Graphic: Phone icon

Robocalling Roundup

Does your organization or business make a large volume of calls or texts over a given period of time? Think voter registrations, fundraising campaigns, healthcare enrollment, weather cancellations, or appointment reminders..

Are you looking to automate or enhance an referral process so people immediately receive a call or text from you when you receive their information?

You might be looking into robocalls (or texts). Robocalling services allow you to import a large number of phone numbers and leave automated message or send texts to your contacts.

I recently looked at a few major robocall providers and rated them based on their ease of use and customer service. Check them out and see what might work for your project or program.

RoboTalker

One Call Now

SimplyCast

PhoneTree

Pricing: You can buy a block of calls (recommended). The message units can be used for calls or text messages and they never expire. You can also sign up for a subscription (only use this if you plan on using it a lot). Pricing information is publicly available on their website for blocks and subscriptions. No free trial available. They offer non-profit discounts.

 

How it Works: Everything is managed in your dashboard in your web browser. You can use a pre-recorded an audio message (mp3) uploaded to the dashboard OR their text-to-speech feature to create your messages if you don’t have time to record your own messages (not recommended). You upload your contact lists to their dashboard in Excel file format. Then, you schedule calls. You can view the results of your calls or messages in your dashboard.

 

Dashboard/Ease of Use rating: ★★★★★

RoboTalker’s dashboard is streamlined and very simple. They have a demo video right on their website for anyone to view.

 

Customer Service: ★★★★★

They responded immediately via email offering to set up a time to talk after I submitted their contact form and after I provided more information about our project needs, they provided suggestions about which plan/amount of credits would work best for us.

Pricing: You can purchase prepaid credits for calls or texts, but you have to contact them for pricing. Free trial available.

 

How it Works:
Everything is managed in your dashboard in your browser. You can use a pre-recorded an audio message (mp3) uploaded to the dashboard OR their text-to-speech feature to create your messages if you don’t have time to record your own messages (not recommended). You upload your contact lists to their dashboard in Excel file format. Then, you schedule calls. You can view the results of your calls or messages in your dashboard. Their dashboard provides a little more detailed information about the results of the calls/texts.
Dashboard/Ease of Use rating: ★★★

They do have a mobile app you can install on your smart device, but the browser dashboard just looks clunky compared to the other I looked at.
Customer Service: ★★★★

They followed up with me by email after I submitted a demo request form on their website with specific information about our project needs. They were honest and transparent and provided suggestions about which plan/amount of credits would work best for us.

Pricing: Their voice calling option goes by minutes. You’d have to do math to figure out how many messages you could get for your needs. Free trial available

 

How it works: The voice calling feature is part of a larger suite of communications applications offered by SimplyCast. Voice and texts are separate. Everything is managed in your SimplyCast dashboard. You can use a pre-recorded an audio message (mp4) uploaded to the dashboard OR their text-to-speech feature to create your messages if you don’t have time to record your own messages (not recommended). You upload your contact lists to their dashboard in Excel file format. Then, you schedule calls. You can view the results of your calls or messages in your dashboard.

 

Dashboard/Ease of Use rating: ★★★★

 

Customer Service: N/A – they didn’t ever call or email me personally. I received an automatically generated feedback form, but no personal outreach.

Pricing: MSRP ranges from $1,800 to $2,700, and the first year of support is included at no-charge (I was quoted at $1,300 as a nonprofit). No free trial available.

 

How it works: With the PhoneTree Hardware and Software Kits, you purchase the equipment/hardware and install their software to manage your contacts and messages. Having equipment and extra software means having to keep it up. Even though the first year of support is free, you have to decide if it’s within your capacity to keep everything up to date.

They do have a cloud-based option, but I was not offered a chance to look at it and the rep didn’t think it met our needs.

 

Dashboard/Ease of Use rating: N/A – the representative I spoke with told me about their hardware solution, but there was no demo to try.

 

Customer Service: ★★

Somebody followed up with me within a couple hours of me filling out their demo request form. He pitched the hardware option to me. I requested a demo or something I could watch to see how it works but it was not available. According to their website, with the hardware/software option, you can record messages and send them, but he didn’t seem to think it was possible.

 

Overall winner: I chose Robotalker based on the appearance/functionality of their dashboard and their customer service. They ended up being cheaper than OneCallNow by a few bucks.

Since we weren’t necessarily looking at a long-term solution, I didn’t choose the hardware/software option offered by Phone Tree, although it may be a wise solution for those looking to make an investment in this for the future. I also preferred having a place to log-in to where I could view the results of my calls and manage everything in one place.

 

If you are currently using robo-calling software or choose a service above or not listed here, feel free to share your experience in the comments!

Icon: Camera

Rachel’s Roundup: Top 10 FREE Stock Photo Sources

Do you have a website or create brochures, flyers and newsletters? If you answered “yes,” chances are you’ve racked your brain once or twice trying to find high quality photos to complement your content.

Ideally, you would want to feature your own clients, products, and local scenery, but we know this isn’t always possible. Sometimes privacy policies and ethics sometimes prevent us from using them. For those of us with limited resources, we can’t all afford to run out and take photos all over town or sign up for overpriced subscriptions to paid stock photo websites.

I have rounded up my top 10 go-to sources for stock photos I’ve saved over time. These sites have photos that are either public domain or licensed through Creative Commons, so you can use them for free in your products. Make sure you bookmark these sites so you can come back to them any time you start a new project!

Tips for finding stock photos:

  • Search for photos using a couple of similar terms (i.e.: baby, children, family).
  • Save each photo with the name of the site you found it on (i.e.: unsplashed-photo name.jpg)

 

1. unsplash: My top choice for good pictures of people, things, and nature.

 

2. lifeofpix.com: good for pictures of things-nature, buildings, objects, animals

 

3. kaboompics.com: good for pictures of people, things, and nature

 

4. albumarium.com: good for pictures of people, things, and nature

 

5. picjumbo.com: stock site chock full of original photos of all kinds of nouns – people, places, and things.

 

6. gratisography.com: for quirky, artistic, creative stock photos

 

7. deathtostockphoto.com: receive high quality, themed packs of photos via email at least monthly.

 

8. startupstockphotos.com: ideal images for business, meetings/collaboration, technology and overall productive looking photos

 

9. New Old Stock: free vintage photos

 

10. WikiMedia Commons: For very specific photos of things (e.g.: one time I was looking for photos of tenements in the late 19th century New York and Levittown Suburb photos for a video project on housing)

Screenshot: WikiMedia Commons

Graphic: Icon of a megaphone

Changing your default Instagram (or any app) posting privacy settings on Facebook in 5 Easy Steps

When Instagram posts to your profile, depending on your default privacy level, it may be posting to your friends only. That’s okay- but if you want to change it to expand your reach and who sees your Instagram activity, you need to make it public!

View the steps below or by opening up my handy PDF guide!

change-your-default-instagram-privacy-posting-level-10-2016_page_1

 

 

Using your COMPUTER,  here’s what you do!

STEP 1.

Navigate to facebook.com. Go to settings using the menu to the right of your name in the top navigation.

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels

STEP 2.

Click on Apps on the left side of the screen.

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels

STEP 3.

The first thing you will see is a list of Apps that you’ve logged into using Facebook. If you don’t see Instagram at first, click “Show All.”

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels

STEP 4.

Click the Edit/pencil icon next to Instragram (or any app you wish to modify) when you hover over it.

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels

STEP 5.

Change the ‘App visibility and post audience’ option to Public and click Save. And voilah! You’re done!

Graphic: Screenshot of Facebook - steps to changing your connected Facebook app posting privacy levels

 

 

I can help you with even more social media strategizing and communications game. See Work with Me to check out all the ways we can work together to make your project look good and expand the reach of your messages.

Graphic: Icon of a megaphone

Getting on the News: Writing a Press Release

I recently made a statement that if I was in charge of anything, I’d issue a press release for everything.  I am a firm believer (and I’m sure there’s a study somewhere that backs me up) that getting the media’s attention or paying for advertising is the key to success when it comes to getting clients, customers, donors, and supporters.

Yes, even in today’s modern world where the local news are reporting on stories that happened in Tallahassee and airing stupid cat videos off of YouTube that have no value whatsoever to us, you should still write a press release.

Here are my suggestions for creating press releases:

  1. Keep it concise – Don’t write a novel.  It should be just a few paragraphs.  The most important information should be first.
  2. Catch their attention – Use action verbs and descriptive language.  If you have a lot of “is”es and “was”es and that means you are using linking verbs. Make it interesting to read and think about.  One of my friends said, “Write it like a news story to get a news story.”
  3. Make it mean something – Why should the person who picks up the press release care? Don’t think about the end user.. the person who will see/hear/read the story. Yes, they are important, but if you convince the writers/assignment editors/tv folks on why it’s worth doing a story, you have one.
  4. Follow the format – If you use the template, you can’t fail.

It’s not as daunting as you think.  Reporters are always looking for stories to report on.

If you can build personal relationships with reporters, that’s even better.  Nurture those relationships.  I had started one with a very prominent local reporter and let it go because I got too busy with my job.

Also, I feel it is important to add that an invitation to attend is not a press release.  If you want people to come to an event, make it sound like a news story.  (Rookie mistake)

I don’t believe in giving advice/information without tools so with that, here are the emails of the local newsdesks to which you will submit your press releases.  (A side note: attach it to the email but also paste it in the body of the email.  You should do this for lots of things.  But that’s for another day)  I also included an example press release we submitted for a fundraiser we hosted for one of my friends.

Template

PDF (Strictly for informational purposes) acrobat

press-release

Word (The actual template) word

press-release

 

Local media outlets

Fox4KC WDAF: news@wdaftv4.com
KCTV5: newsdesk@kctv5.com
KMBC 9: news@KMBC.com
KSHB 41 Action News: Try filling out their web form at http://www.kshb.com/contact-us

KPRS Hot 103 Jamz: community@kprs.com
(I don’t listen to any other stations so sorry… Google it)

KC Star: The Star is tricky.  You have to sign up for an account on Press Release Central and then copy and paste the text of your release.  But you can add a photo!

The Pitch Weekly: Good luck. Try filling out their web form at http://posting.pitch.com/kansascity/ContactUs/Page

Need a website?

There are many factors that go into building a good-looking, functional website:

  • Structure/Function – How is it built and what purpose will it serve? People won’t look at it if they can’t figure it out.
  • Design – What branding and colors will you use? People won’t look at it if it’s ugly.
  • Content – What will you be putting on your site? Strictly information?  Media?  News?  Whatever you decide, people won’t look at it if you don’t update it regularly (if that is what site set up requires).
  • Capacity – Do you have the time, money, energy, and staff to update the website or are you doing it all yourself?  If it’s too much to handle, you won’t update it and guess what: people won’t look at it.
  • Audience – Who will be using your website?  Does it need to have different tones, designs, or content for specific users?  If people don’t’ find any value or use in your website, they won’t look at it.

The hidden/underlying costs of building a website

Building a website includes more than just purchasing your www.  In addition to the domain name (the address people type in to get to your website), you may also need to purchase hosting (the space where your website is located), a template or theme (the design/physical layout of your website, add-on apps or plugins, and so on.  It is important to keep your budget in mind when you are planning your website.  The good news is you don’t need hundreds of dollars to build a website.

All hosts and services are not created equal

Platforms like Wix and Weebly, commonly referred to as “drag-n-drop” builders, may work for some and not for others.  In my humble opinion, I think you can instantly tell the quite obviously difference when you go to a professionally-built site and one that was put together using one of these sites unless some serious thought is put into it.

 

What type of website will I need?

Infographic: What type of website do I need?

So, do you need a website?  Holla at me!