Please welcome Vicki Williams!

Tessa SrebVicki Williams, Claxonro, who has been our intrepid and fearless intern for the past six months, left some very big shoes to fill for her successor…but Vicki Williams is up to the task!

Vicki brings some mad stats and research skillz to the Claxon team. In two short weeks, she has sliced and diced data, schooled us in stats (confidence intervals, anyone?), and introduced me to a new word with which I have instantly fallen in love and will try to use whenever possible because it’s so darn fun to say–abecedarian. (Go ahead, say it out loud. Fun!)

Vicki will be building on the Marketplace of Words research, which is primary research we’re doing to see which words nonprofits use most often, so you can know which words to embrace and which to avoid.) Tessa did the first round of research and, trust me, it’s beyond cool. Vicki will work her magic to evolve that work, making it even more awesome and useful for nonprofits.

Welcome to the Claxon team, Vicki–we’re thrilled to have you on board!



We Want YOU to Win a Very Special Copy of Pitchfalls

All of us at Claxon are so excited that our first batch of Pitchfalls: Why Bad Pitches Happen to Good People has sold out. Thank you to everyone that played a part in this awesome accomplishment. We like to think we’ve contributed to getting rid of boring elevator pitches forever.


The second batch of Pitchfalls just arrived, and we want to show some appreciation. We’ll be giving away the very first copy of the second batch to one of our Facebook followers. If you’d like to be entered in the drawing, check out our Facebook page and press ‘like’. Now is the time – we’ll be choosing and announcing the winner tomorrow May 9th. Thank you again to all of our supporters, and good luck! Remember, visit our Facebook page now and press ‘like’. We can’t wait to give you your copy of Pitchfalls.

Please welcome Tessa Srebro!

Welcome, Tess!

Welcome, Tess!

We are super duper excited to have Tessa Srebro join the Claxon team as our fearless intern this quarter!

Tess is a graduate student in Seattle University’s Masters in Nonprofit Leadership Program. She’s a communications major turned blogger turned public affairs grad student. She’s a word nerd who loves food. And she’s super smart. And super nice. What’s not to love?!

In addition to helping with client work, Tess will be the driving force behind Claxon’s social media efforts. So, if you see an uptick in terms of quantity and quality on Facebook and Twitter, that’s all Tess. She’ll also be blogging about practical ways you can use words to make the world a better place, so watch for her posts.

Please join me in welcoming Tess to the Claxon team–we are grateful for her contributions and couldn’t be more thrilled to have her on board!


”Pretty Please” only works on Grandma

Action buttonWhen was  the last time you said “pretty please?” and got a “well, alright”? Right. You were, like, five years old and asking grandma for a second cookie.

Getting people to notice your organization is a lot tougher than getting grandma to agree to more dessert. These days, stimulus overload is the norm. You’re up against fierce competition for your people’s attention, people like donors, volunteers, advocates and fans. To get their attention (and keep it), your appeals and pitches need to be more sophisticated. Notice I didn’t say complicated. Leonardo da Vinci said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

All of this to say: asking your supporters to take action requires some planning if you’re going to successfully get their attention. John Haydon gives us some great advice on creating compelling calls-to-action. Making it personal, telling stories and offering opportunities to share are some of my faves.

When your Prince Charming turns Snidely Whiplash

(Photo credit: Yahoo! Sports)

The fuss about Lance Armstrong’s “admissions” of guilt has started to die down, partly because the sports world has moved on to something more important: imaginary Twitter girlfriends (ooh, fun!). No doubt some sports PR folks are getting a workout.

When sports figures or other celebrities hit a rough patch (a colossal understatement when it comes to Armstrong, but let’s just call it that), and their names are associated with mission-driven organizations, there’s high potential for collateral damage—duck and cover everyone! Lance was clearly a master compartmentalizer. But the American public? Not so much.

I became a Lance fan when I saw him ride from Dax to Hautecamp in the summer of 2000. This was one of the days when he kicked biking butt. Turns out he was able to do so thanks to his friend, EPO. At the time, my mum was bald as a bat, battling her own cancer. I needed to see what cancer looked like when you survived. This is personal for me, as it is for many. (My mum is fine now, by the way, having unleashed a can of cancer whoop ass of her own.)

So, deep breath, if we put our outrage and disappointment aside we can learn some lessons from how the Livestrong Foundation (who changed their name from the Lance Armstrong Foundation years ago—good call folks!) has managed the potential reputation tsunami brought on by one Mr. Armstrong. Here’s what they did right:

Get in front of the story

Lance “stepped down” from the board of the foundation in November. It was obvious his jig was up and the risk to the Foundation was imminent.  The decision was announced prior to Lance’s public confession (which was really just a formality, don’t ya think?).

When you want to hide, respond and acknowledge

The foundation immediately came out with a statement expressing disappointment in Lance. “See! They think he did something wrong! Just like me!” This creates some space between the organization and the offending celebrity. It establishes a sense of separateness in the eyes of the public, even though their brands have always been closely intertwined.

Focus on your mission

The Livestrong Foundation website is all about the mission to kick cancer’s ass. Aside from some changes to the leadership pages, we’ve seen little sign of the media storm on their website. This sets the expectation that the organization is 100% committed to doing what they’ve been doing. Every quote hitting the media and interwebs from Livestrong since the news broke ends with a continued commitment to their mission.

There’s little question that the Livestrong Foundation will be in a better place to “fight to improve the lives of people affected by cancer” as the scandal dies down.  The doping storm has been brewing for years and the foundation had plenty of opportunity to be prepared. For those of you with public figures representing your brand, here are a few resources that might help, should your Prince Armstrong, er, Charming turn into Snidely Whiplash.


Colorado Nonprofits Crisis Communication Plan

Crisis Communications Tips for Nonprofits

Kivi Leroux Miller’s Advice: Shorten the News Cycle