SevenTwenty Strategies

Bringing public opinion full circle

In The Circle

SevenTwenty Strategies is an award-winning firm staffed with innovative thought-leaders at the forefront of digital advocacy.

The Power of Patient Testimonials to Tell Your Story - SevenTwenty Strategies

SevenTwenty Strategies

Bringing public opinion full circle

In The Circle

The Power of Patient Testimonials to Tell Your Story

By Marichelli Hughes

One of the most compelling ways to garner media interest for your healthcare organization, company or hospital is through the use of patient testimonials. Whether you're advocating to find a cure for lung cancer, developing a new drug for patients who suffer from heart disease, or promoting a breakthrough medical procedure at your hospital, patient stories can be crucial in helping you to reach your key stakeholders and earn you ink.

Patient testimonials add a human element that your target audiences can actually relate to. Their personal experiences and successes using your product or facility, or advocating for a cause on behalf of your organization, better resonates with the media who are then more likely to write an article using that human interest angle. So you may ask, why should I let a patient tell my organization/company/facility's story instead of my spokesperson? Here are some benefits of using patient stories for media interviews:

• Builds trust about your company's product, organization or facility
• Overcomes skepticism about your product, organization or facility's mission
• Builds credibility for your company, organization or facility
• Substantiates your claim
• Compels your target audience to take action
• Endorses your key benefits without coming across as a sales pitch

So with these benefits, how do you find the right patients and ensure that they appropriately represent your company/organization/facility when speaking with the media on your behalf? Here are a few tips to consider.

Finding the Right Patients
Identifying the right patients can be the hardest and most daunting task to undertake; often the majority of patients are very private and not willing to share details about their health condition, especially with the world. Here are some ways how to get around this. If you are a pharmaceutical manufacturer who is trying to promote a new medication that treats heart disease, for example, your best bet is to find a doctor/s that has patients that are using that medication and have had successful, positive treatment outcomes. There are many doctors who are willing to work with you and endorse your product and, in turn, put you in touch with their patients. Another option may be to reach out to a heart association and see if they are willing to put you in touch with their members who may be using your medication. Many organizations want to promote their causes and are often willing to partner with you to obtain media coverage.

Building Your Story Around the Patient
After identifying patients willing to do media interviews, you need to work with them to build a compelling story that will showcase the positive impact of your product, cause or facility, but at the same time keep it real and genuine. For example, if you operate a hospital that is introducing a new laser technology to treat vision loss, patients can focus their storylines on how after undergoing surgery using your technology, their vision significantly improved and their quality of life is back to normal. The validation that you receive from an empowered patient speaks volumes and has a positive result on your company/ organization/facility. The main goal is to let the patients tell their stories and in turn weave in your messages in a non-promotional way.

Ensure Patients are Comfortable with the Process
It is imperative that patients you work with fully understand how the media works and know what to expect. Conduct a media training session where they can practice their key talking points and familiarize with the interview process from start to finish. Try to relieve any anxieties they may have about their personal lives going public. Never try to force a patient to do an interview they are not comfortable with because it can create an unpleasant experience for all parties involved. The more you can prepare them, the better they will do and the more they will be willing to participate in the media process.

Expected Outcome
If you have identified the right patients, developed a newsworthy pitch around their story (incorporating your key messages), and properly prepared them to handle media interviews, then you can expect positive media results via articles, television and radio segments. Using patient testimonials helps create a strategy that not only markets your company/organization/facility, but lets your target audiences know that you care about providing them a healthier environment and lifestyle. It is a win-win situation for both you and the patient.

The key executing this successfully is ensuring that you have a steady flow of patients willing to speak with the media. In addition, try to diversify the demographics of the patients so that you can offer the media a variety of different story angles. Also, before you the interview, determine what the reporter is looking for exactly so you can match them with the right patient. Following these tactics can help you garner positive coverage for your company/organization/facility and casts you in a positive light among your target audiences.


Marichelli Hughes leads the media relations practice at SevenTwenty Strategies, a nationally ranked public relations and public affairs firm based in Washington, DC, with a 15-year track record of driving results for its Fortune 500 and trade association clients. For more information, visit


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PAC Newsletters - How to say it all - SevenTwenty Strategies

SevenTwenty Strategies

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PAC Newsletters - How to say it all

By Lawrence Young

How many times a day are you asked to show how the PAC adds value to your company or association? For many of us, this can be a difficult proposition, not because we lack the data points, but because there is so much information that it’s hard to convey in a concise manner. Every PAC email needs to carry a message, but how can we include all the info that each stakeholder is looking for?

While one email may not do the trick, you can carry this message in a PAC newsletter. Whether you opt to produce a newsletter on a monthly or quarterly basis, a PAC newsletter offers you the "real estate" to provide better context to the PAC's mission, its achievements and its value to PAC members. The goals of your newsletter are to engage your PAC members, demonstrate how PAC contributions are advancing your organizational mission, ensure your PAC brand is top of mind with your eligibles, and inspire PAC eligibles to donate.

Try to incorporate 3 concepts when putting together your newsletter: Inform, Humanize and Inspire. By embracing these principles, you will be turning your PAC eligibles into knowledgeable stakeholders.

- Turn your PAC Newsletters into your soap box: this is an opportunity to show how much the PAC has done. Too often, PACs are judged only by the money raised and the contributions given. While that is a fundamental metric, what is at the core of PACs is how they help create and manage relationships. So let’s create new metrics to show off how that work is accomplished:

  • How many meetings with candidates were conducted? How many Hill visits were scheduled?

  • How many political meetings (Fundraisers and Meet & Greets) were attended?

  • How many political events did the PAC Host? Or how many industry events were attended? Sharing numbers like these – in infographics, charts, and text - can help illustrate how the PAC adds value to your organization’s political outreach.

Humanize - When asked, "What is a PAC?," all too often organizations answer in political speak, for example, "it’s a Washington, DC thing," "it's about pooling our contributions," or "it's to support our lobbying." But PACs are made up of people and they work with people. By showing this side of the PAC, you take the PAC out of the realm of political constructs and make it real for your readers. Perhaps you can highlight a PAC ambassador with a photo and quote, or post answers to questions from PAC members. To show what the PAC actually does, consider a candidate spotlight about a policy maker the PAC supports and who has visited one of your facilities. By showing faces or sharing your members’ own words, you can help humanize and personalize the PAC and your PAC community.

Inspire - Just as it is important to show what the PAC has accomplished, for many stakeholders, it's very important to show your eligibles where the PAC is headed. By including your PAC members in what the future holds, you are making them a part of the mission and inspiring them to join your journey. What new issues will the industry face and how will your PAC lead? What elections will directly impact the company/association or industry and how will your PAC help shape the future? What is happening in Congress or in state capitols that will demand the PAC's and the organization's attention?

Members want to feel that they are being engaged directly. A newsletter is a vehicle that can help your PAC pull back the curtain on the important work it does every day. It can illustrate its impact on political conversation and show the faces of engagement: the faces of the PAC and the people that the PAC supports. A PAC newsletter can encourage participation by showcasing how the PAC's efforts can directly contribute to success for the industry, company and individual by providing an inside look.

Whether it is distributed as an email or print format, the best of PAC newsletters are well branded, bold in their mission, consistent in their delivery, and a showcase for your PAC members, your accomplishments and your plans. If you have any questions about how we approach PAC newsletters or how we think help strengthen yours, please contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Lawrence Young is VP of PAC Programs at SevenTwenty Strategies

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Getting Your PAC On Track - SevenTwenty Strategies

SevenTwenty Strategies

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Getting Your PAC On Track

By Matt Swearman, Robin Sexton, Lawrence Young

Recently, SevenTwenty’s Robin Sexton, Lawrence Young and I presented an eye-opening webinar that demonstrated the importance of PAC compliance, beyond the obvious requirements of FEC reporting. PAC compliance tools and data provide the building blocks for strategic decision-making and your fundraising plan.  They provide the key data points needed to effectively target your PAC eligibles.  By taking proactive steps to leverage your compliance tools and data, you can put your PAC on track for stronger growth.

 There are three primary tactics that support our approach: 

  1. Uncovering trends in your PAC members’ giving history to strengthen targeting;
  2. Engaging your stakeholders and
  3. Making strategic campaign contributions.

Tracking your members for better targeting - Most PACs track the giving history of individual donors and the percentage of their eligibles who are non-donors.  But, there's a lot more you can learn from analyzing your PAC data. In working with a number of PACs to assess their campaigns, a common theme is that organizations aren't taking advantage of the data in front of them. When you track how each level of your eligible class is performing, by years of giving, business unit, leadership level, or geography, it is possible to identify important trends and opportunities than can inform your strategy.  Are you seeing fall-off of participation after the first year of participation?  Do senior executives give at the same level they did when they were junior managers?  Are certain departments or business units more responsive to PAC appeals than others?

Better tracking also extends to your communications, and the extent to which you are using data to understand the impact of emails, meetings, phone calls and other appeals in converting “asks” to income.  If you’re using your PAC management technology to send your email appeals (ours is PACMaster), then you should know your email open rates, click through rates, and conversion rates.  Is your message breaking through?  Are you testing subject lines or personalizing your message by business unit? If you're not tracking how each campaign or message is performing at a more granular level, it's difficult to gauge success or understand where to focus efforts to make improvements.  PAC management tools should allow you to perform some level of tracking. The trick is knowing how and what to track and establishing the metrics you want to measure on an ongoing basis.    

How much of an impact can enhanced tracking have on giving?  For one pharmaceutical client this year, a 17 percent increase in revenue.  For another client, a 50 percent membership increase in a single business unit.

Engaging your stakeholders - In order to set yourself up for success, it's important to create a team of allies around you. Your PAC compliance data can help you identify the key stakeholders you most need to cultivate, beyond the usual HR and legal colleagues.  All too often, PACs are treated as a ”step child” of the organization and key departments lack understanding of your role and theirs in ensuring your organization has a voice in Washington and state capitals.

Your PAC compliance data can tell you where you need to build bridges and reveal weaknesses in your outreach and engagement.  Is one department a fundraising machine, while others languish?  Does R&D, for example, lack an understanding of how Washington impacts their work, while your Sales division seems to drive all the revenue in your PAC?

The PAC touches many different departments.  By proactively engaging with key stakeholders who can help you reach your goals, plan more effectively and identify the important messengers they need to hear from, you will boost the PAC’s receipts and strengthen the PAC’s credibility within the organization.  For example, would a PAC video featuring the head of R&D help inspire R&D eligibles to give?

Making strategic PAC investments – Before you can help your PAC to invest strategically, you have to know the rules. Period. If compliance is outside of your wheelhouse, and there's room in your budget, find a trusted vendor like SevenTwenty to take this aspect of compliance on, leaving you time to devote to fundraising and demonstrating value to your organization. Federal compliance is one thing. States are much more intricate.  For example, some states require a PAC to have a bank account in that state.  Some states require a PAC contribution to be made up of donations from people in that state. 

Once you’re confident you know the ground rules, you can build a giving strategy that takes into account both whom you want to give to and when giving will have the greatest impact.  Candidates will almost always take your money, but well-timed money can move your PAC up the list to hero status. Ever receive a great gift the day after it would have come in particularly handy?  How about the offer of a free baseball ticket the day after you made plans?  Knowing your Campaign Fundraisers will help you coordinate your giving when candidates most need the resources. They can also give you details of their key events. The majority of fundraisers have planned most of their events by the beginning of the quarter or year. Talk with them and use your money more effectively.

When giving to candidates, understand that the date the contribution leaves the PAC's hands is the date the FEC considers the contribution made.  Since software programs use the issue date for compliance reports, the handshake between strong compliance and effective strategy will ensure that the check entered into your PAC management technology is issued and mailed (or hand delivered) as soon as possible thereafter. Keep in mind that candidates must deposit contributions within 10 days (the 10-day rule), and the FEC requires them to report the date they receive the contribution (not deposit date).  Also, be sure to designate your contribution to the appropriate election, and know the dates of primaries when designating your contribution.  Software can only track limits if the contributions are designated properly.


PAC compliance, strategy, and fundraising are the foundations of all great PACs.  Shortcomings in one area tend to lead to issues in others.  The good news is that tools and data can teach you a lot, if you look, listen and respond effectively. If we can be of assistance in helping you create compliance, strategy and fundraising success, call us at SevenTwenty. Together, we’ll get your PAC on a growth track.


Matt Swearman is Director of Business Development at SevenTwenty Strategies
Robin Sexton is VP of PAC Compliance at SevenTwenty Strategies
Lawrence Young is VP of PAC Programs at SevenTwenty Strategies

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Media Success! - SevenTwenty Strategies

SevenTwenty Strategies

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Media Success!

By Marichelli Hughes

Most SevenTwenty clients are listed on the Fortune 500, but sometimes, the best clients come in small (business) packages. In 2014, we met Bree, owner of Bree’s Sweet Treats, an Accokeek, Md., bakery founded by 16-year-old student, baker and entrepreneur, Bree. SevenTwenty has helped Bree deliver her very powerful message with consumers and the media, fine tune her website’s messaging, promote her bakery’s grand “reopening” after a store expansion and build relationships with local and national media. 

Since then we’ve secured her a steady drumbeat of placements—the Washington Business Journal, Maryland Gazette, Washington, DC’s WTOP radio, “Yahoo Parenting,” Washington Post Express —and just this month, “Today” and ABC’s “The Chew.” How can you build a bank of stories that can lead to nationally televised shows?

Although Bree and her story are admittedly very special, there are lessons that any organization and any campaign can take away from her media relations success.  


Good coverage starts with a compelling story and a great spokesperson.
Bree’s father suffered a traumatic brain injury serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a distraction, her great-grandmother and a close family friend began teaching Bree how to bake. With the help of her family, especially her mother Charmaine, Bree’s “distraction” went from an online business when she was 12 to a brick-and-mortar business at the age of 16, when her father died.

Feed the national media but don’t ignore hometown outlets.
Bree’s story started out in a local newspaper, and in a matter of months, enabled us to secure national coverage. Building a bank of stories establishes your credibility and enables larger media to consider you as a viable newsmaker.  We first created a local news hook for Bree’s story first—the “grand reopening” event—then drafted a news release and contacted local reporters to garner interest. A Maryland Gazette reporter was intrigued and interviewed her along with a representative of Fisher House, the event’s charitable focus.

With the Gazette story in hand, we secured interviews with the
Washington Business Journal, WTOP and The Washington Post’s Express, all of which profiled Bree and the bakery. Starting small can help you grow “big.”

Online media can dramatically further your story’s reach.
Our local stories piqued the interest of a “
Yahoo Parenting reporter, who also profiled Bree. That national article went viral. Our phones rang off the hook with interview requests, including from the “Ellen DeGeneres” show and the “Steve Harvey” show. We even heard from a production company that wanted to make a reality TV show around Bree. As a result of the media coverage, Bree got invited to participate in a summer veterinary program, her other love, at North Carolina State University and new customers emerged up from coast to coast.
Next we packaged up all the profiles and stories and pitched Today” and “The Chew.” Ultimately, both sent camera crews to Bree’s Accokeek bakery. Both shows’ producers praised Bree’s maturity and composure. She displayed a winning, down-to-earth personality that won them over. Bree is a natural spokeswoman; she delivers great soundbites and knows exactly how best to tell her story. 

Losing is part of winning.
Several shows asked for exclusives. We chose “Today” and “The Chew” as the best venues. However, this led other national shows to pass. Essentially turning down free media seems illogical but it’s part of the price you pay for such good national coverage.  

National media can be tough but also be very kind.
“The Chew’s” producers invited Bree, her mother and her grandmother to New York to attend the taping where her segment would air. To her surprise, the host also invited Bree on stage to bake and “co-host” the show. Her live appearance included the presentation of a “Sweet 16” crown for the prom Bree didn’t get to attend, and her inclusion in a nearly 15-minute live segment—a rare “get” for anyone. 
Meanwhile, “Today’s” Jenna Bush Hager traveled to Accokeek to interview Bree personally because she fell in love with Bree after hearing our initial pitch. Because of Jenna’s busy schedule, the segment took more than two months to finalize and shoot. During that period, we were awed by Jenna’s kindness and appreciated her ideas for boosting Bree’s business even further. When the story aired, Jenna chatted live about Bree and her bakery.


Never stop pitching.  
Success culminating in national TV appearances doesn’t mean you get to rest.  While our national coverage was in production we secured several other interviews in the D.C. market, including Voice of America, Radio One and Fox News in Baltimore.

Great coverage creates surprising opportunities.
The media attention Bree received helped establish a significant presence for Bree’s Sweet Treats and increased delivery and catering orders as well as foot traffic to the bakery. Most recently, the Maryland Black Mayors recognized Bree with its
2014 Outstanding Leader Award. Bree has received more than $3,500 in donations to help retire her mom’s bakery debt for the café expansion and she and the bakery continue raking in media requests.

Pay it forward. 
SevenTwenty has adopted marketing Bree’s Sweet Treats as a pro bono cause. It feels great to help a young woman with so much potential and a family that has given so much to our country. As you may suspect, running a small business is tough. Bree is trying hard to erase her single mother’s debt in building the business. If you’d like to support Bree’s Sweet Treats, you can do so by ordering delicious baked goods, sharing Bree’s story, inviting Bree to cater your event or supporting her GoFundMe campaign at  Her website is www.treatsbybreecom.

When you’re ready to secure coverage for your organization, contact us at SevenTwenty. Most of our work is focused on big clients with big issues; but even when the client is small, we mean business. Here’s to your and Bree’s sweet success.


By: Marichelli Hughes, Vice President of Media Relations and Strategic Communications at SevenTwenty Strategies.


Want to read more about Bree?

NBC's Today Show

ABC's The Chew:

Voice of America: Teen Business Owner Creates Recipe for Success

Washington Business Journal: How I... Opened My First Store

Washington Post Express: These two teenagers can cook you under the dinner table

Yahoo Parenting: This 16-Year-Old Is Quietly Building a Treats Empire

WTOP: A sweet gig: 16-year-old opens Md. bakery

Maryland Gazette: Sixteen-year-old expands Accokeek bakery

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Don’t Let Your Fly-In Become a Fly-Away - SevenTwenty Strategies

SevenTwenty Strategies

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Don’t Let Your Fly-In Become a Fly-Away

By Vlad Cartwright

Washington fly-ins can be extremely successful to accomplishing myriad goals for any group or coalition. However, planning and preparation are key to a successful event.  Without a well-organized and prepared plan, this popular form of political advocacy can leave a flat or negative impression with Capitol Hill and your advocates as well.  

Lobbyists, congressional watchers and Hill staffers alike agree that the key to a successful fly-in is preparation.

One of the biggest mistakes congressional aides see is groups expending a lot of time, energy and money into bringing folks from the district to Capitol Hill only to have those people get in front of a lawmaker or aide and not know what to say. Training, talking points, even role playing ahead of a lobby day is essential to making sure your attendees successfully deliver your message, legislative aides say. 

Preparation on your part is also essential. Don’t just hand advocates massive packets of information hours before sending them to meetings on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers prefer hearing from and meeting with constituents directly rather than lobbyists or Washington representatives. But, the benefit of having “real people” speak on behalf of your organization or cause drops precipitously if those advocates don’t know what message to convey or how to do so accurately and articulately. 

Being organized is just as important as being prepared. Having troops of well-rehearsed participants ready to deploy across Capitol Hill on your group’s lobby day or days can only help your cause if they actually hit their target. Missed meetings caused by failed logistics is not only a missed opportunity, it leaves a bad impression with the lawmaker or Hill staffer with whom your citizen-lobbyists were supposed to meet. 

Make sure each team you deploy is led by someone who knows Capitol Hill in every sense—its chaotic nature, legislative workings, unique personalities and labyrinth hallways and tunnels, stressed one staffer to an Ohio lawmaker we spoke with recently.  Nothing is more frustrating for legislators’ schedulers or representatives than granting a group time only to have them turn up late or not at all because they got lost in transit, he said.

The optimal lead-time for requesting a meeting with a lawmaker is three-four weeks in advance, according to Capitol Hill schedulers.

Before anyone can be trained or deployed, the Washington representative or organization’s leader must recruit stakeholders to participate in the fly-in. Recruiting from the widest pool possible is key. So is asking them to participate in an enticing way. The invitation itself needs to be attractive. Instead of an email reading, “join us” or “help us,” one that’s headed something like “will you lead our effort” is more appealing to local advocates. 

Any business or group organizing a lobby day should maximize the opportunity internally as well as externally. The herculean effort it takes to pull off a national lobby day should reap benefits well beyond the office meetings it yields. It’s an extra opportunity to engage your top advocates, raise money and build relationships. 

Beyond demystifying Washington for them, making it fun for your stakeholders is important. Incorporating a social activity—Capitol tour, outing to a baseball game or museum visit—can really make the trip worthwhile for advocates. Holding a reception where attendees can mingle with each other and Washington leaders is another experience organizers can offer to make participating more attractive to stakeholders. Bringing in speakers who can inspire and galvanize, such as a current or former lawmaker, your Washington representative or trade association head—can create a pep rally atmosphere that will leave attendees excited and eager to spread your message. Featuring a panel discussion or Q&A with some sort of elections expert or insider educates advocates and serves as an incentive to come to Washington. 

And finally, since you’ve brought hundreds of your most enthusiastic advocates to the nation’s capital and connected them with insiders engaged in or interested in your cause, hosting a fundraiser for your political action committee is a logical component for your fly-in.

Now that your dates are locked in, your participants’ travel booked, agenda set and meetings scheduled, it’s time to attract media coverage. Send a press release announcing your event and agenda, make sure it gets listed in the “daybooks”—the bibles put out by wire services and found in the backs of Capitol Hill publications—open your panels and seminars to the press, invite reporters to your cocktail receptions or breakfast speeches and provide them with written materials.

When your fly-in adjourns, the follow-up begins. You’ve already ended every Hill meeting by leaving relevant, informative and accessible packets or talking points behind. Equally important is sending “thank you” notes to everyone who took the time to meet with your group. So is circling back to the offices that promised you additional information or feedback. Email the person with whom your group met. If the lawmaker was present, write or call the aide who handles your issue area. Getting immediate participant evaluations is also critical.  

Lastly, the entire point of your fly-in was to establish or reaffirm relationships on Capitol Hill. Don’t squander the momentum your lobby day built. Add the new contacts to your database; invite them to your events; keep them apprised of your activities and reach out to them when key votes or decisions loom. 

Vlad Cartwright is Executive Vice President of SevenTwenty Strategies. To learn more, contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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The Secret Sauce: How to Build an Effective Coalition - SevenTwenty Strategies

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The Secret Sauce: How to Build an Effective Coalition

By Jeff Oldham

Putting together a winning team comprising multiple and varied stakeholders is a bit like making grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs—you need the “secret sauce” to make all the ingredients gel together properly.

Luckily for anyone looking to become a respected voice in the national debate, you don’t have to pry the recipe from Aunt Lulu’s stingy fingers to learn what goes in the secret sauce. Following a few easy steps is the surest way to making the perfect dish, if you will.

In my experience, the most important first step is to discuss and analyze your proposed group’s objectives.  Too often, aligned organizations want to forge ahead to build their alliance without clearly defining their mission or how to achieve it.


What’s in the name is also critical. 


Branding is important.  We try to avoid words like “coalition for” or “coalition against.”  They tend to sound too political and carry a negative connotation.  Words like “partnership” and “alliance” resonate better with both the public and lawmakers. 

Finding the right partners is also essential.  Knowing your objectives from the outset helps determine what individuals, groups and organizations you want to recruit to your cause. For example, health-care companies want to bring nurses, doctors, patient advocates and provider groups on board. And don’t discount unlikely bedfellows.  They make powerful partners and provide a great sound bite in the media.

Health care organizations have been particularly good at reaching out to organizations you wouldn’t naturally think might have a stake in their issue, such as labor groups, and bringing them into the fold to make well-rounded and effective alliances.

A key element of successful alliances is local involvement. Including grassroots, state and regional players, ideally in every state if you’re building a national coalition, goes a long way toward building credibility with lawmakers. Members of Congress respond better to “real people” who hail from their home state or district. 

And how do you find those “real people”? Through the local and state partners you recruited. “Local, local, local” should be a mantra. Think beyond the beltway.

Once the coalition is built and you have the right membership and the right objectives, it’s important to do some type of launch to introduce yourselves.  We’ve organized on-the-ground press events and a variety of effective digital launches. Holding simultaneous events in multiple locations across the country makes a strong statement and a very effective launch. Also, don’t forget to design and launch a responsive website that is ready to push out content from Day 1.   Constituencies need a place to get more information, and having a digital presence lends credibility and online “headquarters” for your effort. 

SevenTwenty worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and client Matthew Koch, vice president of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, to form the Partnership to Fuel America, a two-year, 13-state effort to build awareness about Canadian energy, specifically oil sands, to help demonstrate the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

“By all means we considered it a very successful effort,” Koch said. “We achieved the goals we set out to achieve.”

The Partnership to Fuel America ultimately included more than 300 organizations and businesses, many of which were local chambers of commerce, economic development corporations and small businesses, Koch says. The Partnership continues paying dividends. “We now talk to these people about other energy issues, such as coal and hydraulic fracturing,” he says. The former coalition members come to the Institute for information on myriad energy-related matters now, Koch adds.

Building alliances extends your congressional and state legislative reach beyond the states in which you have a natural presence.  It grows your voice into new and varied constituencies.  And, it powers grassroots from the national to the local level with local voices that help shape policy and the national debate on your issues.  It’s a secret sauce we can and should all master, so go forth, add your ingredients and collaborate.


Jeff Oldham is Managing Partner of SevenTwenty Strategies, a DC-based integrated public affairs and public relations firm with 60 years of collective experience creating trusted partnerships and alliances to move advocacy agendas at the local, state and federal level.

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Influencer Post: Founding Farmers Supports World Health Day 2015 - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Influencer Post: Founding Farmers Supports World Health Day 2015

By Farmers Restaurant Group

Today is World Health Day, and corporations, trade associations, advocacy groups, nonprofits and others are working to focus consumers on the importance of the food we eat. Founding Farmers is among those organizations taking a stand for healthy food, and they have provided our guest blog post today:


Today, as part of a global community of food industry professionals striving to provide safe, healthy foods to diners, we celebrate World Health Day 2015


The World Health Organization (WHO) food and water safety statistics cannot be overlooked:

Over 200 diseases are caused by unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, chemical substances

It is estimated that two million deaths occur every year from contaminated food or drinking water


At Farmers Restaurant Group’s Founding Farmers restaurants, we believe that safe eating is derived from the transparency of knowing where food comes from. 


As consumers today are savvier than ever before, especially when it comes to what they put into their bodies, we source true, real food ingredients based on how it’s grown, where it comes from, what the animals are fed, what (if any) chemicals are used, and the like. 


Eating fresh, natural food is paramount to good health. By utilizing proven purveyors and resources as well as maintaining diligent food preparation and safety standards, we have the ability to influence not only our guests but also our staff through raising awareness of the importance of sustainability (and responsibility) … all leading to offering nourishing, high-quality, safe foods at a consistent price and quality.


For more information on supporting the World Health Day initiative today and beyond, visit the World Health Organization.

SevenTwenty has 16 years of experience helping its clients advocate for the issues they care about and growing their brand equity through corporate social responsibility.  We are here to help.

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Mitt, Meerkat and You:  What You Need to Know to Get Livestreaming - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Mitt, Meerkat and You:  What You Need to Know to Get Livestreaming

By Brian Horace

Over the past few weeks, it would seem you can’t turn anywhere without hearing about Meerkat. The Meerkat app was the most popular item featured at the annual SXSW Music, Film, and Interactive Festival - so much so that it raised $12 million at a $40 million pre-money valuation just days after the festival. The app has also attracted a celebrity following with Snoop Dogg, Jimmy Fallon and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Meerkat has even found its way into the political realm with Mitt Romney live-streaming from The Today Show green room before his appearance promoting his upcoming charity boxing match. The app has since been featured in nearly every technology media outlet including TechCrunch, Mashable and Engadget

What is Meerkat? Meerkat is the new live video streaming app for Twitter that is getting really big, really fast. After piggybacking on Twitter’s identity and technology, Meerkat is coming in so strong that Twitter itself has limited its access and removed Meerkat from its social graph (which severely limits the viral capabilities of the app).  Yet even that hasn’t curbed its growth. Twitter also purchased a direct competitor, called Periscope, as its own in-house service that was just released to the App Store this week. It remains to be seen how this will affect Meerkat’s ability to expand.

Ben Arnold, NPD Group Consumer Technology Industry Analyst noted that, “part of the buzz around Meerkat is based on the success of Vine over the past year.  Twitter has shown to be a great platform for sharing video and being able to share live, streaming video via Twitter adds another dimension to the experience, which ties in with the real time, viral nature of the social network.   Additionally, we are seeing consumers buy more devices that feature cameras like smartwatches, drones, and IP cams like Dropcam.  The growth in these new technology product categories means users can and likely will take personal streaming video beyond the smartphone, tablet, or PC.  The application of choice for streaming on these new devices could be Meerkat or something else, but the desire to stream video from this new crop of devices will be there.”

In my own experience using the Meerkat app, I found it easier to use than I expected. It really is as simple as point, click and you’re live. There are some dangerous, yet addictive, qualities about streaming live. With the presidential elections looming, we can almost definitely anticipate what would have been behind-the-scenes in 2012 going prime time in 2016.

From average users, to small businesses, to Fortune 500 companies, this app can provide a new and expansive audience that’s been previously untapped. The streams appearing on the Meerkat app itself provides the potential for a jump in whatever initial audience numbers you may have. I saw my audience triple each time I live-streamed.

There are many practical applications to live streaming, not just for individuals but for companies and membership organizations as well. The cost and production time involved in streaming events has now not only been reduced, but also made as simple as a push of a button. With companies and organizations having a membership reach spanning the entire country and in some cases the entire world, being able to effectively bridge that distance is an invaluable asset. Also, with the viral capabilities of an app like Meerkat or Periscope you can instantly create and push interactive content at any event to your social media audience. Followers and viewers of your stream can tweet questions or suggestions as they watch that you will be able to see and react to in real time so it can also be an excellent resource during an interview or Q & A session.

The SevenTwenty technology team is always on the cusp of what happens in the technology world, and we’ll be on the lookout for new and innovative ways to serve our clients’ needs.


Brian Horace is Senior Web Developer at SevenTwenty Strategies.

For more information about our technology offerings you can reach us at 202.962.3955 or email us .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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From Road Trip to Reality, Bringing the PAC Conference Home - SevenTwenty Strategies

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In The Circle

From Road Trip to Reality, Bringing the PAC Conference Home

By Lawrence Young

Several weeks ago, a few hundred PAC professionals from all over the nation converged in Orlando Florida.   This meeting didn’t take place by accident; it was the largest, most informative annual gathering of the PAC world (The Public Affairs Council National PAC Conference).  The 2015 National PAC Conference provided practitioners and consultants alike the benefit of sharing knowledge, networking and identifying best practices and innovative ideas that we can all take forward when we head back to the reality of our daily jobs.  The challenge is to maintain the energy you feel at the conference and act on those two or three things you have learned when you return home.  For example, here are three things conference-goers told me they learned:  1) planning is critical, 2) you have to embrace the mobile world and 3) you always need to be looking in the mirror!  So now that we’re back in the daily grind, let’s re-examine these three points, stay engaged with each other, and use the conference as a launching point. 

At this year’s conference, three sessions stuck out in the minds of many other people I spoke with while in Florida. First, “When a Plan Comes Together: Fundraising Campaigns that Work,” spoke directly to our mantra that planning is critical for any fundraising and engagement program.  Clark Princell with AANP PAC shared the experience and success of the Nurse Practitioners PAC as a direct result of setting a course and following it.  Second, the session entitled, “Time for a Tune-Up: Auditing and Assessing Your PAC,” underscored the importance of assessing the efforts and assets of your PAC program.  Even the most successful PACs need to take a step back from time to time, and it’s no surprise why some of the strongest PACs in America are looking under their hood on an annual basis.   Finally, we’re all depending on and communicating via our mobile devices more and more.  During the “Going Mobile: Incorporating New Technology into Your PAC,” we learned the importance of mobile technology in engaging audiences from customers to PAC eligibles and stakeholders.  PAC programs are embracing mobile technology more and more and we learned how it’s paying dividends. 

Those sessions, along with the overall networking opportunities and one-on-one conversations at the conference, allowed many of us to dive into the issues that we face as PAC professionals and see that other PACs face the same challenges and have found ways to overcome them.  We were able to share our own experiences and help colleagues from other organizations with their challenges.   

The opportunity I see ahead of us is maintaining the energy and productivity of thought coming out of the National PAC Conference.  We all have the ideas in our heads, challenges to overcome and opportunities to seize– but often it can be tough to follow through on what we learned in February, when we are just trying to get our job done every day.  Before we know it, the first quarter has come to a close and we’re still holding ideas!  

If you are like me, then you will want to carry the value of the conference forward and bring your learnings and new ideas into practice for your own program.  We’ve already started to move forward on a number of fronts directly related to learnings from this year’s conference.  If you are interested in discussing these ideas and putting them in motion for your PAC engagement and fundraising program, we are here to help – and to connect you with other industry colleagues who are doing the same.  As Pablo Picasso said, “What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.” 


Lawrence Young is the Vice President of PAC Programs at SevenTwenty Strategies. He can be reached at (202) 715-3901 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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Oops! Did I Just Say That? Why Media Training is Important - SevenTwenty Strategies

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In The Circle

Oops! Did I Just Say That? Why Media Training is Important

By Marichelli Hughes

This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's Connectivity Blog


“In downtown SF the degenerates gather like hyenas, spit, urinate, taunt you, sell drugs, get rowdy, they act like they own the center of the city. Like it’s their place of leisure… In actuality it’s the business district for one of the wealthiest cities in the USA. It a disgrace. I don’t even feel safe walking down the sidewalk without planning out my walking path,” said Greg Gopman, CEO of AngelHack.

“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely,” said Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch.


“Fake goods aren’t totally bad, at least it created jobs at some counterfeit factories...We don’t want to be a brand that nobody wants to copy,” said Patrizio Bertelli, CEO of Prada


Have you ever said something politically incorrect, insulting or simply insensitive that you wish you could take back? What if what you say ends up in a print or online article, or airs on TV and just puts you and your company in a negative light?  That is exactly what happened to the top company executives who made the above statements. And the worst part is that once you say something that appears in the media, it is out there indefinitely. In one second, you can destroy your company’s credibility, reputation and even your livelihood, as some top executives have actually had to resign from their jobs due to bad publicity their statements caused.

One way to avoid a media disaster is to have your company’s spokesperson participate in a media training session led by a trained professional. No matter what type of interview it is – print, online or broadcast – there are fundamental principles that every spokesperson can learn and use during all media interviews. Here are a few strategies that can help to make an interview go more smoothly and result in a positive outcome:


Develop Key Messages:

Before every interview, your spokesperson should be equipped with at least three to four key messages that will serve as his/her main talking points during the interview. Key messages can include relevant statistics, interesting anecdotes and survey/poll information. The goal of preparing key messages in advance is to create a roadmap and guide of what your spokesperson can discuss during the interview.  In the event an interview starts to steer off course and goes down a negative path, a spokesperson can always refer back to the key messages if he/she is struggling with what to say.


Deliver Key Messages:

It is important to note that most media interviews don’t last very long.  For example in a print interview, most reporters only allocated about 15 minutes for a telephone call. And, of those 15 minutes, you may end up with only one or two quotes, if you are lucky, in the entire article.  Your window of opportunity is very small; therefore, every word that you say has to count and have high impact, which increases the likelihood that it will be used. If your spokesperson can deliver the key messages in sound bites, which are catchy and powerful short phrases/sentences, it makes them come across more interesting to a reporter and increases the chances of getting more ink.


Interview Do’s: 

·       Research information about the media outlet and reporter prior to the interview.

·       Anticipate tough questions that a reporter may ask and formulate possible responses.

·       Only answer questions you know the answers to.  It is ok to say, “I don’t know.” Never lie, speculate or make up an answer.

·       Use uncomplicated but interesting language; avoid jargons.

·       If you state something as a fact, be prepared to provide proof.


Interview Don’ts: 

·       Avoid using sarcasm. It doesn’t translate well in an interview since comments can be misunderstood and offensive to others.

·       Avoid debating with a reporter. It makes you come cross argumentative and chances are you won’t win the debate because the reporter has the power of the pen.

·       Avoid speaking negatively about your competitors or anyone for that matter.

·       Avoid answering every question with a “no comment.” It makes you look like you have something to hide.

·       Avoid speaking “off the record” with a reporter you don’t know. Your comments can still appear in print if you are not careful.

·       Avoid answering a question with a “yes” or “no.”  You can explain your position instead of feeling pressured to choose a side.

Becoming a seasoned, well-spoken spokesperson takes time and effort, but it can be accomplished by implementing these tried and tested strategies. Like everything in life, practice makes perfect. The more interviews you do, the more you learn about the process and the better you eventually become.


Marichelli Hughes is Vice President of Media Relations and Strategic Communications at SevenTwenty Strategies.

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Video Is… - SevenTwenty Strategies

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In The Circle

Video Is…

By Bear Baker

This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's Connectivity Blog

It’s on our laptops, on our phones, in our workplace and in our heads.  When we have a DIY project at home, most of us will watch a video before we actually do it.  When we want to prove a point on something we feel strongly about, we ‘share’ a video.  And, when we can't be there--the next best thing?  Video.

Video has become the most prevalent form of communication in today’s culture, and the curve on the statistical graph is still rising.  80% of the people that visit a website will watch a video, while only 20% will read all of the content… 


720 Video Blog Video from Seven Twenty on Vimeo.



Bear Baker is the Vice President of Video Services at SevenTwenty Strategies.


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Influencer Post: Is Your Advocacy Focused on Washington? Then You Are Missing the Big Picture. - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Influencer Post: Is Your Advocacy Focused on Washington? Then You Are Missing the Big Picture.

By Glen Justice

Is Your Advocacy Focused on Washington? Then You Are Missing the Big Picture.

I was teaching at an advocacy seminar this week, chatting with a group of attendees, when the subject of state legislation came up. I was struck by the fact that every one of the people in the little group was somehow involved at the state level.

And why not? That is, after all, where business gets done these days.

By way of example, look at the 113th Congress, which passed 352 bills and resolutions in 2013 and 2014, according to data from my colleagues at CQ Roll Call. That was utterly dwarfed by the 45,564 bills and resolutions passed by the legislative bodies in all 50 states and Washington DC during that same period.

Of course, much of that legislation never made it into law, state or federal. But for advocacy professionals, the message is clear: if you are focused rigidly on Washington, then you are missing a big part of the picture.


State Struggles

States have always been laboratories for policy and legislation, and they have often been a sound alternative for advocacy groups who cannot get what they want from Congress. But watching states grapple with a blizzard of issues -- and with Congressional productivity lagging -- its hard to argue that they are not playing a bigger role these days.

Sure, there are the everyday struggles with issues like budgets and education funding. But there are also huge issues, such as the massive changes brought about by shifts in the energy sector. In Alaska, which has been hit hard by low oil prices, there is talk about raising taxes -- a huge deal in a place where there’s no state income tax. In North Dakota, the center of the U.S. oil boom, there’s talk about dropping the state income tax to zero.

In many other states, low prices at the pump have put gas taxes on the table, in order to address crumbling infrastructure. The issue also ties directly to Washington, where many states are waiting for Congress to serve up a highway bill.


Advocating in the States

What does it all mean? It means that savvy companies, associations and advocacy groups will have eyes on the states -- and the capability to act.

Let’s start with tracking. How you go about it will largely depend on how much action you have to watch. If its just a few issues, you might get by with Google News and a spreadsheet. But any more than that and you’ll need professional tools, including a news outlet that watches state action and a state-level bill tracker. There are several options available, and you should shop around.

One great technique is to chat with someone who tracks state legislation for a living and to get them to walk you through the drill. If you know somebody, you are way ahead. Invite them for coffee and bring a notebook. If you don’t, track somebody down and introduce yourself. The effort you save will be well worth that awkward first phone call.

You should also have the ability to respond to issues that impact your organization, using digital advocacy campaigns -- responsive websites paired with email and social media powered by advocacy software -- to drive engagement and action on state issues. If the issue is important enough, you should also at least have a line on how to run a ground campaign should you need it.

Again, there are options on how to get there (naturally, I’m partial to solutions offered by SevenTwenty Strategies and CQ Roll Call), and you should investigate your options vis-a-vis your needs and your budget. Sure, this is all time consuming. But ask yourself how much time you put into monitoring and trying to sway Congress.

Then, let me remind you that fully 38 states and the District of Columbia passed more legislation than Congress did last session. Put another way, while Congress passed roughly 4 percent of the bills introduced, the states passed about 25 percent.

Watching what the states do -- and responding -- is clearly worth your time.


Glen Justice has been a journalist for more than 25 years. He is currently Managing Editor for Marketing at CQ Roll Call.

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Influencer Post: Which Way to Participatory Democracy? - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Influencer Post: Which Way to Participatory Democracy?

By Francesco Calazzo

Every time an event concerning participatory democracy, eParticipation or just plain citizen engagement takes place in Brussels, it’s worth a bit of reflection.

The European Union has done a lot over the last 10-15 years to address the perceived gap between citizens and political institutions. Progress was made and projects were launched. Some of those projects were more permanent (the European Citizens’ Initiative and the Petitions’ Portal). Other were less so (the Meeting of Minds, European Citizens Consultations and EuroPolis).

Yet, this progress has been slow. Had the economic crisis not intervened to trouble the waters, we clearly would be witnessing a radically different scenario today.

And yet, right when many of use were wondering whether hope was lost, a resurgence in the debate can be clearly be seen on both sides of the Atlantic -- and the best may be yet to come.


Meeting in Brussels
It is with these considerations in mind that those who work in civic engagement met recently in Brussels to present, discuss and assess a wide array of pilots, beta-phase programs and tools.

The gathering was part of a joint action by the EU government and Civil Society, spearheaded by the European Citizen Action Service. It was called Joint Citizen Action for a Stronger and Citizen-Friendly Union.

The overarching tone of meetings like these is always a mix of pragmatic despair and endless hope in the face of ambitious plans and projects that, for a number of reasons, fail to take off as they should.

The issues at the heart of these shortcomings are more complex than a blog post can convey. But we can attempt an educated guess.

Leaving aside all socio-political and economic considerations, it could be argued that almost every time central governments have tried their hand at it, on both sides of the Atlantic, they have fallen short of expectations.


Why Governments Fail

The whys and hows have been the center of many a dissertation, but it could be argued that government -- any government -- by itself is in a dubious position to succeed in any serious, long-term, and large-scale citizen’s engagement.

The reasons are inherent to the very nature of a government or public administration, and may also be traced to one big misunderstanding. The participation of citizens -- and therefore a higher level of engagement, empowerment and ownership of the public process -- does not entail running everything past them for approval on the Internet.

Last time I checked, much of the western world was still on a parliamentary/presidential form of democratic government. Electronic participation simply means citizens can more easily be heard and officials can better take the pulse of the situation and obtain clear messages about priorities.

Indeed, it is not a mere coincidence that, time and again, smaller countries always inspire the best practices. For example, at the Brussels conference, Estonia was often center stage.


Looking Ahead

Where does that leave us?

Based on personal experience, professional expertise and knowledge of several pilot projects, I personally feel strongly that governments of the world over should overcome any wariness about dealing with corporations and the private sector, and try to strike fruitful collaborations.

Corporations offer “muscles” and widespread reach. Governments could do their part by bringing a sense that balanced, non-partisan and ethical work is being done for the common good (and keeping regulatory functions in an entirely different domain).

By envisioning novel ways to engage with the public, a truly new age of eParticipation is very much within reach. And, in a society that has seen so much paradigm-shifting change, this new approach is not only necessary, but it may also be welcome.

Is this going to be painless? The answer is a big fat NO. Striving for more meaningful eParticipation is like charting new territory. But whomever heads the race will reap the benefits of the pros and learn from the cons.

The hesitation blues should be discarded and an effort made to overcome technical hurdles, scarcity of means and clumsy implementations – three factors that have tarnished many a project thus far – and to replace them with the graceful and pragmatic adoption of new and zeitgeisty tools for the new millennium.



Francesco Calazzo is a European digital advocacy expert based in Brussels.  He led the design of the European Parliament's Petition System and has advised European governments on digital citizen participation strategies.  

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Give Your PAC A Check-Up - SevenTwenty Strategies

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In The Circle

Give Your PAC A Check-Up

By Lawrence Young

Around this time of year, when budgets are being finalized, many PAC managers are receiving their fundraising goals for the year.

Unfortunately, this is not always a happy time. If those goals are larger than you anticipated, how are you going to get achieve them? With shrinking PAC budgets, do you have the resources? There’s also a new Congress and a looming presidential election, promising an even more unpredictable political landscape.

It all adds up to one thing: it’s a good time for a PAC assessment.

Ask the Right Questions

While some call it an audit, a PAC assessment is not a reconciliation of financial records. Rather it is a cold, hard look at all of the operations that keep your political action committee running.

To avoid obstacles down the road, you are examining what happened in the past, looking at how you got here and figuring out if there are missteps that could become traps in the days ahead.

Some key questions to ask:

● Which fundraising tactics worked and which didn’t?
● Are your email communications being read, and are they establishing the value of being a PAC member?
● Does the staff have the resources they need to be effective and to achieve their goals?
● Are those goals realistic, given your company or association culture?

Finding Some Answers

To find the answers to these questions, there are many tools available:

Examine the numbers. 
It’s important to look at fundraising data, comparing PAC performance over the years in order to see trends. Is fundraising trending up or down among different salary bands? What about geographically? How do things look by business unit?

Do Some Benchmarking. 
How do you compare against others in your industry? If the PAC has hit a plateau, but similar organizations are making gains, then what does that tell you?

Do Some Surveys. 
What do your PAC eligibles really think about the PAC? You cannot know what your audience is thinking unless you ask them. An anonymous survey with questions that get to the core of the PAC and its goals will provide an enormous wealth of information. That information can help you dig out of a hole — or make even greater gains.

Make Sure You Edit. 
It may not be Shakespeare, but every piece of writing needs a critique. How effective are your PAC communications in educating and recruiting PAC members? Compared to other company emails, do your email bulletins carry the same themes? Are your calls to action items clear and easy to find?

Track Your Email. 
Are you tracking who is opening and clicking through your emails? If so, what are you doing with that data? Can it be used to bring about more effective communication and fundraising? (For more on improving email programs, check out this white paper from our friends at CQ Roll Call Connectivity) 

These are just some of the most important parts of an assessment. A complete PAC audit would go further, defining each stakeholder’s responsibility in the PAC operation and determining if each PAC activity — fundraising, communications, compliance and others — is setup to meet its goals.

An honest assessment can show pitfalls that the PAC has tripped over for years, and it can be a humbling experience. But without turning over some stones, you never know what treasure you can find beneath.


Lawrence Young is the Vice President of PAC Programs at SevenTwenty Strategies.

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Get More Ink in 2015:  Strategies that Work! - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Get More Ink in 2015:  Strategies that Work!

By Marichelli Hughes

This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's Connectivity Blog


Generating media interest for your issue, campaign or brand can seem pretty daunting at times, especially when you consider how many others inside and outside your industry are competing for the same ink and airtime. What does it really take to get and stay on a reporter’s radar screen?  A best selling book?  A power title like “Senator?”  While titles and accolades certainly won’t hurt, the best way to fast-track consistent media exposure for yourself is to put in place a rock solid media relations plan. Here are some key strategies to get you ink:

Build Relationships with Reporters:

1.     Be a Source: Reporters work with people they can trust, who are credible, reliable, likeable and have something interesting to say. Your first step is to build a relationship – not a pitch. One way to do this is to schedule introductory meet and greets with reporters who cover issues relevant to your industry. Before each meeting, be sure to do your research. Read past articles the reporters have written to get an understanding of the types of stories they cover. This not only appeals to their interests, but it lets them know that you actually care about the issues they write about.


During the meeting, be a thought leader instead of a sales person.  While it might seem reasonable to tout all the great things your organization does, chances are the reporter is not prepared to write a front-page feature article about you. The sales approach does not work with reporters. Instead, focus on the timely trends and issues that are most important to your industry and how it impacts a greater audience. Your goal is to position yourself and your organization as a thought leader and industry expert.  Now, you are interesting, credible and quotable – and dare we say it, relationship worthy!


For one of our DC-based health care organization client, we encouraged them to meet with health care reporters to discuss the impact of increasing instances of health care fraud and abuse to their industry and the cost of health care. After a few months, the client began receiving calls from the reporters they met.  Now, they get regular ink, and it all began with a cup of coffee. 


2.     Be Available: Try your best to be available and easily accessible for interviews in the event reporters contact you. The reality is that most reporters work on extremely tight deadlines. If you are hard to reach, don’t return calls and emails, and are generally unreliable, your relationship with that reporter won’t last long – unless you or your organization are considered celebrities. 


3.     Be a Resource: Send reporters industry information that is relevant to their coverage. Share a new research study or polling data about a key trend. By doing so, reporters will begin to see you as a resource for information, an expert in your industry and a go-to-person to speak to when anything big happens. You can send them information about your company, for example: a new initiative being launched, a new product coming on the market, etc., but try to limit coming across too self-promotional.


4.     Be a Connector: If your company is hosting a conference, a webinar, a seminar or a roundtable, invite reporters to attend as your special guest. Introducing reporters to other key members of your organization and industry can provide them additional perspectives, which can ultimately increase media coverage for you.


5.     Be Credible: Always be honest with reporters. If you don’t know the answer to a question, let them know. Never lie, make up an answer, or speculate a fact that you cannot prove. A good reporter fact-checks everything. The last thing you want to do is to lose a reporter’s trust or overplay your hand in an interview.  During the recent Ebola outbreak in the US, our multi-national client was asked multiple times in a single interview if their technology was the “cure” to the outbreak.  As much as they would have liked to say “of course,” they focused on the credible answer, which was that their technology was potentially life-saving – but not the sole answer to the epidemic.  It was the right answer.

Select the Appropriate Spokesperson

6.     Picking Your Messenger: One of the main reasons why some organizations don’t get quoted in an article is because their spokesperson simply didn’t deliver.  Not everyone is print-and camera-ready and equipped to speak with the media. A spokesperson who rambles, who can’t stick to the key messages, or who can’t hold the interest of the reporter or the camera can make or break an interview. It is also not wise to have multiple spokespeople. The best strategy is to pick one to two people (three at the most) to serve as the face of your organization. This will ensure message consistency. You also want to select people who are articulate, know the ins and outs of your issues and industry, who can handle difficulty questions (especially during a PR crisis), are likeably and will appeal to your readers and viewers.


7.     Preparing Your Spokesperson: Make sure that all spokespeople are media trained. You can have all the information in the world, but if the delivery of that information is poor, it will never make it to print or air.  Some spokespeople are so technical they are not relatable.  They speak in jargon, which is hard to understand. Others tend to ramble on and completely stray away from the topic. Both scenarios are ink-killers. During media training, a spokesperson should learn how to organize their thoughts into key messages and quotable sound bites that can easily be delivered; understand how different media outlets work - print versus broadcast (radio and television) as well as online; and learn how to become a newsmaker by using strategic interview techniques.  


We recently conducted a media training session for a client of ours. We defined the core messages with him, and landed his first interview.  When the story ran, we were able to take out a yellow highlighter and underline his three key messages verbatim throughout the article. 

Create Compelling Newsworthy Content

8.     Write a Thought Leadership Piece: Beyond interviews, some media outlets publish bylined articles/guest columns and op-eds written by organization executives. Try to ensure that your article focuses on issues and trends that will educate and inform the outlet’s target audience. If you can provide data, statistics, survey information from a poll or evidence-based content to support your topic, all the better.


9.     Tell a Story: If you are issuing a press release about a new product, a new initiative or a new office opening, always try to ensure that the narrative tells a story and makes an impact. For example, it should answer one of these questions: What is unique and different about your product or new service offering? Is it a first-of-its-kind concept in your industry? How does it impact a greater audience? Why should people care?


10.  Use Visuals: Create and send B-roll footage to TV stations that they can use; print media uses photos, charts and graphs all the time; offer live demos of your product or service offerings via Skype or GoToMeeting; invite reporters to tour your facilities. If reporters can see exactly what you do, the better the chances are they will write about it.  


11.  Partner with Others: If your organization engaged in philanthropy – beyond your bottom line – let the media know about it.  Whether you are donating money or time to a charity that helps the homeless or partnering with a non-profit organization to raise awareness about the importance of cancer research, human interest stories often resonate with reporters. Recently, we showcased a 16-year-old entrepreneur and the grand re-opening of her DC-based small business. The young client and her intention to donate a portion of her proceeds to a local non-profit organization proved to be an inspiration, especially around the holidays. During a candid conversation with a reporter, we learned that the non-profit angle was the deciding factor to write the article.

Getting ink is one part art, one part science and one part knowledge.  But at the end of the day, it’s about building trusted relationships and helping reporters get what they need. Embrace how reporters think, and you’ll be well on your way to getting ink in 2015.  


Marichelli Hughes is Vice President of Media Relations and Strategic Communications at SevenTwenty Strategies.

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Give Back and Support Your PAC - SevenTwenty Strategies

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In The Circle

Give Back and Support Your PAC

By Lawrence Young

This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's Connectivity Blog

Working with Charities to Boost your Corporate PAC Participation

'Tis the Season’ for giving, but how many are willing to give to their PAC right now?  As the year comes to a close, people are thinking about family and friends, and helping the less fortunate.  Yet, how do you make your PAC relevant during the holiday season? 

You can turn your PAC into a rallying cry to help charities.  Several companies have seen great success implementing a program where employees who donate to the PAC, can choose a charity to receive a financial gift from the company “matching” the employee’s donation.  The FEC permits these kinds of charitable contributions to charities recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  

The FEC allows a lot of latitude in setting the parameters of a PAC Match program.  While many PACs match at a 1:1 ($1 charitable donation for every $1 donated to the PAC), some PACs will donate $0.50 per $1 PAC donation. Others institute a minimum PAC contribution before the PAC will make a matching gift.  Some PACs will contribute to any charity that a donor requests, while some may let donors pick from a selected list of charities. No matter what kind of match program you may implement, research shows that a PAC match program greatly improves new member recruitment.

In a survey of 31 PAC Administrators, 94% respondents viewed PAC Match as an effective tool for raising money for the PAC.  One administrator commented that PAC Match was the leading incentive in joining the PAC.  (Source: Public Affairs Council 2014).

For most, the PAC Match is a win-win – for both the company and for your fellow employees.  They can support the company through the PAC, while making a gift for those in need.  Not only does it help employees give to causes they care about, but also it demonstrates another way for your company to display its civic engagement.


This is a proven generator of PAC dollars and increased participation.  Do you need help implementing a program to fit your company?  Give us a call and we can dive in together to figure out a program that will work for you. 


Lawrence Young is the Vice President of PAC Programs at SevenTwenty Strategies.

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Election 2014 - Engaging the Candidates - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Election 2014 - Engaging the Candidates

By Pam Fielding

This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's Connectivity blog.

Primary season for the 2014 midterm election is almost halfway over. As the summer starts to heat up, so do general election campaigns. For those in the advocacy space, that means there is a whole universe of candidates to start engaging now.

Advocacy efforts often target those who are in office. But the months leading up to an election offer the perfect time to get your issues in front of the candidates vying for those seats. Now is the time to start motivating advocates to reach out to the candidates.

While candidates are not able to change policy right now - and if they lose may never be able to - it's still important to begin engaging them in the early stages of the campaign season. An election cycle is a learning experience for many politicians. It's the time of the year when they're interacting with and listening to their constituents. Looming election days often sharpen the politician's awareness of what constituents are concerned about.

One need only look to the stump speeches politicians deliver every day to see the impact of getting your issues in front of them. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney often spoke about the people whom he had met on the campaign trail and the stories of their real-life problems. By encouraging your stakeholders to engage with candidates, you can infuse your issue into the discussion.

Influencing candidates offers many benefits to your advocates and organization. First, by helping a candidate understand the importance of your issue, it is more likely he or she will begin to interject it into the campaign discussion. This increases the possibility of your issue getting more airtime. And if an opponent starts talking about your issue, it will often force the incumbent to also discuss it, too, and take a stance on the matter. If a candidate you've influenced is victorious in November, you have already laid the important groundwork to have engagement with the new officeholder.

Organizations can help their advocates connect with the candidates in many ways. Like advocacy campaigns targeted at office holders, you can and should encourage your stakeholders to email the candidates. Since President Barack Obama turned the political landscape upside down by using social media, more candidates are keeping robust accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. Encourage your stakeholders to engage candidates in their districts by tweeting at them or posting on their Facebook pages.

It can also be easier to arrange face-to-face meetings with those running for office. A candidate will try to get as much interaction with likely voters as possible, so setting up meetings allows the candidate and your organization to both achieve their goals. You can use the opportunity to help brief a candidate on issues of importance by providing a candidate guide on your issue area, positioning yourself as a resource for issues affecting your industry or cause.

Encourage advocates to schedule meetings with candidates at their campaign offices. Ask the candidate's campaign for a schedule so that advocates can attend voter meetings at local restaurants, schools and community organizations. Campaign season is also a great time to invite candidates to your organization's headquarters or where you have a large presence. By hosting a meet and greet, your stakeholders have the ability to interact with the candidate and explain their concerns. It's also a value-add for your members, allowing them easy access to those running for office.

If you want to help drive your agenda with candidates, consider conducting polling or focus groups on your issue area in key districts or states and ask voters how important the issue is to their Election Day decisions. Sharing this information with candidates could put your issue at the top of their agenda and make it a key talking point on the stump.

Waiting until the election is over is too late to start talking about your issue with new candidates. By engaging your stakeholders and mobilizing them around the election, your issues can become an important part of the campaign discussion and give you a head start with new office holders.

Pam Fielding is the President of SevenTwenty Strategies.

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The power of Mom - SevenTwenty Strategies

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The power of Mom

By Pam Fielding

This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's new Connectivity blog

It's almost Mother's Day and 180 days until Election 2014.  Of course it's a good time to send a card or some flowers - but for public affairs professionals, it's an even better time to reflect on the power and impact moms have on our country.  Ann Romney got it right when she said, "It's the moms of this nation - single, married, widowed - who really hold this country together...You're the ones who always have to do a little more."  For those of us advancing issues in the legislative session, in the community, or in an election, the power and potential of America's moms can't be overstated.   

How will moms vote in the upcoming midterm Congressional elections, the first since the implementation of the 2010 health care reform law? While it may not be crystal clear just yet, it's crucial to remember that American women make 80 percent of the healthcare decisions for their families, according to the Department of Labor, and $2.7 trillion in annual consumer spending decisions.  And that decision-making power will weigh heavily on them and candidates as moms head to the ballot box.

Over the years, we've been called lots of things:  Soccer Moms, Walmart Moms, and this year, if Michael Bloomberg has his way, perhaps Gun Safety moms.

The former New York City mayor is banking $50 million this election cycle on Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella entity for two gun safety groups he controls, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety, whose aim is to make gun safety an issue in this election.

The big question for those of us who believe in the power of mom to impact this election and this legislative session, is how will we reach her and what will we say when we do?  The good news is, we moms are overwhelmingly online.  Ninety percent of us use the Internet, according to Edison Research.  And increasingly, we're part of a growing momosphere.  In fact, 3.9 million U.S. moms identify themselves as bloggers.

Moms aren't "one size fits all," of course, and that's what makes it fun and challenging for advocacy professionals to do what we do for a living.  Moms need to be understood and communicated with - recognizing all the things we are and care about.

Moms are social media mavens. In fact, a joint study with and comScore found moms are 20 percent more likely to engage on social media than the general population.  So how do you reach mom?  Give them social media content that feeds their interests and give them the tools to make a difference.

In a study done this February, Yahoo's advertising department found 70 percent of moms are more responsive to online ads that relate to their current online activities.

Yahoo also found that 25 percent of moms say they have a higher affinity with brands that sponsor content that interests them - like sponsoring recipes or sites that provide tips for dealing with children.

Big data opportunities abound to reach mom, whether you head to the voter file or commercial lists.  But before you press send on your email, know this:  millennial moms and baby boomer moms have varying online habits. According to a study by Yahoo, millennial moms are more likely to engage with social media, online video and streaming music. Baby boomer moms prefer more traditional forms of online content, like text articles.

Whether you blog, tweet, pin, email market or advertise, moms value content about topics that matter to them, are relevant to their current online activities, and feed their natural tendency to engage.

This Mother's Day, while you're pinning the corsage on mom - don't forget her favorite online equivalent (Pinterest, of course.)  And, be sure to recognize her undeniable power: as a social media influential, an advocate and a voter.

Happy Mother's Day, Moms.  You rule!

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Election Day 2014 – Are You Ready? - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Election Day 2014 – Are You Ready?

By Vlad Cartwright

It's hard to believe that in just six short months, Americans will be heading back to the polls, to cast their ballots in many pivotal races that will determine control of the U.S. House, Senate and state governments.

Every day that passes is one less day that your organization has to engage your stakeholders, whether they are PAC members, advocates, employees or association or coalition members. Many opportunities exist to build relationships with your stakeholders and educate them about the races. And if you get a head start now, there are creative and engaging ways you can encourage them to take part in their civic duty while advancing your PAC or advocacy goals.

Educating stakeholders around the elections isn't about wading into partisan politics. You can develop a non-partisan platform about civic participation and taking part in your constitutional rights. Successful PAC and advocacy programs excel at linking the impact of issues and elections and their communities and jobs, for example. With a few easy steps, you can set your audience up to be informed and engaged voters while at the same time, generating interest in your programs. Here are a few recommendations to consider today:

GOTV communications for employees, retirees and all other stakeholders...
Don't wait until October to start implementing your Get out the Vote program. Primary and general election registration deadlines vary by state and sneak up with little warning. Research these deadlines for your key states and communicate around them via your regular communication tools (you are communicating regularly, right?).  By developing an engagement calendar now, you will know when to communicate and what information to discuss. Communications can link stakeholders to your PAC or organization website where you can embed tools that allow users to register to vote, identify their polling place or learn about the candidates in a few easy clicks. If you have legislative action tools, you probably already have this content.  By doing this, you are turning your program website into a virtual civic participation engine! 

Develop a voter information toolkit...
Ramping up for the election early means you have time to get creative. You don't have to endorse specific candidates. But you can help your members make informed decisions.  Identify the key issues that you're focused on and turn them into engaging materials. By identifying the issues your stakeholders should consider when they head to the polls and providing information on where the various candidates stand, you have empowered them to make informed decisions.  A flier or issues pamphlet can be crafted to help stakeholders remember the issues you are focusing on this election. A poster in the break room reminding employees to vote (no matter who they vote for) is an easy way to increase engagement and drive traffic to your website.

Voter education video...
SevenTwenty has found that one of the most effective ways to share information and drive engagement is through video. Video can be engaging and help to promote civic participation and your particular programs.  When you start thinking about Election Day early, there is plenty of time to develop your own video message. Maybe you already have a Grassroots or PAC video that you use for recruiting and fundraising - based on its level of success, you may want to consider additional video content that promotes the value of your PAC and the importance of the elections.   

Plan events or conference calls with members...
From tele-townhall meetings to "Pizza (or pancakes) and Politics," staging a memorable event can help your members get excited about the process - and your programs. Is there an exciting race in the state where your company is headquartered? Reach out to the candidates and ask them to stop by and meet your employees. PAC members will appreciate value-added events and candidates are typically interested in direct outreach to voters. A conference call with a political prognosticator who can lay out what is happening in the political arena can be an easy way to generate interest in the election. Alternatively, you can have a leader in your Washington office hold a webinar or conference call to talk about their impressions of the coming election and what changes in political dynamics could mean for your issues.


So think about getting ahead of the game and being prepared for the upcoming elections.  Planning early will help you to create value for your stakeholders, build a more informed voter base and benefit your programs via increased traffic.      


Questions or comments?  Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

For more information on planning a successful GOTV program, contact SevenTwenty Strategies at 202.962.3955 or via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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SevenTwenty’s Chris Monnat on building a responsive, one-stop website - SevenTwenty Strategies

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SevenTwenty’s Chris Monnat on building a responsive, one-stop website

By Ginger Gibson

Editor's note: SevenTwenty Strategies is launching a new feature. We will begin regularly featuring some of the cutting edge and exciting work being done by our employees and offering you a chance to get to know the people behind the solutions. Check back for more exciting updates about the work being done at SevenTwenty.


Chris Monnat, chief technology officer at SevenTwenty Strategies, likens his job to that of a fire fighter - without the life-threatening task of putting out fires, of course.

Not only does he juggle the every day evolving needs of clients - from website creation to database production - but he's also thinking strategically about how to put out - or prevent - the next fire.

"The day-to-day is mostly finding the best way to take technology and mold and shape it to meet our clients needs," Monnat said. "It's looking at technology and things like responsive design and finding ways that it can benefit our clients." 

Responsive design is one of the newest ways that Monnat and his team are working to create websites that provide clients with a strong and creative first impression for their supporters.

What is responsive design? Monnat breaks it down simply: One website that is viewable in every browser and on every type of device.

Before, web designers would have to produce multiple websites so that if users surfed from home on their PC or on the road from their smartphone, the site would always look nice.

But now responsive websites detect what type of device and browser the visitor is using and adapt.  Users are viewing the same website, but pieces of it may change so that it adapts for their device.

"It's one stop, one source to serve all devices," Monnat said.

Having a well designed website is important, Monnat explains. If someone puts a lot of time into designing the site that users on a computer sees, but disregards the mobile version, there could be real repercussions.

He points to a study that found that the web surfing experience has a real impact on how people see the brand.

"Fifty seven percent, over half of users say they would not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site," Monnat explains.

And when trying to get visitors to our website to sign on to a campaign, that response becomes more important.

"We're dealing with advocacy," Monnat said. "You're counting on people's goodwill to spread the word. If you don't make it as simple and accessible as possible, you're shooting yourself in the foot."

He added, "When it's not accessible on their phone, they could be losing 50 percent of those going to take action, not spreading the world or spreading the word negatively."

There are lots of advantages to designing websites using responsive design, Monnat explains.

No matter what topic a website is addressing, eventually the content is going to need to be changed or updated. A responsive website only has to be changed in one place and then all versions of the site are adjusted. When dealing with the traditional setup - multiple sites for different browsers and devices - the content has to be changed several times. Trying to coordinate multiple changes is where errors and inconsistencies start to get introduced.

Is a responsive website always the best choice? Monnat said for most situations it is. Any site that is dealing with content - the written word, photos or videos - or is going to be updated frequently benefits from a responsive website.

The only exception Monnat finds are websites that are intended more as an experience than an information hub, particularly those that rely heavily on Flash or other interactive elements. 


Get to know Chris Monnat quickly:

When he joined SevenTwenty? September 2010

Where is he from? Rochester, NY

What's is favorite app? Microsoft's new One Note app for Apple products. He uses it to take notes in meetings and keep track of all the work that is going on. 

"I'm finally back in my note taking Nirvana," he said.

If Monnat could have an app to do anything? Clean his apartment.

One thing he isn't willing to give up for technology? Printed copies of magazines.



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Happy Halloween from SevenTwenty Strategies - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Happy Halloween from SevenTwenty Strategies

By Pam Fielding

Boo! Did we scare you? A Message to SevenTwenty Strategies clients and friends from our CFO (Chief Fright Officer)

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New FEC Ruling Paves the Way for Text-to-Donate Strategy - SevenTwenty Strategies

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New FEC Ruling Paves the Way for Text-to-Donate Strategy

By Vlad Cartwright

160 characters ... That's the limit of a standard text sent over Short Message Service (SMS). And those 160 characters can have significant influence on political operations. Since the 2008 election, campaigns and candidates have been using text messaging to engage their supporters to mobilize in support of shared causes with increasing frequency and success. Now, the text messaging game is changing in a new and potentially explosive way: fundraising.

An August ruling by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) cleared the way for campaign contributions to be sent via text message, adding a new and powerful arrow to the fundraising quiver. There's little doubt that fundraising via SMS has the potential to play an important role in identifying, growing and mobilizing a stronger donor and advocate base for those that take advantage of it. As seen in the wake of natural disasters, people can be quickly engaged and vast sums can be raised in short periods, such as $43 million in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. And we are excited about the new possibilities it presents for the organizations with whom we work.

For many potential donors, sending a pledge over text is far more convenient than filling out a form and entering payment details. And, for the organizations that leverage SMS, they are interacting through a technology that most of their donors and stakeholders use on a daily basis. Stakeholders and donors can now simply text "GIVE" to a designated number to donate to a campaign or PAC. Strategies such as this can help an organization successfully raise money and expand their contact lists.

According to Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox LLP, who worked to convince the FEC to allow contributions by text message, "Text message contributions have the potential to truly revolutionize the way PACs raise funds."

While the FEC ruling on texting unleashes a powerful new set of possibilities that can prove to be a game-changer to many candidates and organizations, there are still issues to work out with regard to the cost of overhead and collection of accurate donor information. However, smart organizations seeking thoughtful and intelligent application of this new tool will quickly find ways to perfect the process. Some may even seek to convert text donors to more traditional methods of engagement, while continuing to take advantage of the power of SMS to identify new donors and mobilize the grassroots.

As with any new opportunity, there are kinks to work out. However, supporters of the ruling, including both 2012 Presidential campaigns, which launched text-to-donate efforts in late August, lobbied the FEC to move on this for one reason: this technology can play a strong role in expanding their donor base and growing their grassroots advocacy missions. And we here at SevenTwenty Strategies certainly agree!

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When It Comes to Engagement Videos, Shorter is Better - SevenTwenty Strategies

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When It Comes to Engagement Videos, Shorter is Better

By Bear Baker

Think the length of an engagement video doesn't make much difference? Think again. In a recent study conducted by a video hosting service, it was found that a video's run time has a dramatic impact on how many people stick around past the first few seconds.

The study examined two videos - one 30 seconds in length, and one 90 seconds. The graph below reveals the "engagement rate" of the two videos. The top line represents the shorter video, while the bottom line shows the longer video. The content of each video was virtually the same - in fact, the first 30 seconds of the 90-second video IS the 30-second video - however the rate of decline is vastly different. By about 10-15 seconds in, viewers were much more likely to turn off the longer video than they were the shorter one.


Engagement decreases as time increases



Why? The average viewer is now beginning to look at the timeline at the bottom of the video to see how long the video is, and then quickly decide whether they want to invest their time watching your message.

When the study was drawn out to include videos of greater lengths, the metrics show that a steady drop off accompanies the growing length of videos studied. While a 1-2 minute video garners an engagement rate of over 65%, a 2-3 minute video only keeps a little over 50%.


Engagement decreases as time increases


Statistically, this has a profound effect on your communications strategy. While we'd like to say it all with one video, that's not the most-effective messaging solution. Aside from watering down the core message (contribute, participate, etc.), we're also losing viewers. If we can get the message out in less than 1 minute, we are most likely reaching close to 30% more people with that message than we would with a 3-minute video.

Now, if we make that video compelling, or fun to watch, then viewers are far more likely to watch an additional short video or click on a link to a webpage designed to take the viewer further into varying facets of the core message.

Today's technology has come a long way from the corporate video playing on a DVD/VHS combo TV on an A/V cart in the lunchroom. The days of the captive audience are over. Your communications strategy needs to take into account that viewers can now simply bounce off the webpage hosting your video without anyone noticing. At SevenTwenty Strategies we are continuously honing the craft of modern, digital communications for our clients. Let us help you with yours.



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