easy commute)
  • You are interested in saving the world in your own little way.
The rest is just details that I can talk to you about later. Please contact me directly to start the proceedings at marc.sirkin (at) When you contact me, please send links to your web site or examples of your work, your blog, and your myspace page (I'll be googling you anyway, might as well get it over with off the bat and save me a few minutes).


Monday, March 19, 2007

Yes - It's Not Working!

I've recently started to believe the hype around mobile marketing and wanted to try something/anything to see how it all works. I jumped in with two feet and quickly learned that the mobile marketing landscape is pretty much a mess. I read a lot and talked to a few vendors and learned all about the different carriers, the high cost of transactions and different technologies (MMS, SMS, WAP, etc). Because of my relatively small brain, I got quickly confused, just before depression set in. I plunged forward anyway.

We struggled to find the right marketing approach and eventually settled on using a mobile messaging strategy to support an online petition to stop violence against women. The thought was: once users sign the petition they can give us their mobile number (U.S. carriers only please!) and we'd send them periodic updates on how the petition was going.

Before settling on this "information strategy" we considered a donations campaign and even thought through creating an IRC "mobile club" that would give subscribers access to special content (wallpapers, icons and ringtones). We nixed that idea though because of the cost structure (a huge % of each payment would go to the carriers) that it was premature and inappropriate at this time. We also had the thought that maybe we should try walking before running.

In any case, there was good news and bad news. The best news comes directly from this attempt failing pretty badly. With more than 5,800 signatures and 7 registered mobile subscribers we learned that no one is taking us up on our offer. We'll need to really figure out if we've got an audience problem or a value proposition problem (my guess is we have a little of both). I'd much rather have an early setback with nothing at stake in ventures like this.

More good news includes the vendor we're working with. The msgme interface is amazingly clean and simple - and provided me with the ability to quickly test and set up my campaign.

The bad news is that mobile marketing (like anything) isn't as simple as we were hoping. Hope not being a strategy, this shouldn't have been surprising. We'll continue to try to find new ways to build relationships with our constituents and I'll keep letting you know what works and what doesn't.

In the meantime - please sign our petition to stop violence against women!

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Oxfam Photo Petition

Darn these guys - coming up with all the great ideas (and then having the nerve to pull it off so perfectly!).

Oxfam America has joined a broad coalition of student groups, nongovernmental organizations, and Ethiopian community members, all calling on coffee roasters to help Ethiopian farmers make more off their most celebrated crop.
Check out the building array of photos on flickr (almost 200 as of this post) and my personal contribution as well.

I support Ethiopian Coffee Farmers

Take your photo and upload it now - this is a wonderful way to mobilize volunteers, advocates and donors.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

MTA Does It Again

In a previous post, I blogged about how the MTA delivered a wonderful newsletter. Since then, I've gotten another issue from them and two wonderful little surprises.

On two occasions, the train has been late into Grand Central. Both times, as I boarded the 5:01 back to Bridgeport, there were flyers on all the seats apologizing for the delays.

"An Explanation For This Morning's Delays" was the bold headline. The flyer went on to describe in detail why the train was late.

Not only did they deliver an explanation, they gave me a phone number and a web address to visit for more info.

I'm impressed at so many levels. MTA could easily thumb their noses at their customers - after all - am I REALLY going to drive to NYC everyday?

I'm guessing MTA doesn't have a secret Intranet anywhere (read this and you'll probably never walk into Best Buy again, I promise).

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Seeing Red

A great post from Trent Stamp today regarding Project Red.

The fact that the RED campaign will never recoup anywhere near as much in charitable proceeds as they spend in marketing the campaign is a huge concern. In the end, all they're really doing is raising awareness and if that doesn't lead to their customers choosing to be more benevolent and philanthropic, it's simply an exercise in futility.
They've spent $100 million?

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