In this chapter, we discuss several more powerful, free or low-cost guerrilla marketing techniques, some used by many affiliates, others used by a few, but all are effective.
Business Cards and Stationery
While business cards are very important to have for all officers, they are equally important and should be given to all of your members. One resource for free business cards is Vistaprint, http://www.vistaprint.com/free-business-cards.
You can design your own business cards. If you are blind, you may want to seek assistance with creating the graphic image to use. If you already have a logo or graphic you use for other printed materials, such as letterhead or brochures, you may be able to use it, depending on how well it maintains its quality when reduced to a size small enough to fit onto a business card. Otherwise, you might need to create a new image, such as a blind person walking with a cane or a guide dog or reading a braille book, etc. Ideally, each member of your affiliate should have his/her own personalized business cards; that is, with his/her name, your affiliate name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and web site. Alternatively, you can print a standard business card that all of your members would use. Such a card would contain your logo and affiliate contact information only, and is usable by everyone.
Your logo is your visual branding. For space reasons, you may need to consider what information will fit on the card once your logo is in place. You may opt to leave off your web site or e-mail address. However, one or the other should be on your card, if not both. Should you wish to design a card and you do not have a logo, you can go to one of the free design web sites and create your own using the design tools or templates provided on the web site. However, these sites are graphic, and you may need assistance from someone with some degree of usable vision. Once you have your design saved to your computer, you are ready to create your cards.
Blank business card stock can be purchased from office supply stores, inserted into your printer, and printed out directly from your computer. The back of the package will usually provide all the relevant information to set the template for printing. Local printing companies frequently offer printing specials. They will often give you a very special price, sometimes even free, if you are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. It is sometimes easier to work with a local printer, even if it costs a little more, because you get the benefit of their personal attention and professional expertise. They can look at your design and tell you whether it will work on a standard business card.
What about braille business cards? Brailled business cards, cards with both print and braille on them, are exceptionally effective because they get special attention from the sighted people who receive them, and other blind people appreciate receiving business cards that are accessible. However, the amount of information you can have in braille is extremely limited -- a maximum of 4 lines with a maximum of 13 characters (including spaces) per line. Consequently, only your name, organization and phone number will fit on a standard-sized business card. Here is a list of some suppliers of braille business cards.
- Access-USA: http://www.access-usa.com/Services/biz_card.htm
- All-Braille: http://www.allbraille.com/brlcards.htm
- T-Base Communications: http://www.tbase.com/
- National Braille Press: http://www.nbp.org/
- Easy to Read Documents: http://www.easytoreaddocuments.com/braille-business-cards.php
- Braille Works: http://www.brailleworks.com/Products/BrailleBusinessCards.aspx
- American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., Braille Business Card Embosser: http://shop.aph.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product_Impressor:%20Brail...
Letterhead and envelopes are critical as well. Your business cards, letterhead and envelopes should all have the same look to reinforce and maintain your branding image. Printed letterhead and envelopes project a professional image for your affiliate, and your correspondence will be taken more seriously. You can design and print these materials yourself using templates available from many different sources, including Microsoft Office.
The Washington Council of the Blind in several of its chapters sponsors an annual Friends Day. On this day, members are encouraged to bring a friend to learn more about ACB and WCB. Additionally, staff from other agencies serving blind people such as the library, state agency for the blind and other agencies are invited to come and talk about their programs. Light refreshments are served, and everyone who attends is asked to leave their contact information. Then, several weeks after the event, the attendees are contacted and invited back to the next regularly scheduled chapter meeting.
Coloring Sheets and Placemats for Restaurants
The Indiana Council of the Blind designed and produced coloring sheets for kids, to be used in restaurants to get more exposure to the community for their affiliate. It is important to remember that this is a coloring sheet; too much copy would make it too wordy and detract from its use by children. Here is a detailed description of three coloring sheets that were used.
Coloring sheet #1: The wording on the upper left side of the sheet states: Kids, remind your parents to stop for the white cane. On the upper right: It's the Indiana White Cane Law. On the left side of the sheet, a vehicle faced the center. In the center of the sheet, a dog policeman with open hand indicating stop faces forward, and a person with a white cane walking down a sidewalk facing the center of the sheet was on the right side of the sheet. Across the bottom below the picture: Informational message by the American Council of the Blind of Indiana and the contact information, including e-mail address and web site.
Coloring sheet #2: The wording across the top states: October is White Cane Safety Month. On the left in bullet form are the statements: Please stop for the white cane - it's the Indiana Law! Please stop before the crosswalk. Please trim low hanging limbs. Please keep sidewalks free of toys, bicycles, trash cans and debris. We thank you! The picture is on the right two-thirds of the page. It depicts a residential area with trees, houses, sidewalks, a street intersection, and marked crosswalks. Our dog police officer is just left of the center of the sheet facing the right with open hand and outstretched arm indicating stop. The vehicle is coming from the right side of the sheet near the intersection and facing left. The individual with a white cane is facing forward, nearing the crosswalk. Across the bottom of the sheet are the words: Distributed by the American Council of the Blind of Indiana and the contact information, including e-mail address and web site.
Coloring sheet #3: The wording across the top of the sheet is: White Cane Safety Day. The American Council of the Blind of Indiana would like to remind you that hybrid cars pose a special risk to the visually impaired as they make virtually no sound in city environments. Please help blind people stay safe. Thank you. On the left side of the sheet is a large traffic signal and on the right side of the sheet is a dot-to-dot automobile. Across the bottom below the picture: Informational message by the American Council of the Blind of Indiana and the contact information, including e-mail address and website.
In addition to taking the coloring sheets to the restaurants, the Indiana affiliate also sent a press release relating to White Cane Safety Day to the media and publicly thank the restaurants for their support. A certificate of appreciation was also given to each participating restaurant.
Obviously, coloring sheets could be used for other occasions like Louis Braille month and telling about the importance of braille. Other important issues could also be addressed. There is some cost associated with these kinds of guerrilla marketing projects, but the cost is relatively modest. Costs can often be covered by a grant, as was the case with the Pennsylvania affiliate in the project described next.
The Pennsylvania Council of the Blind obtained a grant from the Hershey Company to create and produce placemats for restaurants. They called it their “Shining a Light” campaign. Specifically, one of PCB’s members, Susan Lichtenfels, approached The Hershey Company for a grant of $2,000 to underwrite the printing of an activity sheet that doubles as a placemat and provides blindness awareness information for children and their parents. The key selling point to Hershey was that the Pennsylvania affiliate designed the placemats with Hershey’s logo printed on the bottom corner of the placemats. Thus, each of the 15,000 sheets that the PCB printed and distributed throughout Pennsylvania had the Hershey’s logo on them.
The sheets are 11 x 17 and printed on both sides with bright colors. On the front of each sheet is a guide dog to color, a true/false section about people who are blind, the braille alphabet with empty cells for them to fill in their name or family member names in braille, a phrase written in braille for them to decode, and a word search with words that are related to blindness. Of course, also on the front are the Hershey and PCB logos. On the back of each sheet are the answers to the true/false with some explanation, the braille decoder puzzle, and the word search. Also on the back are a few paragraphs about Louis Braille, as well as information about what PCB does and how to contact the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind. On the top left corner of the back side of each sheet is a space reserved where the contact information for each of PCB’s local chapters can be included.
The PCB has found that the sheets seem to be best for ages 7 to 11. In addition to sending the placemats to restaurants, the sheets are also distributed to informational fairs, to youth groups and Scout troops, at schools, during braille awareness events, and other similar places.
The same technology that is used to create public service announcements can be used to create your promotional video. Therefore, we will not go into great detail here, but it is important for us to identify this as another relatively inexpensive, or even free, method for getting out information about your affiliate or chapter. Your promotional video can even be an extension of your video PSA, or vice versa. Unlike your video PSA, however, you are not limited to just 30 seconds or one minute. Your promotional video can be 5, 10, or even 15 minutes long. It gives you an opportunity to tell about your organization and show what blind people can and are doing and achieving with their lives. Your video needs to be fast-moving, grab and sustain the viewers’ attention, move swiftly from scene to scene with upbeat, peppy background music.
Such a video can be sent out to local TV stations and cable systems, but it can also be sent to schools, clubs, and other organizations to tell your story and get out the good word about your affiliate or chapter. It is also an excellent support tool when making personal presentations before such groups. The North Dakota Association of the Blind produced such a video with excellent results.
Radio and Telephone Reading Services
Across the country, there are many public radio stations that carry a local or regional reading service on an FM subcarrier. They are commonly affiliated with universities, libraries and other non-profit institutions. Some radio reading services are also broadcast on standard FM stations. For instance, WRBH in New Orleans was the first open channel radio reading service. WYPL in Memphis, Tennessee, run by volunteers of the Memphis Public Library, devotes nearly its entire broadcast day to a mixture of live readings and pre-recorded readings overnight. In keeping with modern technology, most of the over 100 audio information services in the U.S. today stream their broadcasts live on the Internet, and many offer online archives of previously broadcast programming. Some organizations are even providing their listeners with pre-tuned Internet radios. The ACB of Ohio and the Tennessee Council of the Blind both use radio reading services to publicize information about their affiliates. It is an excellent way of reaching out to other blind people, both members and non-members of your organization. To find radio reading services in your area, go to the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS) web site, http://www.iaais.org/.
There are also several telephone reading services that target blind and low-vision people that furnish information somewhat similar to the radio reading services described above. For instance, in Arizona, the Sun Dial telephone reading service is accessible on demand with a touch-tone phone to listen to national and local newspapers, local ads, local election information and more. Similarly, the Kansas Audio Reader Network provides selected national and many state papers, which is a combined radio and telephone reading service. The Metropolitan Washington Ear is a free combined radio reading and telephone reading service for the blind and visually impaired throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The ACB of Ohio, the Old Dominion Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired and the ACB of New Mexico all use these kinds of services to get out information about their organizations and activities. These are great guerrilla marketing methods for publicizing your affiliates and chapters.
Another relatively inexpensive way of promoting your affiliate or chapter and providing a 24-hour service to your community and even beyond is to establish a telephone hotline. This is somewhat similar to the telephone reading service concept, but different because it is totally owned and controlled by your affiliate or chapter. Such a hotline can be staffed by a person part of the time and provide pre-recorded messages when a person is not available to answer. By using push-button selections, you can provide various combinations of services and messages. The Washington Council of the Blind finds this to be an effective method of getting the word out to the public as well as its membership.
The Arizona Council of the Blind (AzCB) provides a telephone hotline. It is listed in the phone book. Also, there is an organization in Phoenix that produces and sends out a State Resources Handbook once a year in which the AzCB telephone hotline is listed. Of course, the hotline is prominently shown on the AzCB web site.
Costs for providing this type of service can be extremely modest, especially with the many low-cost telephone service providers available today, such as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services. Often with these services conference calling, call forwarding, automatic redial, and caller ID features that traditional telecommunication companies normally charge extra for, are available as a part of the total package at no additional charge. Some of these services require a special phone (e.g., Skype) or an adaptor to use with your regular phone, (e.g., MagicJack). Here are a few such services you might check out:
The Importance of Web Sites, Exchanging Links, and Using Blogs
It is imperative that your affiliate or chapter have a web site. In today’s world, this is not an option; it is a requirement to effectively communicate your message to your various target audiences. A web site is the contemporary minimum for establishing your authenticity and credibility. Your web site does not need to be fancy or complicated, but it does need to be attractive, well-designed, and easily accessible and navigable. It is very important to remember that most of your members and the other people who will access your web site are sighted, at least to some extent. Therefore, it should incorporate pictures and graphics that are pleasing to the eye. All pictures and graphics must be labeled or alt-tagged for the benefit of screen reader users. A detailed tutorial on how to create a good, accessible web site is beyond the scope of this handbook. However, there are numerous resources and information available that you can refer to and use. Our special-interest affiliate the Blind Information Technology Specialists (BITS) should be able to assist you if you need help. You also can use Google to find a wealth of material on accessible web site design. In addition, many of our affiliates have excellent web sites that you can use as a guide, and their webmasters might even be willing to help you too.
If you already have a web site, that is good, but it is important to be listed with all of the most common search engines, especially Google, Yahoo, and MSN. One way of improving your rankings on the popular search engines, especially Google, is to have lots of links to and from other related web sites. Therefore, you should contact other affiliates and chapters asking them if they will exchange links with you. You should certainly have a link to all of the other chapters in your state and to both ACB’s web site and ACB Radio’s web site, and to the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).
Blogs are another kind of web site. The content is usually organized by date and category with the most recent post/content displaying first. A blog is another way of using contemporary technology to more effectively communicate with your target audiences. A blog can be incorporated into your web site, or it can be the entire basis of your web site. Blogs are extremely easy to create and maintain, but for maximum effectiveness, they must be maintained on a regular basis. You can create a blog using such resources as WordPress or Blogger. In general, Blogger is great because it's easy to use. However, WordPress has a lot more features and plug-ins that will allow you to enhance your blog. For more information about this great guerrilla marketing tool, you can consult such resources as:
Creating a blog design from scratch:
10 Tips for Bloggers:
Creating a Blog Using Wordpress, Blogger or Other Bloging Platforms: http://weblogs.about.com/od/creatingablog/Creating_a_Blog.htm
Like a web site, it is also imperative that your affiliate or chapter have an e-mail listserv. It is an excellent way of keeping everyone in your organization up-to-date with all of your events and activities, and it also facilitates communications among your members. You can restrict your listserv to just your official membership or you can set it up so anyone can subscribe and participate. BITS, for an example, has a listserv that is restricted to its members only. The South Central Kentucky Council of the Blind has a listserv that is restricted, meaning that each subscriber must be approved by the list manager; thus, non-SCKCB members can subscribe, but they must be approved first. There are still other listservs that anyone can join by simply making a request to the listserv’s computer. Regardless of the specific type you set up, it is very important to have a listserv to communicate with your various target audiences. Lists can be very easily set up through the hosting service used by your web site. Most web site hosting services allow several different lists to be set up at no additional cost. You could have one that was restricted to just your members and another that is open to anyone.
Using Social Media
The term "social media" refers to a collection of free and very low-cost online resources that are used to blend technology and social interaction with individuals and other organizations in which you have some common or vested interests. Among the most well-known include Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
These social media resources give your organization a method to communicate with your members, potential members, members of other affiliates and chapters, and other target audiences. The use of social media resources helps you to disseminate your message in a relaxed, free-flowing and conversational manner.
The downside to the use of social media is that it must be kept up and attended to on a regular basis to be able to maintain the momentum and attention you need for it to be effective. However, many different kinds of organizations, both profit-seeking and non-profit, are using social media resources very successfully to communicate interactively with their various target audiences.
You, too, can use these kinds of social media tools to provide an identity to your affiliates and chapters and the services you offer, and to create relationships with people who might not otherwise know about your affiliate or chapter and your services. If you want people to follow you on Facebook or Twitter, don't just talk about the latest happenings in a third-person format, but share your personality with them on a first-person basis.
While social media provides a lot of benefits, for maximum effectiveness and results it must be integrated with the other guerrilla marketing methods you employ. Again, an important key to social media effectiveness is to be consistent. If you cannot devote time to maintaining it on a regular basis, then it will not deliver the results you expect and want. If, for instance, you don't have time to devote to maintaining your own Twitter account, you can send information about your key events to be sent out on our ACB national Twitter page. If your affiliate has a monthly conference call, or is planning a fund-raising project, or has some important news, we would be happy to publicize it via the ACB national Twitter page. Or you could coordinate your announcement by re-tweeting it from your own Twitter account; examples include such news as the ACB Human Service Professionals (HSP) and ACB Lions (ACBL) conference calls and Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI) and Friends-In-Art (FIA) scholarships. You can send these kinds of announcements to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and we'll turn them into cool tweets. If your affiliate already has a Twitter account, be sure to let us know so we can follow you and re-tweet your messages like we do with NABS and CCLVI.
There are many other methods of getting your information out. For instance, you can be listed with the Chamber of Commerce in your area, or you can also be listed with the Community Shares organization in your area. ACB of Ohio and also the Tennessee Council of the Blind have both had good results with their associations with Community Shares. For more information about Community Shares, go to http://www.communitysharesusa.org/.
Next we will cover various promotable events to give you some ideas of the kinds of activities that you can promote using various guerrilla marketing methods that we have described in this handbook.