Tuesday, May 11, 2010

That Was Fast!

Talk about instant gratification.

I held another NPACT training last Friday for a group of local non-profit communication pros. I continue to refine the agenda, and the session went well.

At the last session, one of the funniest "feedback comments" I got was "You weren't boring. Not even for a minute." I've sat through my share of day-long sessions, so I took that as a great compliment.

So far this session, the best (and strangely similar) comment is "Good training. I do not want those 8 hours of my life back, and I look forward to future opportunities to attend your sessions."

I seem to attract comedians, but I'll take it.

The best feedback, however, came in a different form.

I do a lot of preaching about injecting storytelling into organizations' communication activity, and I didn't spare Friday's group from my sermon. So I was thrilled when I got an email from one of the participants today telling me that he wrote a story about his organization, posted it and turned it into a donor appeal.

He told me I could share it, so here you go. Powerful stuff. Not bad for a day's work (session).

Thanks to all who attended last week, and I hope to see you at the next one.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring NPACT Training -- May 7 in Austin

Rowan Communication will be holding the next Non-Profit Advocate Communication Training (NPACT) on May 7, 2010.

NPACT was launched to provide non-profit executive directors, communication and development staff and even board members an intensive crash course in better communication skills. In short, it was created for anyone that leads their organization’s communication efforts or is responsible for telling the organization’s story.

NPACT is a communication boot camp. But it is not a predictable list of “Do’s and Don’ts” of the communication field. It is not a “press release training seminar” (anyone can find that on Google).

Instead, NPACT includes in-depth training about strategic communication – not just how to do things, but why we do them, how to align them with an organization’s goals and how to use communication to further an organization’s mission.

The Winter ’09 NPACT session was a great success. Executive directors and communication directors from human services, environmental, religious and education organizations attended. Their feedback has helped shape (and refine) the agenda for the Spring session.
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"NPACT is a thoughtful presentation of professional communication strategies and techniques that should be used together. And Colin's session was also a great source of inspiration. Non-profits are in the inspiration business. NPACT not only spotlighted the importance of inspiration in our work--it inspired me to do it at a more committed level." -- Lize Burr, Alliance for a Clean Texas

"This is a must-attend session for anyone responsible for promoting their organization's mission. Colin's expertise in messaging has helped LifeWorks develop its storytelling approach to convey our impact and to build long-term relationships with all our constituents."
-- Brett Barnes, Director of Development and External Relations, LifeWorks

"The day's session unfolds as a great conversation as nonprofit peers learn how to best frame our message, work with technology, collaborate and pitch the media. Colin reminds you that storytelling is at the heart of work and how to best tell that story for greater impact."
-- Mary Alice Carnes, former program manager, Greenlights for NonProfit Success

"Austin is privileged to have one of the nation's premier communications experts in our own backyard. Colin Rowan is gifted in his ability to translate traditional PR into meaningful and transcendent stories. We are proud to partner with Colin and try to do so as often as possible."
-- JJ Baskin, president, Education Capital

The session agenda and other details are below. If you’re responsible for telling your organization’s story (or you know someone who is) and will be in Austin on May 7, this might be just what you need.

Please email us if you’re interested and we’ll send you more details and payment info.
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Session Agenda
The training is a combination of instruction and workshop that will address the following areas of focus. The agenda has been adjusted since the December session to include more “workshop” and discussion time.

1. Goal, Audience and Message Mapping: Identifying what your organization is trying to accomplish, the audiences who will determine your success or failure, and the messages that hit a responsive chord
2. Messenger Identification and Training: Identifying and nurturing your most effective spokespeople
3. Storytelling as a Communication Strategy: Injecting the most effective communication tactic in human history into your communication efforts
4. Perfecting Your Pitch: Crafting the 30 minute presentation that 90% of your audiences will use to judge your business or cause (Also known as “Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes”)
5. Mastering The Media: The tools and techniques every PR effort can’t do without
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Event Details

When: Friday, May 7, 8:30 am to 5 pm

Where: LifeWorks, 3700 South 1st, Austin, 78704

Cost: $250 per person. Lunch, snacks and digital materials included. Attendees will receive electronic materials from the day’s agenda, custom planning materials, recommended reading and resource lists.

Reservations: Reservations are required. Click here to reserve a space. We’ll reply with payment details.

Thanks. I hope to see you there.
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About Colin Rowan
Colin Rowan has managed communication campaigns for politicians, businesses and the non-profit sector. He led national and regional communication efforts for Environmental Defense Fund, a national environmental advocacy group, promoting causes including endangered species preservation, air quality, ocean restoration and global warming.

In the private sector, he led the technology practice at TateAustin Public Relations as a vice president and served as a partner at I&O Communications. And he’s managed the communication strategy for mayoral and congressional campaigns.

He has been quoted or has placed stories and OpEds in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, on PBS, NPR, NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight, as well as most major and mid-market Texas media outlets. He has helped position businesses and non-profits as leaders in their field and has overseen communication campaigns ranging from small, community-focused efforts to million-dollar national launches.

In 2006, he led Environmental Defense Fund’s communication campaign against TXU’s proposed coal plants in Texas, which culminated in early 2007 in a landmark environmental agreement between the organization and TXU’s prospective buyers.

Colin’s greatest strengths are designing strategic communication campaigns, crafting messages and preparing organizations and their experts for communication opportunities. He has conducted seminars on media training, presentation coaching, message development, marketing for non-profits, storytelling and branding for businesses and non-profits, including Environmental Defense Fund, the League of Conservation Voters (National), The World Resources Institute, the American Association of Public Health Laboratories, the California Housing Association, the Catholic Diocese of America, the American Dental Association and others.

In 2006 he was selected by The Climate Project to train 1,000 citizen activists to present Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" global warming slideshow in their communities. In addition to conducting the training, he has presented the slideshow in venues across Central Texas.

Colin can be reached at crowan@rowcom.com.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Do It Yourself Communication

Whether you agree with Thomas Friedman's views on global warming, the economy or politics, you should check out his Saturday column if you manage communication activity for a non-profit.

As usual, Friedman is trying to make a macro statement about the world economy (or the U.S. economy, in this case). But in this column, he makes his point by highlighting how technology is making it possible and remarkably affordable for cash-strapped communicators to produce professional-grade creative.

I've long been a fan of sites like istockphoto, which offers a very cheap fix for ugly PowerPoint presentations, and FreePlay Music, which provides cheap (or free) music for videos. But Friedman points out a few more. For sounds and music, there's Audio Jungle. At Voices.com, you "bid" out your script to a universe of ready voice talent at a fraction of traditional costs. If your team is the "online collaboration" type, you can use Box.net to share content, scripts, drafts, etc., so you don't have to email everything to a large group every time you change a word.

There are two big omissions from the column:
1. I want to see the video they produced, so I can judge whether the options Friedman outlines really produced a video that I'd be proud of.
2. He failed to mention that all the good, cheap tools in the world won't make up for poor messaging, bad taste or the inability to tell a good story. Fortunately for me (and you), non-profits still need people to pull all these cheap and easy tools together into something worth watching or reading.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Be Thankful for the Wickedly Smart



I went to an event last night that made me give thanks that the world is full of people that are much, much smarter than I am.

The law firm Fulbright & Jaworski invited me to its Clean Energy Technology Forum, where three of the country’s brightest minds (all of them from UT, by the way…Go Horns) shared their thoughts about breakthroughs in the energy technology world.

Dr. Raymond Orbach leads UT’s Energy Institute and is a former U.S. Under Secretary of Science. Dr. Sanjay Banerjee is the Cockrell Family Regents Chair in Engineering and is a national leader in solar technology. And Dr. John Goodenough (pictured) is the Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering and is the guy that invented the solution to Sony’s “exploding laptop battery” problem a couple of years ago. So if your laptop didn’t catch fire yesterday, thank Dr. Goodenough.

I spend a lot of time helping wickedly smart people connect with “the rest of us.” With the scientific and policy groups I work with, it’s among their greatest challenges.

When it comes to presentation techniques, I often use these geniuses as “don’t” examples. And yesterday was clearly NOT a case study on the best PowerPoint techniques. To be honest, I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about half the time.

But their messages came through loud and clear, at least to me.

1. the promise of clean renewable energy is real and within our grasp,
2. the country’s best minds are hell bent on beating other countries to the punch, and
3. perhaps most important to you and me, our communication jobs are secure.

So in this week of gratitude, we in the communication field should be thankful that we’re not running the world. First of all, jobs would be much harder to come by. And second, we’d certainly be able to explain how beautiful the moon is or how important it is that we study it. But we would never have gotten there. I wouldn’t even have a laptop.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dec 10. 1 Day. 8 Steps to Better Communication Campaigns

The most rewarding part of my work with non-profits has been conducting workshops across the country on various topics that help organizations market themselves more effectively. They’ve been remarkably well received. And there’s nothing better (for me or the audience) than making progress in one short session.

But not every group can invest a whole morning on only one topic.

So over the last year, I’ve been pulling the best of these sessions into one day long agenda that will give executive directors, communication and development staff and even board members an intensive crash course in better communication skills.

This December, I’ll be launching NPACT (Non-Profit Advocate Communication Training), a one-day training curriculum designed to equip non-profit professionals and volunteer advocates with core communication skills and techniques. It is designed for anyone that leads their organization’s communication efforts or is responsible for telling the organization’s story.

Scroll down for details about the session.

NPACT is a communication boot camp. But it is not a predictable list of “Do’s and Don’ts” of the communication field. It is not a “press release training seminar” (anyone can find that on Google).

Instead, NPACT includes in-depth training about strategic communication – not just how to do things, but why we do them, how to align them with an organization’s goals and how to use communication to further an organization’s mission.

The session agenda and other details are below. If you’re responsible for telling your organization’s story (or you know someone who is) and will be in Austin on December 10, this might be just what you need to start 2010 off on the right foot.

I’m starting small and intimate, so please email me if you’re interested.

Session Agenda
The training is a combination of instruction and workshop that will address the following areas of focus:

1. Goal, Audience and Message Mapping: Identifying what your organization is trying to accomplish, the audiences who will determine your success or failure, and the messages that hit a responsive chord

2. Messenger Identification and Training: Identifying and nurturing your most effective spokespeople

3. Storytelling as a Communication Strategy: Injecting the most effective communication tactic in human history into your communication efforts

4. Perfecting Your Pitch: Crafting the 30 minute presentation that 90% of your audiences will use to judge your business or cause (Also known as “Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes”)

5. Money, Money, Money: Marrying development and communication strategy

6. Mastering The Media: The tools and techniques every PR effort can’t do without

7. Comm.com: Embarking on social and online media

8. Communication Toolbox: Identifying and designing the communication tools that your organization needs (and can afford)

Event Details

When: Thursday, December 10, 8:30 am to 5 pm

Where: LifeWorks, 3700 South 1st, Austin, 78704

Cost: $250 per person. Lunch, snacks and materials included. Attendees will receive materials from the day’s agenda, custom planning materials, recommended reading and resource lists and a book (“Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes”).

Reservations: Reservations are required. Click here to reserve a space. I’ll reply with payment details.

Thanks. I hope to see you there.

Friday, October 16, 2009

They're Just as Bad

Non-profits are used to being told they don’t communicate as well as businesses.

So days like yesterday make the do-gooder in me smile.

I attended the Clean Energy Venture Summit in Austin, where 400 people came to watch a dozen or so clean energy start-ups make their pitches to would-be investors. It was like speed dating for money.

The good news is that there are lots of interesting companies out there who might not just save the planet, but could very well make a ton of money in the process. The bad news is that bad communication hurts businesses as much as non-profits.

The ideas were great. The pitches were dreadful. The slides were (mostly) unattractive and bullet-laden. The speed-clicks caused whiplash. Many presenters seemed unaware that humility is an attractive quality. In a couple of cases, I simply couldn’t believe that “this guy” was the best pitchman the company could have sent to Austin.

In my training sessions on communication, I talk about the “Connecting Points” presenters have with an audience. Message, Material and Messenger are among the most important. Yesterday, none of the presentations I saw scored well on all of them. The best messengers didn’t have the best messages. The best messages were carried weak spokespeople. And don’t get me started on the death-by-PowerPoint curse that so painfully permeates corporate America.

Surely, these companies carry a lot of pressure when they present to investors. But it’s no different than the pressure non-profits carry when pitching their cause to major donors.

So – non-profiters of America – don't let your corporate friends mock you. We’re not any worse than the business world at pitching our cause to an audience. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re any better.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Get Ready. I'm Coming Back.

It's been a while. A long enough while that I'm sure you thought I was one of the 96% of blogs that go away and never come back.

Well, I went away -- to a PR firm and a political campaign -- but I'm back at Rowan Communication come October 1.

So be on the lookout for new posts. The focus will still be on non-profit communication, but I've been knee-deep in the clean energy industry for the last 18 months. So don't be surprised to see a merging of the two. While I'm ginning them up, I invite you to review some of the older posts.

Welcome to the Rowan Report

Rowan Communication helps non-profit organizations and good-intentioned causes of all stripes communicate more effectively.

The Rowan Report isn't just a marketing tool, it's part of my corporate tithe: check back often for communication success stories and "best practice" tips intended to help people who have chosen to dedicate their communication careers to a cause.

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