Online Coalition Building for Environmental Law Reform

Under Prime Minister Harper, Canada’s Conservative Party dismantled key environmental protections. When the Liberals came to power they promised to strengthen the Environmental Assessment Act, the Navigation Protection Act, the Fisheries Act and to fix the National Energy Board.

But, a coalition of national environmental organizations weren’t going to leave all this to chance. They began working together to ensure new versions of these laws bring back strong environmental protections for Canadians. As part of this campaign, Capulet developed a digital, public-facing campaign to put pressure on MPs and Ministers to reform these key pieces of legislation.

Breaking down complex ideas

Environmental law reform is important, but it’s not the easiest topic to engage the public in. We wanted to inform Canadians about the issue but not overwhelm them with legal jargon. It was also important to:

  • Respect the individual work of each organization in the coalition

  • Weave storytelling into the environmental law reform narrative

  • Ensure each reform was given the attention it deserved with messaging customized for specific MPs and Ministers.

United, but not the same

Here’s how we did it. We created four unique landing pages, one for each reform, in English and in French. Each page tells a personal story from Canadians impacted by the law’s current shortcomings. A cohesive visual design linked all four pages under the “Now’s our chance to get it right” banner.

Then, to make it as easy as possible for Canadians to send a letter to their MP and call key Ministers about air, water and land protections, each page was equipped with click-to-email and click-to-call engagement tools by Vancouver-based New/Mode.

Doubling down, and tripling, and quadrupling


Then, the build out began! We cloned version of these sites for 25 different groups across the country. At the height of the campaign, 68 microsites were running “in the wild,” sending emails to MPs and connecting callers with Ministers. Each cloned page functioned independently and so we were able to add a group’s logo, make some content customizations and collect data that went directly to the organization that owned that page.

We also prepared a variety of communications assets for participating groups to use including email blasts, social media and photography.

Better together

This campaign continues as the new laws make their way from Committee to the House and to the Senate. So far, Canadians have emailed over 40,000 letters to MPs, published letters to the editor in 33 publications across Canada and have made hundreds of calls to key Ministers.

We think this campaign’s success is the result of taking a complex issue and breaking it down to the bare bones. The simplicity of the sites and their messaging made it easy for Canadians to take action and addressed individual needs of each group participating in the coalition.

Capturing The Magic of Childhood for a Serious Cause

Canuck Place Children’s Hospice provides pediatric palliative care to families across British Columbia. While there’s no question that everyone can see the value in providing support for children living with life threatening illnesses and their families, it’s not always an easy topic to talk about.

Canuck Place partnered with Capulet for one of our first Remarkables Labs. With this collaboration, there were two issues that Canuck Place was hoping to tackle: connecting with new, younger donors and clarifying the Canuck Place brand in the community.

To reach these goals, we needed to uncover a new approach to connecting with the public that enabled Canuck Place to talk about their work.

Best Day Ever.png

The Remarkables Lab Difference

Through Remarkables Labs, we work with the organization’s in-house team to enable to skills of existing staff and train them through the process of creating a successful creative campaign from start to finish.  This serves the double purpose of designing a great new campaign to serve the business goals of the organization, while also training up their staff to create effective campaigns in-house in the future.

The Best Day Ever

In collaboration with the staff at Canuck Place, we devised the Best Day Ever Campaign. For this campaign, there was a month long digital campaign where donors could pledge their support for a child in Canuck Place’s care to have a “Day without Pain”. And to capture the imagination of potential donors and the public at large, the campaign was celebrated by building a giant 2,000 sq ft blanket fort at the TELUS Gardens in Downtown Vancouver.   

The Best Campaign Ever

The Best Day Ever campaign was a huge success. The Blanket Fort really high engagement, and allowed the public to engage with Canuck Place in a way that connected with the magic of childhood. The Best Day Ever campaign saw some pretty incredible marketing and fundraising milestones:

  • The campaign exceeded Canuck Place’s fundraising goals by 45%.
  • The online campaign brought in $14,500 in donations, 20% of which were from new donors.
  • $34,500 additional dollars were raised through direct mail and fundraising by school groups.
  • Web traffic for Canuck Place doubled for the month of the campaign (over the same month of the previous year).
  • Canuck Place was able to collect 200 new email addresses.
  • Canuck Place won Best Donor Acquisition at the Non-Profit Innovation & Optimization Awards.
  • Feedback from both attendees and media was incredibly positive and shed a new light on the way the public views Canuck Place.

The success of this campaign was a direct result of engaging the staff in a creative way and enabling their talents through the Remarkables Lab process. The idea to create a giant blanket fort came from activities that children are already doing at Canuck Place, so bringing the public into this world that they could also relate to their own childhoods created some true engagement magic.

Adults Need Summer Camp, Too

Conferences can be a lot like summer camp. At conferences over the last decade, Darren and I have found community, made great friends and learned tough professional and life sessions. That's why we believe in creating spaces for learning, relationship building, risk taking and visionary thinking. We believe adults need summer camp, too.

Organizing Northern Voice back in the day.

Organizing Northern Voice back in the day.

We're fresh back from Web of Change Cortes Island. Web of Change has been a big part of our lives and is one of our favourite conferences. Darren has participated in seven events and co-organized the recent Cortes conference. I've been a participant and also spent the last two years as Managing Director of Web of Change, supporting and helping to build the community of leaders working at the intersection of technology and social change.

Web of Change does a remarkable job fostering a deep sense of comradeship and mutual support. It's something we've worked hard to create at Capulet-run conferences, like Fireworks Factory and Northern Voice. Being in fellowship matters. It can help us be more open to new ideas and relationships. It can give us more confidence to play around with ideas, be creative and envision big goals.

As kids, summer camp can be a truly transformative experience. We leave home as one person and we come back a different one. We can also find that feeling of excitement and possibility as adults if we find the right conferences. 

Making the Grade: Capulet Goes Back to School

I would have made an excellent student at boarding school during my high school years. The idea of rowing teams, beds away from home and independence from my family appealed to the grown-up in my teenage, Anglophile heart.

So, I was delighted when Capulet was invited to collaborate with one of Canada's top boarding schools, St. Michaels University School (SMUS), to help them attract more bright minds.

The Best School Year Ever is a contest we helped SMUS devise, produce and promote to students in high schools across North America who want to win the chance to live and study on campus in Victoria, BC. The first grand prize is a full ride—room, board and tuition, worth about $50,000. There are also two runner-up prizes of a boarding scholarship worth $10,000 each. All three finalists win an all-expenses paid trip with their parents or guardians to visit the school. The contest ran for the first time in 2014 and SMUS is just about to wrap the third iteration of the contest, selecting a winner for the 2016/2017 school year.

When we started the ideation process for a Remarkable for SMUS back in 2012, we were inspired by Tourism Queensland's marketing campaign to attract new visitors with the "The Best Job on Earth" contest. The contest subsequently expanded into a program called The Best Jobs in the World. You may remember that contestants were invited to submit a video demonstrating why they were the best choice for the role of an island and park ranger.

Like the Tourism Queensland contest, students entering SMUS' Best School Year Ever contest were also required to make a short video. They also filled in an application form and uploaded a recent report card. And, like The Best Job in the World, the winner would write about their SMUS experiences on the school blog.


Why a Remarkable for SMUS?

1. To innovate. After attending a Capulet workshop on building Remarkables, SMUS Marketing Director, Laura Authier, was ready to take the plunge. Adding a Remarkable to SMUS' marketing mix would be a way to reach more students and different kinds of students than the school was reaching with traditional marketing, such as print ads.

2. An updated approach. Running a video contest was a way to experiment with a more modern approach to marketing, including running campaigns on social media platforms, trying Facebook advertising and rolling out drip email campaigns alongside the contest.

3. Get people talking. An initial goal of the campaign was to create PR opportunities for the school with the contest.

How'd We Do?

So, how'd the contest measure up against the goals? 

  • SMUS received contest videos from students in cities across North America—places the school had never reached before.
  • Best School Year Ever became a kind of 'skunkworks' for the marketing department who've used the contest as a testing ground for social media marketing activities, online advertising and email campaigning. It provided a reason for the marketing team to innovate and learn.
  • The contest didn't get a ton of media attention, though it did achieve some radio and print PR, though most of it was local in Victoria, BC.

There were, of course, some unexpected outcomes too. The most interesting was that the contest, which was conceived of as purely a marketing campaign, became an effective lead generation activity. Students who submitted videos but didn’t win still opted to attend SMUS after going through the contest experience.

Want to learn more about SMUS' takeaways running The Best School Year Ever? Check out Laura Authier's presentation on the project at the Beyond the Hype Conference in 2014.

Are Your Values Aligned? What NGOs Can Learn From Free Poppies

1964231683_174777c300_z A few months ago, the Journal of Consumer Research published a research paper called The Nature of Slacktivism". The researchers shared findings from a series of studies focusing on our "desire to present a positive image to others." Charities and not-for-profits were especially interested in what the study had to say about how an initial, public act of giving can affect more meaningful acts of support for a cause.

Here’s an example from the study. Before Canada's Remembrance Day, participants were given a poppy to wear to show their support for veterans. One group had the poppy immediately pinned on their coats--a public act of support--while the second group received the poppy in an envelope and were asked to privately put it on at their convenience.

Participants from both groups were intercepted a few minutes later by another researcher who asked them to make a donation to support Canada's veterans. Those who received the poppy in the envelope--a private token of support--donated nearly three times more as those wearing the poppy.

Are Public Acts of Support Less Valuable Than Private Ones?

This result might worry non-profit marketers. It suggests that public acts of support (in person or online) are less valuable than private ones. If we're concerned with on-boarding new supporters and moving them up the engagement ladder, then asking them to publicly like a Facebook page or share charitable content online might not be a good thing. This seems worrying indeed.

Much of the discussion surrounding these studies focused on this public-private dilemma. But, I believe the more powerful and actionable study results involve the notion of 'values alignment.'

In one of the team's studies, participants were asked to join a Facebook group. For half the participants, the group was identified as a public group, and for the other half, it was private. They were then instructed to read an article about the group. Finally, they were asked to reflect on how that group's values aligned or didn't align with the their own values. Then, they were asked to consider undertaking a subsequent, more-involved task (stuffing envelopes) for the group. The results are striking.

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As you can see, participants who agreed that their own values aligned with the organization’s values were likelier to agree to providing subsequent support. The values alignment question seems to be more crucial than the public-private one.

Aligning Values Before Actions

Until recently, we could see the practice of values alignment in play on The much-emulated startup has been successful at generating a massive following by curating and optimizing viral content with a positive spin. When you visited a page on, the site presented you with a light box designed to capture your email address. Unlike many such lead-generation tactics, however, the light box first asked you a question like "Do you support equality for all?" Only if you clicked the 'I Agree' button did you then see an email sign-up field. Upworthy rigorously tests everything about their site, and I'm assured by a colleague from the company that this values alignment approach outperformed the more conventional one.


You can apply this values alignment trick to your own charity and non-profit lead generation tactics. In social media, for example, it could take the form of rhetorical questions that precede clickable links. If you're not doing so already, this approach offers a great opportunity to test the effectiveness of your messages. Try this experiment. Write one conventional Facebook ask, and one that incorporates values alignment, and share them each with geo-targeted sections of your fans. See which post earns more engagement, and then iterate appropriately.

Of course, we shouldn't over-emphasize the results of one series of studies, but there’s a lot to be gained from taking a values-oriented approach to your online marketing.

Drawing a Music Video with MEC and Sarah Harmer

What if you could create a music video using drawings by thousands of fans?

That's the idea that Capulet recommended to outdoor gear retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), as part of our work on their multi-year conservation campaign, The Big Wild. Capulet brokered a partnership between MEC and Canadian singer-songwriter, Sarah Harmer, to launch a digital campaign called Drawn to the Wild

Canadians were invited to participate in the campaign by making artistic contributions to Harmer’s "I'm a Mountain" video. Members were asked to use web-based drawing tools to trace or enhance one of the thousands of frames that comprised the original music video.

This campaign was designed to raise awareness for threatened Canadian landscapes. For every re-envisioned frame submitted on the website, Mountain Equipment Co-op donated funds for Protecting Escarpment Rural Land (PERL), Harmer’s environmental organization dedicated to protecting the Niagara Escarpment in southern Ontario.

"The Niagara Escarpment's survival as a unique natural environment is seriously threatened. Drawn to the Wild is one way Canadians can both support its protection and collaborate with me and each other in a fun and creative way." - Sarah Harmer

Drawn to the Wild was one of many campaigns and platforms we invented and developed for MEC over our five years of work with them. With Drawn to the Wild, we created something fresh and fun for the MEC audience, who are regularly contacted via email marketing, advertising and social media about environmental campaigns. 

Where did this idea come from? We're advocates of “distealing”--distilling an idea you stole. In this case, Drawn to the Wild was inspired by the remarkable Johnny Cash Project, which was way ahead of its time back in 2009. The world of marketing is full of the pretence of originality. When you're inspired by other projects, it's very important that you acknowledge those sources. We acknowledged the Johnny Cash Project on the project website and in MEC's communications about it. 

We worked with Agentic Digital Media, who designed and developed the microsite. They developed a user experience that was fun and straightforward to use. Importantly, it also  enabled MEC staff to vet and organize submissions. Frames were added to the video on the fly so that participants could click play to watch the music video take shape right before their eyes.

Lessons Learned

What lessons did we take away from this project?

  • Don't assume too little of your customers or supporters. While drawing on a video frame was fun, it was much more complicated and time-consuming than entering an email address or tweeting a message of support. This was a 'high-friction ask.' The average visitors spent six minutes on their frame, so we created a how-to video to walk users through the process. Still, the average user of Drawn to the Wild actually submitted two frames, and two enthusiastic contributors drew over 50 frames each.
  • Your celebrity partner's digital reach really matters. While Sarah Harmer is a household name in Canada, she wasn't particularly active online. While we were grateful for her assistance in promoting the campaign, her contributions didn't make much of a difference. We can contrast this with our work with Ian Somerhalder at the United Nations. His millions of social media followers were a powerful asset in telling the story of climate change innovators.
  • Ask yourself, "what does the web love?" Deriving inspiration from something that’s already succeeded on the web reduces your risk and gives you a blueprint for success.

Beautiful Websites, Capulet Approved

Digital strategists pay a lot of attention to social media tools, digital tricks and marketing tips. But, we don't always keep tabs on website design trends and evolution. Today we're celebrating some of our favourite websites of 2013 and letting you in on why we think they're so good. Knock To Unlock Knock is a smartphone app that lets you lock and unlock your phone, computer, or tablet by knocking on it, just like you would a door or tabletop. The website has almost no text and depends primarily on video, which reflects the app's simple but clever concept. This is an example of a website that's prioritized video over text and has integrated it seamlessly into the overall design concept in an original way. The downside? Depending on your internet connection all that streaming video may slow down the site's load time.

Waterlife It's hard to click away from a website that plays an inspired musical composition by auteur Brian Eno. Greeted with Eno's "An Ending (Ascent)," an instrumental piece that evokes the feeling of floating, visitors move through gripping storytelling of the last great supply of fresh drinking water on earth. The National Film Board's digital projects often hit it out of the park and this is no exception. WaterLife is a beautiful site that delights visitors while staying true to its advocacy mission.


Bear71 Another NFB project, Bear 71 is an award-winning website/documentary that elegantly marries digital advocacy, video storytelling and user interaction. Using sound, video and game-inspired features, visitors follow a grizzly bear in Banff National Park as she navigates a landscape that borders wild and urban areas. In 2012, Bear 71 won the Gold Cyber Lion Award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Two years on, it's still a compelling example of how to inspire an audience to action with online storytelling.

Rolling Jubiliee The Rolling Jubilee is an infographic inspired website that packs a truckload of information--videos, graphics and copy--into a clearly presented scrolly site. The Rolling Jubilee raises money to purchase debt at pennies on the dollar and has already relieved nearly $15 million worth of debt. Though visually it's quite a subdued website, it does a fine job of making complicated ideas and information bite-sized and digestible.

Slavery Footprint This is a scrolly site that hits home. Slavery Footprint invites visitors to test connections they might have to modern-day slavery, based on current lifestyle and purchasing decisions. Take the survey and then move through the question tree by scrolling up, down and side-to-side. The site user interface design is intuitive and fun to use.

The New York Times "Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek" The New York Times continues to experiment with digital long-form journalism and succeeded with this spellbinding website that gracefully integrates text, graphics and video. This project even spawned a verb: "to snowfall".

The Roaring Twenties This site does a remarkable job of exploring the soundscape of New York City in the roaring 1920's. It uses an archive of documents from the period and snippets of early film to send the visitor back in time. It's a great inspiration for any organization with access to interesting archival materials.

For these websites and more, check out Darren's Pinterest collection of digital "Remarkables."

The Age of Persuasion Is A Near Complete History of Marketing

"Advertisers are constantly accused of creating trends, shaping attitudes, and planting new behaviour in consumers. But in fact, the opposite is true: advertising doesn't set trends, it follows them. Bold new ideas are embraced in advertising only after society has long since appoint them. Advertising is the great mirror of society." - Terry O'Reilly & Mike Tennant

I first discovered author Terry O'Reilly through his CBC radio program, "Under the Influence." I remember driving in my car learning about the intention that goes into selling high-end products and how retailers in the luxury goods business approach their brands. I was fascinated by the stories behind some of the planet's best-known luxury brands. I was also concerned I was becoming a marketing nerd. Who else is riveted by stories about Tiffany's and Club Med?

Turns out I had simply stumbled across some of the best storytellers in the marketing world; storytellers who were reaching an audience well beyond their own professional arena. I was immediately turned on to the radio series based on the book by Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant titled "The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture."

Even before opening The Age of Persuasion (four years after it was first published) I had heard about some of the case studies and examples featured in its pages, including Volkswagen’s “Lemon” print ad (as featured in Mad Men) and Coca Cola’s Santa super-success. O'Reilly and Tennant’s collection of experience, expertise and study culminated in this "bible" of North American marketing history.

Each chapter opens with a myth that is countered by plenty of examples. Many of the case studies are widely used and known among marketers, so the content feels slightly dated in 2013. At the time the book was written, however, there was still a considerable online/offline dissonance.

Still, the authors succeed in writing delightful, humorous chapters. Diving into a book all about marketing can be, for some, like cracking open the schematics to a truck engine. While its subject matter is niche, a larger audience is reached using humor. The Age or Persuasion presents a series of case studies and marketing examples that nearly anyone can appreciate. It deconstructs each example and often pokes fun at the relationship between the consumer/reader and the product/subject.

The CBC has commissioned a third season of the "Under the Influence" radio series which, no doubt, will deliver examples of story, fallacy, trickery and many more strategies from the marketing world. The new season kicks off on CBC radio one in January 2014. I look forward to hearing O'Reilly's voice reminding me, once again, why we're living in The Age of Persuasion.

*The Age of Persuasion was originally a podcast-turned-radio show based on the book that evolved into the new series, "Under the Influence."


Stories From Fireworks Factory

For the first half of 2013, Capulet has had a specific gathering on its mind. June marked the first Fireworks Factory, an intimate conference for smart, senior digital marketers hosted just off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Participants gathered for three days and two nights to absorb, discuss and share their marketing work through a storytelling lens. Our goal and hope was that people left with a new professional community from which they could draw and a sense of nourishment from the food, setting, and music that was part of Fireworks Factory.

Just over 40 participants joined us this year with a speaker line-up that included CBC Spark host, Nora Young, charity: water digital director, Paull Young, Lee Lefever of Common Craft, Rob Cottingham of Social Signal and singer-songwriter-storyteller John Mann. The agenda included keynote presentations, an "Epic Fail" session and case studies all threaded together by a storytelling theme.

In among the Gulf Islands at the Galiano Inn and Driftwood Village, participants were active in tweeting and posting photos. We've captured some of that social media flotsam and jetsam in a Storify thread here.

We had a remarkable time with all of our participants, the discussions they nurtured, and the network that will continue for years to come. Take a look at what some of this year's participants had to say about the gathering:

"This was a rare bird in my typical conference year: a small, intimate gathering where every speaker was keynote-calibre, the discussions were deep and the takeaways were truly thought-changing." - Laura Authier, St. Michaels University School

"Finally a conference for marketers that recognizes that the true value of an event isn't in the formal sessions but rather in creating the space for informal communities of practice and trust networks to form. And the formal sessions were great too!" - Elijah van der Giessen, TechSoup Global

"This was the first non-BS marketing conference I've ever gone to. Talk about intimate and interactive. Egos (if they existed) and titles were parked at the door and everyone [was] looking to share and learn from one another. Can't wait until next year." - Kenny Grant, Full Stack

"Fireworks Factory was the ultimate blend of intelligence, creativity, and inspiration. The people, the conversation, the location, everything worked together to create this completely unique experience." - Ian Walker, Perch

We've set the dates for our 2014 event. If you're interested in attending Fireworks Factory June 3 - 5, 2014, let us know.



Lee LeFever's The Art of Explanation and Why it Matters for Marketers

Explaining products, services and ideas is at the heart of marketing work. So, why are so many marketers poor at explanation? Since Capulet began in the early 2000's, we've worked with high-tech start-ups. A challenge in this kind of work is helping companies explain brand new, often complicated technology products to potential buyers. Too often, we get distracted writing about business benefits and product features before getting at the heart of what these tech products actually do. That's because explanation is hard. Lee LeFever is half of the duo behind Common Craft, the explanation company well known for animated videos that use paper cut-outs to explain complicated ideas. Some uber-popular videos you may have seen include "What is RSS" and "Copyright and Creative Commons". Common Craft videos have accumulated millions of views for a reason—they’re picture-perfect explanations of complex ideas.

LeFever’s recent book, The Art of Explanation, is a how-to guide to making ideas, products and services easier to understand. The first thing you'll learn is the difference between explanations and the marketing jargon we often fall back on when we don't do the hard work of thinking of audience first and empathizing with them. The book guides the reader through the stages of planning, packaging and presenting successful explanations. It's peppered with real-world case studies and lessons learned that help bring LeFever's theories to life.

I found the chapter on storytelling especially interesting. Using storytelling as a marketing tool is all the rage, but understanding how to implement it in professional communications is tricky. LeFever recommends which storytelling elements work best in explanations, such as introducing characters your audience can care about. He also thoughtfully points out situations where storytelling doesn't work very well.

Another tip I love is to make connections between something the audience already understands and your product or service. LeFever uses a great story to illustrate this point. How did the filmmaking team of Dan O'Bannon and Ron Shusset pitch their Oscar winning movie, Alien? With three simple words: "Jaws in Space." A solid example of this concept in practice is the description of Instagram—it’s Twitter for photos, of course.

Whether you're new to explanation or are looking for better ways to educate students, colleagues and customers this book delivers solid takeaways. If customers understand what our products and services do, they'll be primed and far more receptive to the rest of our marketing messages. You can find The Art of Explanation on Amazon.


Movement Marketing on the High Seas

We first met Lifeboat founders, Tim and Alia, at Web of Change, a small and intimate annual web conference in British Columbia. It's not the likeliest of places you’d expect to meet, connect with and eventually befriend people who work in the digital space. Picture an island community that takes three ferries to get to and that often finds itself without power during storm season. Ours is a friendship that began on ferryboats and was nurtured on a windy west coast beach. That was several years ago. Fast forward to the present. Tim and Alia invited Capulet to join the crew of Lifeboat to help steer the digital marketing efforts behind their new project. It was a no-brainer for us, not just because they are friends, but because we were excited to be part of something we think matters in our personal and professional world—how we connect with one another. At Capulet, we work with companies and organizations to help them identify what's remarkable about their work, and then we help them tell their stories. It's what we call creating "remarkables" and it’s part of a larger approach to movement marketing, or building an engaged community around an organization or product. We think Lifeboat is shaping up to be a big remarkable.

Since coming on board this project, we've encouraged Tim and Alia to do what comes naturally to them: honest storytelling, finding the funny, and being the first to identify and mobilize a movement around the friendship crisis. Here’s what we mean:

Stories float our boat Often, what's remarkable about a cause or organization can be expressed in a very simple story. It's why marketers love to talk about myth (read Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs, you won’t regret it.) Time and again, we draw from the archetypes that make up our oral and written history and apply it to marketing. As aptly stated in one of Alia's blog posts, every story has an antagonist or bad guy. Lifeboat's is the friendship crisis. A narrative is beginning to emerge from all of the work and research Tim and Alia have done on the science of friendship. It's been our job to help them craft this narrative and share it with a wider audience.

Find the funny (or, at the very least, sound human) Tim and Alia have an unwavering ability to speak from the heart. Their voices and personalities are infused in Lifeboat’s messaging. The ability to make people laugh is a worthy gift and when it comes to your own project or organization, the more you do to celebrate the funny/absurd/ridiculous/human aspects of what you do or the cause you represent, the easier it is to connect with your audience. You can see Tim and Alia’s personalities in full flight in this video.

Be the first Lifeboat isn’t the first to argue that deeper personal connections can lead to a fuller life. It is, however, the first to build momentum and a community of practice for becoming better friends. When you're the first to the mark, you typically get more attention.

Working with Tim, Alia and the rest of the Lifeboat crew reminds us of how much we love to do what we do: craft stories for the web. Not only are we lucky to be surrounded by good friends, we're honoured to participate in their remarkable movements, like Lifeboat.


A three-day web conference for smart web marketers

Last summer, we started talking to colleagues about creating a web conference in Vancouver. I think there have been several good marketing events in Vancouver, but no great ones. We connected with about 30 of our friends and colleagues to pick their brains. We ended up with these criteria for a conference:

  • The smartest marketers would be there
  • The conversations would be about web strategy, not WordPress plug-ins
  • It would be an emerging trust network, where we could talk about failures as well as successes
  • It wouldn't have any sponsors
  • The speakers would have insights to share, not products to sell
  • It would take place in a natural setting near, but not in, Vancouver

A few months later, Fireworks Factory was born. We're betting our time and money on the belief that there's an appetite for this kind of conference in Vancouver.

For who's coming, who's speaking and other details, visit the Fireworks Factory website.

Why is it called Fireworks Factory?

We lived in Malta for a year in 2007, on the small island of Gozo. Each town on Gozo has a week-long religious festival--Malta is the most Catholic nation outside of the Vatican--punctuated by fireworks and pyrotechnics. These explosives were all homegrown, crafted in a community-owned fireworks factory on the edge of town. Men from the village would spend time there building and testing fireworks, in the hopes of outdoing their rival towns. Occasionally, something horrible would happen.

Still, they were communal spaces where something risky and breathtaking gets imagined and created. That seemed like a good metaphor for the kind of conference we want to run.

Apple Fan Boys and White Papers

Over the years, Darren has spoken at several events hosted by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS). These speaking gigs often cover the work Capulet does in online marketing from its early days working in the software industry to Darren and Julie's current work with non-profit organizations. In May, 2012, CPRS featured Darren in their "Essentials" newsletter profile.  In the article, Darren talks about becoming "a big Apple fanboy", what intrigues him about crowd funding, what it's like working in the south of France, and an upcoming white paper Capulet is releasing with some pretty interesting data.

While we can't say much about the white paper just yet, stay tuned for details and the opportunity to read it this fall.



Meantime, you can read Darren's CPRS interview, here.

How To Ask A Customer for a Press Review

Photo courtesy Jon S, flickr user.

Sharing your customers' success stories with the press can be a great way to highlight your work and to help bring attention to your customers. However, getting customers to participate in joint PR isn't always easy. Here are some of the ways we prepare business PR stories and get customers excited about coming along for the ride.

1. Tell a Winning Story

Select winning stories to share with the press to improve chances of success. If your story is weak, or even mediocre, sit tight until you've got a winner. That way your customer isn't disappointed, and you don't overwork your press contacts.

2. Timeliness Is Key

If your customer is keen to participate, clearly articulate expectations and deadlines early on. Don't get stalled waiting on an indecisive partner. If you need customer feedback, prepare content in advance for quick and easy approval.

3. Align PR Goals

If your customer has their own PR team, get to know them and the kinds of stories they're trying to tell and who they're trying to reach. Develop story ideas that align with their internal goals and you'll find they're keen to work with you.

4. Show, Don't Tell

Show customers examples of successful PR. This is tough if you're just starting out so, instead, point to examples from other companies of what you're trying to achieve.

5. Build Joint PR into the Contract

An easy way to ensure that customer success stories are at your fingertips to pitch to press is to build that activity into contracts. That way, your customers are prepared for PR right out of the gate.

Now, you're ready to start pitching customer stories. Here are a few examples of the kinds of customer success stories Capulet has helped to land: A Technology Switch Bears Mobile Commerce Fruit; Deepening Engagement, One Drawing at a Time; and Open Sourcing May be Worth the Risk.