Marketing like the Big Guys for Small Businesses and Nonprofits: Announcing Under3PR

Sometimes that “do-it-yourself” approach can only get you so far. While small-budgeted organizations fueled by passion and talent can be extremely effective, a roadblock might appear that necessitates outside expertise.

Under3PR, a collaborative service from Winkleman Company and Coa Design, was inspired by the interests and challenges posed by my students throughout nearly two decades of teaching at Columbia University’s Institute for Not-for-Profit Management, Mailman School of Public Health, United Jewish Appeal, and Fordham University’s Center for Nonprofit Leaders. Each student’s organization shared the acute need for quick, strategic and affordable guidance to targeted challenges.

Through public relations, marketing and graphic design, Under3PR addresses the most common issues facing small nonprofits and businesses. Projects range from drawing media attention for a program, branding and social media management to crisis response and counsel on leadership continuity – and everywhere in-between. Like many of my students’ organizations, prospective clients must have revenues under $3 million and a short-term project that fits within Under3PR’s targeted parameters.

Our test drive for Under3PR came to us in the form of Heart Gallery NYC. A small nonprofit, Heart Gallery NYC uses the artistic talents of renowned photographers to raise the visibility and public awareness of children in foster care seeking their “forever families” – all on an annual budget of under $500,000. Laurie Sherman Graff, Founder and Executive Director, needed help drawing coverage for a press conference but had limited funds. Heart Gallery NYC was a perfect opportunity for Under3PR – small budget, acute project, good cause – so we set about being perfect for it.

Our PR expertise packed Laurie's press conference with reporters and photographers.

Our PR expertise packed Laurie’s press conference with reporters and photographers.


“The media coverage was awesome, and the professionalism of the Winkleman Company team was so apparent and appreciated! I look forward to continuing to work together on future events,” Laurie wrote in an email to us the day after the conference. As Under3PR, our team brought together the right television and traditional media to help tell these children’s incredible stories to a broad, multilingual audience of potential families.

Working on a project basis can be the right approach, especially when a challenge may be outside the scope of small business or nonprofit managers who is already too stretched for the cause/goal that drives them.

When a small organization comes up against a roadblock, it can’t afford to slow down. Under3PR will help you navigate and resolve those roadblocks.

Please see our full menu of Under3PR offerings or call Katherine at 646-234-8077 to discover what we can do for your business.

Analog Social Media: The Power of a Hand-Written Note

On my desk is a piece of robin’s egg blue stationery. It’s a thank-you note from a former student who asked me to help her with her job search. I keep it in clear view as an unremitting reminder to help her as soon as I can. I have many papers on my desk that accumulate throughout the day – white paper, beige paper, glossy and flat stock, all printed neatly and clearly. Admittedly, there is a feeling of accomplishment as the pile dwindles to nothing by the end of the day. Yet her note remains. This particular letter is special. It is blue and it is handwritten.

hand-written noteWould I have read an email from my student? Yes, of course I would. While there is an immediacy to email, it doesn’t linger. Once read, I’d jot a note in my planner and move on to the next task. The message wouldn’t just sit there on my desk, subtly demanding action.

Neither do most of the items that come in the mail – bills, circulars, trade publications, credit card offers and so on. There are also those donation asks with fake handwriting printed on them, just to trick you into looking long enough to notice. All of us receive too much email and junk mail – just imagine how much the media, foundations, industry leaders and business owners receive.

On top of all of this noise and bustle, voicemail, text messages, Facebook posts, Linked In requests, Twitter and RSS feeds form a stimulus shield that can make it very difficult to get someone’s attention, as we discussed in our last blog entry. Only around 20 to 40% of emails are ever even opened.

When you really need to captivate, some neat penmanship on crisp cardstock or applying a highlighter on selected lines and a few Post-its in your annual report can often do the trick. But there really isn’t anything that beats a personal, handwritten note.

Your target audience, whether it’s a donor, trustee or a favorite aunt, will definitely open one – and these days, it can feel almost novel and nostalgic to even tear open a card-shaped envelope. A handwritten note shows that you took the time and effort to share with them. Your audience will understand that you wrote the note specifically for them because they personally are your priority. It’s flattering to feel important.

The robin’s egg stationery is still sitting there. It’s only been a few days, but every time I look at it, I’m reminded that I can help this student. Her note makes me want to react. She’s taken the time to let me know of her appreciation and that she doesn’t want to be forgotten. The least I can do is to make sure I don’t.

Messaging in the Age of Noise

Anyone likely to give to one nonprofit group probably also receives fifteen emails a week from organizations in the same wheelhouse. Especially when resources are tight, it can be hard to make yourself heard over the noise.

Between email lists, social subscriptions and the occasional direct mailing, people are increasingly hounded to help out their nonprofits. The Onion, a satire newspaper, lampooned the phenomenon last year in a video about a kidnapped nonprofit staffer whose many emails for help went unopened.

The 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study reflects the same reality – email lists, Facebook likes and Twitter followers all grew over the past year, 15%, 46% and 264% respectively – but email engagement is down. Everyone’s shouting more, so it’s harder to be heard.

The problem boils down to being concise. Your subscribers want to pay attention – they did subscribe, after all – but the competition for a moment of their time is stiff, so you should use it well.

Take a look at these two telephone ads. The first is from 1922, touting the many functions of a Northern Electric telephone:

Telephone advertising of the past

The second is from 2012, advertising an iPhone 5’s myriad uses:

iPhone ad, 2012

These ads make the exact same claim, 90 years apart: “Our telephone does it all.” Where the first does it by listing the multitude of purposes to which the telephone can be put (including my favorite, “shelf”), the second gets right to the point. A smartphone has more potential uses than a Northern Electric telephone, but there’s no sense in listing them to an audience that’s likely familiar with them anyway.

A nonprofit’s audience is the same way. They know what the organization does, and they want to help, at least a little bit – but they only have a second to decide whether to trash the email or follow its call to action. Be brief.

Social Super Bowl vs. the $4 Million TV Spot

This past weekend, we all watched spellbound as Americans everywhere tuned in to the biggest perennial advertising event on television. In between bits of football, we collectively turned the volume back up to watch as brands from the tiny to the institutional threw millions of dollars down – a record $4 million per spot – for a chance to show TV’s largest single audience just how funny, relevant, clever and lovable they are.

When the dust cleared and the blog roundups finished commenting, though, what was left?

For that much money, you’d expect your audience to take away a pretty significant message. Increasingly, though, it seems Super Bowl ads focus on gags, special effects and flair without really trying to communicate.

One of the things a Z10 can't do

One of the things a Z10 can’t do

Although this year’s batch had the usual mix of funny, flat, fantastic and forgettable, there weren’t a lot of brands trying to tell us about themselves. Perhaps tellingly, one of my favorite ads this year was for the BlackBerry Z10 – a spot that focused on what it wasn’t saying.

In that light, AdWeek’s Six Questions video this week seemed especially relevant: they broke their usual format to ask, “Will the big Super Bowl spot ever die?

I think the most on-point comment in AdWeek’s video comes from Nissan’s Erich Marx, who points to social media spaces as the proving grounds for an ad. He’s implying that the strongest showing a Super Bowl ad can enjoy is to engage viewers offscreen and to capture their conversation online.

Erich is right because the best marketing is a guided conversation. To wit, two of the most successful pieces of advertising from this year’s Super Bowl weren’t even on television.

One, for the home carbonation device-maker SodaStream, managed to steal the show without even paying for airtime. In fact, that’s sort of the point – “If you love the bubbles, set them free,” says the ad, cheekily acknowledging the Coke/Pepsi blockade on soda as well as soda advertising, both on Super Bowl Sunday and in general. Commenting on not being allowed into the TV conversation created another one online: SodaStream netted 4.3 million views on YouTube so far.

The other most successful piece of the year also plugged itself into the social conversation instead of buying attention-time on the air. Oreo and ad agency 360i managed to steal the show by capitalizing on the unexpected power outage in the third quarter with their socially shared “You can

Oreo's fleet-footed ad

Oreo’s fleet-footed ad

still dunk in the dark” ad. The windfall? 16,000 retweets, 22,000 likes and 7,000 additional shares on Facebook – not to mention a well-shared Buzzfeed article and thousands of points on Reddit.

At about eight million dollars a minute, advertising should pack a pretty hefty punch. Certainly, there’s still an audience to be found glued to the set on game day, and plenty of people tune in just for the ads – but as with all marketing, the wisest path isn’t just to the viewer’s eyes and ears, it’s to their tongue (and social accounts) as well. Don’t just talk to your audience. Get them to talk.