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Marathon: 4 Lessons Boston 2013 Taught Me about Communication

Boston Marathon

“Oh my God,” I said, “I have friends in that race!”

I can’t remember exactly how I first heard about the Boston Marathon bombing last year, but I know that was the first thing I said.

And I know the first things I did: turn on the radio, and get onto social media.

I spent a lot of that Monday listening for news, then sharing it with the immediate world via Twitter and Facebook.  That Patriots’ Day and the week that followed taught me four lessons I will never forget.

  1.  Write only what people care about.  On Monday, I cancelled any tweets I had pre-scheduled. I ignored any other topic.  I wrote only for people like me who said “I have friends in that race. Are they all right? What’s really going on?”
  2. Write what I know better than other people.  I live in greater Boston, and the local NPR affiliate, WBUR, is my soundtrack every day.  Simply by listening to the radio and following other Boston-area friends on social media, I knew more than 95% of the people in the country.  What I knew, I shared.
  3. Be a source of reliable information.  There were a lot of rumors flying around, and the media were more often fanning the flames than keeping their cool.  We were better off reading the Onion or the Borowitz Report than the New York Post (or watching CNN).  I made sure to pass along only what seemed certain–and even then, I gave my sources.
  4. Listen, and engage in conversation.  When I heard about friends who reported they were safe, I spread the word.  When people asked questions on Twitter, I used @ messages to write them back.  I followed the #boston hashtag to keep track of the conversation in real time.

Looking back at it, it occurs to me: these four lessons are not just for crises.

If you want people to pay attention to what you write, you should write what people care about and what you know best, giving reliable information and engaging in conversation, every time you post, tweet, or talk or email.

Only, don’t write as often every day as I did on Patriots’ Day 2013.  Because communicating with your readers is not a sprint.  It’s a marathon.

What Can Blogging Do for Your Nonprofit?


If you’ve enjoyed posts on Communicate!, maybe you’d like to blog for your own organization.  Learn how.  Sign up for my webinar, sponsored by NPO Connect.

Blogging on a Mission, with Dennis Fischman

Your cause is important, but how often do your supporters think about it? Do you have the nagging suspicion that from one quarterly newsletter to the next, they’ve forgotten about the issues you work on…and you? Blogging may be your solution.

In this webinar, consultant Dennis Fischman, author of the Communicate! blog, will show you where to begin and how to succeed. You will learn how to pick topics that your supporters want to know more about, create an editorial calendar, and write material people will read online.

Dennis will help you answer questions like:

  • Should your blog be one person’s writing or can you pull together a team of contributors (while maintaining a consistent voice)?
  • How do you incorporate stories, photos, and video?
  • And how do you promote your blog through email, social media, and the other channels you have available?

To sign up for the webinar, go to 

5 Lessons Moses Can Teach Us about Fundraising, by Michael Rosen

In honor of the Passover season, I’d like to share 5 Lessons Moses Can Teach Us about Fundraising | Michael Rosen Says…

I’d also like to wish Michael a chag sameach (happy holiday) and a refuah shleimah (complete healing of body and soul).  And my wish for the rest of you is: read Michael’s article.  It’s a good one!


Sharing the Season’s Greetings with Your Community

seder plate

Sending holiday greetings to your customers and community is a great way to let them know you’re thinking of them. But not everyone celebrates the same holidays.

Tonight, Monday evening, April 14, Jews begin celebrating Passover. Theravada Buddhists mark the New Year on April 15. Hindus observe Hanuman Jayanti the same day. Christians celebrate Holy Week from April 13 (Palm Sunday) leading up to April 20 (Easter Sunday). And Pagans look forward to Beltane on May 1.

How do you greet them all?

Ideally, you keep a record of which holiday each person on your list celebrates. Then, you send personalized email to each one. (If you’re not sure how to do that, I can help. Write me and let me know.)

If you haven’t kept those records, now would be a good time to start! In the meantime, feel free to cut and paste the second paragraph of this message into your email and social media. Add, “To all our friends who celebrate these holidays, we send our warmest greetings.”

Chag sameach to my fellow Jews, and a good and liberating holiday to everyone.

It’s Better to be Heard than to be Seen


Touch your right eye.  Now, your left.

You have just put your finger on the most valuable commodity online.

Eyeballs are what you have.  Eyeballs are what the social media companies are selling.  Facebook is famous for selling you to brands, and now Twitter is getting into the act.  They will stick ads anywhere they can to offer more viewers to their advertisers.

That’s how they make money.

Nonprofit organizations have a different reason for being.  If you work at a nonprofit, you are trying to accomplish a mission.  Money may be a means to the end, but it is not an end in itself.

Nonprofits shouldn’t be in the eyeball business.  We should aim less to be seen than to be heard.

We should be telling stories so well that people continue to hear them all day, inside their heads.  We should be getting our readers to talk about us with their friends.

One person who “gets it” because they read your blog, post, or tweet is worth a hundred who just saw it.



Sandy Deden

Write, laugh and be Sandy


Effectively assisting people doing good to do it even better


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Celina De Leon

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