We're not know-it-alls about campaigns at M+R, but that doesn't mean we're not trying to be! Last year we launched a Speakers Bureau and invited successful professionals with the inside scoop to spend their lunch hours and coffee breaks chatting with us about their jobs. These conversations have enhanced how we run campaigns for causes we believe in.
We're not knowledge-hogs either, so our team put together some of the most memorable and important lessons from our guests throughout the first season of the M+R Speakers Bureau:
Tayloe Emery, Founder of JTE Creative: As tempting as it was for the team to put on our Ryan Seacrest hats when sitting beside the man who first took Brad Pitt to Africa and made the star-studded ONE Campaign advocacy video that sparked mass concern for global poverty, we were able to hold it together and learn more about how to effectively engage celebrities for campaigns. Like any element of a good campaign, to make the most of a celebrity engagement you must deliberately lay the groundwork -- start small and then build up to the bigger asks once the celeb gets to know you and care about your cause. To succeed, Tayloe tells us to plan months if not years ahead and get off on the right foot by providing a no-press opportunity for celebs to immerse themselves in your org. Carrying out this thorough process will not only build loyalty with your celeb, it will also make them more comfortable and genuine once it's time to bring in the cameras.
Jennifer Wlach, booker/producer for ABC's Good Morning America: If Jen were a CBS news anchor, 60 Minutes would have to be renamed to 10 Minutes because of how fast she thinks and speaks. But we were still able to hear her advice loud and clear. She says we'd be shocked at how many emails she gets each day that ignore the number one common sense rule of broadcast pitching: know the show. For example, if you want to get your clean air campaign on a show like GMA, a dense policy debate about EPA regulations won't fly -- but a mom taking on Congress to make sure her asthmatic kid can breathe is more likely to get noticed. To stand out in Jen's inbox, she suggests creating a strong visual (even with words) of what the story would look like. Producers also like to see your spokespeople in action -- so find a way to get them on video and email it along as a sample. And even if it's not the right fit for GMA at the time, Jen says she often passes along stories she likes to other producers.
Vinca LaFleur, Partner at West Wing Writers: As the name of her company suggests, Vinca wrote foreign policy speeches for President Clinton before teaming up with her White House colleagues at a speechwriting firm that today makes some of the most recognizable names on the planet sound their best at the podium. She says that the audience often doesn't remember the words after hearing a great speech -- but they do remember how they felt during it. We'd say the same goes for some of our favorite news editorials. Setting the mood of a speech isn't simple and to succeed you've gotta do your homework and unearth stories that strike the right chord. There are also some writing techniques to help your writing "sing:" Use refrains ("Yes we can!"); be inclusive ("We" > "I"); be repetitive at the same spot ("I have a dream..."); and personalize statistics ("1-in-3 Americans" means more than "100 million").
Brad Fitch, CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation: Although he doesn't, you could call Brad the King of the Hill. As the head of a nonprofit whose sole focus has been to study and work with Congress since the '70s, he knows a lot about what makes Capitol Hill tick. When you're in the thick of a campaign, it's easy to lose faith in Congress but Brad assured us that the little campaigns that could really are making a big impact. He says that Members of Congress and their staff pay more attention to the small stuff than we'd think. There is great power in a constituent's personal story -- especially if the constituent is a kid, college student, or senior. Thousands of emails, phone calls, and even tweets to Congress do count -- but nothing quite gets the message across like one in-person visit or a letter-to-the-editor in the hometown paper that calls the member out by name and lands atop the news clips on the member's desk the next morning.
We'll be back with more campaign lessons as Season Two of the M+R Speaker's Bureau kicks off!