Issue 7 - Jan-Feb 2010

A Blizzard of Activity

Now is the time for some spring cleaning in your communications house. Review your online and printed materials – is the messaging still on target or is it time for a refresher? Are the links on your Web site still live and is the information up to date? Does your crisis communications plan need a little dusting off? To help freshen up your communications activities, this issue of Spitfire Sparks includes a variety of tips and new tools for cutting through the clutter to make your voice heard. And if you need a little help getting your communications house in order, just give us a call.

The Spitfire Team

Inquiries or ideas about Spitfire Sparks? Please send us an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

What's Inside

On a Shoestring - Social Media Tools

Great Minds - The Rise of the Infographic

Policy Possibilities - Real Time Congress

Coming Soon - You Asked, We Tell 

On A Shoestring - Low Cost Strategies for High Impact

Using Social Media Tools to Amplify Your

Online Presence

by Lisa Falconer, Senior Account Executive

Organizations are understandably cautious when it comes to trying out new communications tools. An unproven PR gimmick can turn out to be a waste of time and resources. The good news: there’s an array of social media tools designed specifically to help you amplify the online communications work you’re already doing. The better news: many of these buzz-generating tools are free.

It’s no longer the new kid on the block, but Twitter is still a great way to spread news about your organization and an effective means for sharing your on- and off-line happenings – and it’s free.

To bolster your next twitter effort, check out these tweet-specific tools.

Tweetdeck is a popular, free service that helps you manage your Twitter accounts.

act.ly lets you organize petitions via Twitter.

Giv.to creates customizable action bars on all third-party Web content shared with supporters. In other words, when you share a link with supporters (via e-mail, a tweet, or on your Web site) Giv.to creates an action bar across the top of the new page where you can ask readers to take specific action – the possibilities include: donate money, sign a petition, or simply sign up to learn more about your issue. Currently, Giv.to is offering organizations the chance to try its services for free.

With these free tools you will be on your way to maximizing the value of your online efforts.

Great Minds - Ideas to Make You Think

The Rise of the Infographic

by Rachel Dearborn, Junior Account Executive

The rise of the Internet and mobile technology has had its fair share of side effects, good and bad – the decline of traditional print media and the rise of social networking that allows you to connect with your audience in real time. Our job is to look at changing circumstances and learn how to communicate more effectively.

One result of this technological shift is that the Web has changed how we find and read information while cultivating an ever decreasing attention span. We read hastily and focus more on initial impressions. Readers of online news often scan only the first couple paragraphs, and Web users often don’t scroll down if the information “above the fold” doesn’t catch their eye. Recently, The Atlantic’s Michael Kingsley claimed that newspaper articles are too long and encouraged Internet communicators to get to the point.

In the age of impatient reading we have to learn how to communicate visually – on and off the Web. Videos and images do this well, but for many nonprofits the challenge lies in communicating data and research in an easily digestible format. Recently, Alex Lundry, VP of research at TargetPoint, a market research firm, spoke about the power of data visualization in political communications and strategies for visually packaging information to make a message stick. The take away from this (fittingly brief) video is that data visualizations – charts, interactive graphics, even cartoons - are becoming increasingly useful in delivering messages. Think about how the hockey stick chart sparked discussions about humans’ impact on global warming.

The design and packaging of your data is as important as the data itself and can be critical to breaking through your audience’s media fatigue.

Data visualization is nothing new, but current technology makes creating compelling graphics easier than ever and makes audiences even more willing to pay attention. The New York Times and NPR have increasingly begun delivering news this way.

Before you pick up the phone to pitch your next big research report – think about how to create a visual impact. Can you tweet an infographic as a way to draw visitors to your Web site? Or use an infographic as the focal point of your one-pager or leave-behind?

Remember – think intuitively and simply, and once you’ve got their attention, spur them to action!

Policy Possibilities - Making the Possible Actual

Real Time Congress - A Government Nerd's

Dream Come True

by Ed Walsh, Vice President and Lucy Cox-Chapman, Junior Account Executive

What do videogames, sports scores, recipes, celebrity gossip, and U.S. Senate votes have in common? You can now get real-time updates on all of these topics on your smartphone!

At Spitfire, we’re always on the look-out for tools that keep us up to date on the issues our clients care about. Imagine our delight when we discovered Real Time Congress, a free mobile application recently released by the nonprofit, non-partisan Sunlight Foundation. Developed for both the iPhone and Android phone systems, Real Time Congress provides a window into the daily workings of Capitol Hill, including:

•Live Floor Updates – Track the wins and losses, the hail-Mary passes, the goal-line stands, and all the drama that plays out with every vote.
•Hearings – Browse the hearing schedule in case you want to listen in on C-SPAN or catch the Webcast.
•Background goodies – Brush up on the latest climate change proposal or get an update on the Social Security Trust Funds with reports and statements from the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office and more.
•Capitol Hill news – Stay on top of the latest scandal, partisan dispute, or backroom deal with content from Hill news outlets

Visit the Sunlight Foundation and check out Real Time Congress for yourself. Following your issue through the legislative process has never been easier.

Coming Soon - Opportunities of Note

You Asked, We Tell

by Kim Johnson, Senior Account Executive

After 17 years of fighting, it looks like the military’s policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell may soon be going the way of the dinosaur. While thousands of activists have worked tirelessly over the years to overturn the policy, it’s the voices of just two men, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Bob Gates, Secretary of Defense, that are proving to be the most powerful catalyst for change by being the right messengers for the right target audience at the right time.

At Spitfire we know that small numbers can often make big things happen. Discovering the Activation Point is chocked full of tips for how nonprofits can harness the power of the few to make a big impact. To schedule a full- or half-day training session, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at 202/293-622, 226. Or bring Spitfire expertise right to your desk with our newest series of interactive Webinars.

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