Creating Enthusiasm for Your Biomedical Nonprofit’s Work

February 25, 2015

3 ways the Boyce Thompson Institute invites engagement with their brand.

At times, scientific research can be so all-consuming that we forget to share what we are doing—and why—with the community around us. The Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI), a Bioscience Institute that conducts plant research, demonstrates the positive impact an Institution can have by opening its doors to the outside world and sharing the ongoing adventure of discovery.

Here are 3 ways they do it:

Communicating Outcomes
A winning section of the Boyce Thompson Institute website is “Your Gift at Work,” which highlights recent discoveries made possible by donors. The team at BTI uses this section to share engaging content that demonstrates how the science of what they do impacts the world around us. It also allows donors to share in the excitement of making a difference in the world one discovery at a time.

Takeaway: By showing your supporters how you apply your findings in the real world, you involve them in the magic of science—making your brand the hero!

Sharing Videos
Boyce Thompson Institute posts educational and informative videos about how plant science impacts the world on both their website and on These videos, which include many formal lectures, celebrate the adventure of research and discovery, and invite the public to take part in that process, lending a friendly, open attitude to the BTI brand.

In addition to posting their own videos, BTI shares videos from allies like the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). By aligning their brand with another environmentally conscious cause, they demonstrate an investment in nature, not just plant science, which shows their values and elevates their brand.

Takeaway: Sharing quality videos that inspire and inform can legitimize your institution’s work and help spread infectious enthusiasm for the “big picture” behind your cause.

Hosting Community Events
When I visit the websites of Biomedical Nonprofits, I sometimes find empty pages where events and news should be. Following BTI’s example can help your Institution avoid going silent for too long. They keep their events page fresh by holding regular seminars and consistently sharing their ideas with the public. The events page also includes icons that differentiate the happenings and add interest. These efforts keep their web content fresh, and show the public that the exchange of ideas is alive and well at BTI. Is that your Institution’s event page is communicating?

Takeaway: People want to interact with your Institution, so it pays to hold regular events. This can mean hosting monthly lectures, inviting the public to engage in “Citizen Science” events or hosting a Q&A session on a regular basis. Keeping your events page fresh gives “outsiders” a chance to feel like insiders, which can build excitement—and more support.

It’s easy to let time lapse between community events and other outreach efforts, but BTI proves that putting effort into your external programs is worth it. Do you know of a Bioresearch Institution that is doing a great job generating enthusiasm around their work?

Related Posts

• Using Leadership Marketing Strategies to Build Public Trust

• 20 Marketing Tips to Help Your Biotech Brand Grow
Creating Valuable Business Relationships For Your Biotech Brand

Can Podcasts Help Your Biomedical Nonprofit Gain More Donor Support?

February 18, 2015

79H (1)
3 Leadership Marketing lessons we can learn from The Wistar Institute

The Wistar Institute is an independent institution located in Philadelphia, PA that is devoted to medical research and training. This Podcast on their website demonstrates that the communications team at The Wistar Institute understands Leadership Marketing and knows how to execute it effectively. Here are three things we can learn from their work:

Lesson 1. Lead with a Leader
The first section of The Wistar Institute’s March Podcast is dedicated to highlighting their work and expertise. The main feature is an informative interview with a key Wistar scientist, Dr. Luis Montaner, D.V.M.. In the podcast, Montaner discusses the latest methods for preventing and curing HIV and AIDS. While the information provided is technical, it is presented in a way that is also accessible, making it appropriate for all audiences, not just other scientists.

The Wistar marketing team made a smart choice by featuring one of their leading scientists and providing useful, insightful information at the same time. They went a step further by spotlighting Dr. Montaner on their website’s homepage under the heading “Meet a Scientist”. This offers two ways for visitors to their site to learn more about the experts on their staff, and it demonstrates Wistar’s commitment to hiring the best and brightest scientists.

Takeaway: Podcasts are a great platform for highlighting your institution’s thought-leaders in a way that is both insightful and accessible for most audiences.

Lesson 2. Leverage Loyal Donors
The next feature in the March Podcast is an interview with Lynsie Solomon, a current donor who talks about why she is a dedicated supporter of The Wistar Institute, and why she encourages others to get involved. In her discussion, Lynsie promotes an upcoming fundraising event, and because she is a donor, and not an official Wistar representative, it lends an air of authenticity and excitement to the event. The interviewer wisely guides the conversation, ensuring that Lynsie communicates key messages about the work being done at the Institute. Overall, it is a well-crafted section that shows the value of The Wistar Institute without sounding like a marketing message.

Takeaway: One of your best fundraising assets is your current donors. Allowing them to do the bragging for you also helps them feel more connected to your brand.

Lesson 3: Get Your Audience Involved
The April Podcast winds down with the most recent news and a schedule of upcoming events sponsored by The Wistar Institute. It is clear that these news snippets were chosen to demonstrate that the Institute is both well-respected and leading-edge. However, at no time does the tone of the podcast shift into “marketing mode”. Sharing upcoming events shows the breadth of activities happening at the Institute and invites participation.

Takeaway: You can help your audience feel like an insider by updating them on news and inviting them to participate in your institution’s events. Regularly sharing what is happening inside of your Biomedical Nonprofit with the outside world is a great way to build trust and gain loyal followers.

Leadership Marketing content like this is worth creating because it can be shared across the web and can effectively drive interested, motivated audiences back to your website. The Wistar Institute took a chance in 2014 by creating podcasts and executing them flawlessly. I can’t wait to see what they do in 2015.

Related Posts:

How Biomedical Nonprofits Can Benefit From Connecting Online and Offline Channels

• 10 Ways to Ensure Your Biomedical Nonprofit’s Website is a Leadership Marketing Machine

How well is your Biotech Brand embracing the digital media landscape?

Generate broad interest in your Biomedical Nonprofit’s specialized cause.

February 11, 2015

Corey_Bering_Sea_14 (1)
The Island Institute’s 3-pronged approach demonstrates how.

While the Island Institute is not specifically a Biomedical Nonprofit, it is a science-based nonprofit dedicated to helping sustain Maine’s year-round islands and working waterfront communities. I chose to highlight the Island Institute because it faces a challenge shared by many Biomedical Nonprofits: They have a very specialized cause that doesn’t impact most people directly. The Island Institute uses smart Leadership Marketing tactics to overcome this challenge with a 3-step communications approach:

Building Broad Interest
The Island Institute’s initial challenge was to make a wider audience aware of how climate change is impacting lobster fisheries along the coast of Maine. To do this, they created an in-depth communications piece entitled A Climate of Change that combined donor development, community development, and stakeholder development into one tool. This piece was designed for ease of use in the field, making it simple for representatives to share their story.

The Island Institute’s work is so regionally specific that it might have been difficult for them to get a larger audience involved. So, the content of the piece focuses on a passionate community of people who are already working to address the issues of climate change and establish next steps. By sharing the work currently being done, the Island Institute gives readers something to connect to and makes them feel that they have a stake in the outcome, too.

Take-away: Highlighting a community of people who are already working on solutions to a cause can facilitate connection, build legitimacy, and help your mission gain momentum.

Invite Further Engagement
A Climate of Change was created to provide talking points in the field, but it also lives on the Island Institute’s website so that anyone can download the full PDF. To ensure that people did just that, the Island Institute created a direct mail piece with a QR code that routed those who were interested to that specific section of the Island Institute’s website. The addition of the QR code let potential supporters know there were more resources available to them, and made it simple for them to quickly locate those resources.

Take-away: Creating bridges between communication touch points can help sustain interest. Rather than relying on “donate” as a call to action, consider using such bridges to foster an ongoing engagement.

Bring The Challenge to Life
In addition to offering the full version of A Climate of Change on their website, the Island Institute posted an engaging video to further support the cause. The video gives voice to community leaders and lobstermen who are personally concerned about climate change and feeling its impact firsthand. Allowing them to speak candidly, rather than having the Institute speak for them, keeps the mission at the forefront and acts as a platform for others to learn more.

Take-away: Staying focused on the urgency of your cause is more likely to engage and inspire large groups of people. Allowing those who are most deeply impacted to speak for themselves can help your institution connect with people on a deeper level.

Many Biomedical Nonprofits struggle with trying to communicate the importance of their work to those it may not impact directly. What the Island Institute shows us is that helping “others” feel like insiders can fuel interest and garner more support for a cause.

Is Your Bioresearch Institution Showing Its Human Side?

February 6, 2015

Consider borrowing some Leadership Marketing tips from Howard Hughes.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute is a recognized leader in the scientific community, and its website gives us some clues as to how it maintains that reputation. The institute’s communications group uses several Leadership Marketing techniques to bring HHMI’s mission and goals to life. Here are 3 things we can learn from their approach:

Highlight Your Experts, Not Your Expertise
A highly regarded entity like Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has every right to be proud of its contributions to science. But when it comes to their website, the institution chooses to promote the work of the scientists it supports rather than its own reputation. Their current homepage features an HHMI scientist and invites visitors to learn more about the research that he does at Howard Hughes. Alongside his image is copy that explains the institution’s commitment to supporting “individuals” and “discoveries that benefit humanity.” Rather than leading with a marketing message, the homepage offers visitors an invitation to learn more about the institution’s mission and the scientists who strive to accomplish it. This approach makes it easier for visitors to connect with the institution on a deeper level right from the start.

Takeaway: People relate to people, not to institutions. The more that you can humanize your work, the more people will want to learn about it.

Share Your Motivations
It’s easy for an institution to say it is passionate about its work. It is much more difficult to demonstrate it. But that’s exactly what Howard Hughes Medical Institute does in the “How We Advance Science” section of its website. The section invites visitors to learn more about what motivates their scientists. For instance, the section highlights the work of investigator, Douglas A. Melton. Melton studies stem cells in an effort to cure diabetes because his son has type I (juvenile) diabetes. By showing his personal interest in curing this disease, Howard Hughes Medical Institute connects the dots between the research being done and the human impact of that research.

Takeaway: Your scientists are passionate about what they do. Sharing that passion makes others feel good about supporting your institution’s goals.

Contribute to the Greater Good
One of the primary tenets of Leadership Marketing is to use your expertise to inspire and inform others. Howard Hughes Medical Institute accomplishes this wonderfully in its Educational Materials section. This area of their website offers free educational materials and teaching tools such as virtual labs, videos, and scientific animations. By freely sharing these valuable, scientific resources with teachers, students, other scientists, HHMI sends a clear message that it values scientific understanding above all else. It also reaffirms their scientific expertise to the general public and the scientific community.

Takeaway: Sharing educational resources with no other goal than to improve understanding of your area of research can help build trust for your institution and solidify your reputation as a scientific expert.



How Biomedical Nonprofits Can Benefit From Connecting Online and Offline Channels

January 27, 2015

3 Ways Integrated Marketing helps Institutions Communicate Like Leaders

Biomedical nonprofits often see online and offline donors as two separate audiences: Offline donors tend to be older and give consistent amounts on a regular basis, while online donors may be younger and tend to give larger, one-time gifts. While these categorizations are largely true, it is difficult to reach your Leadership Marketing goals (such as building trust) when your marketing messages aren’t consistent.

Here are 3 very good reasons for integrating your donor communications between online and offline channels:

Integration can grow your donor base
Online donors are younger donors, and they tend to give larger donations than their offline counterparts. However, they also tend to give once and call it good, regardless of how many follow-up emails you send. Unless you quickly shift new online donors to offline renewal, odds are you will lose them. Integrating your online and offline marketing communications can help solve this problem by treating EVERY donor as having offline giving potential. From the moment an online donor chooses to give, your biomedical nonprofit can begin sending e-newsletters and updates to their inbox as well as to their physical mailbox. If the messaging is consistent, they will come to trust that 1. Your biomedical nonprofit will meet them wherever they search for information and make giving as convenient for them as possible, and 2. Your brand and mission is the same in the “real world” as it is online.

Integration shows brand consistency
While it’s true that the majority of older donors may not be acquired online, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t technologically savvy enough to visit your website. As of April 2012, 53% of American adults ages 65 and older used the Internet or email. 70% of those users accessed the Internet regularly (Pew Research). If your offline donors receive your newsletter in the mail and decide to visit your website, wouldn’t you want their experience with your brand to be consistent? If your website’s homepage is highly scientific and not donor-friendly, how will they feel when they visit? Do you keep an archive of the newsletters you mail out online, and would it be easy for casual Internet users to find them? When online and offline communications are integrated, offering a consistent brand experience is simple.

Integration can take your content farther
One of the best ways to position your biomedical nonprofit as an industry leader is to consistently show the value of your research. Sharing studies, insights and breakthroughs in newsletter or blog posts is a great way to do that. Integrating that information will have the greatest impact. For example, assume you’re sharing an inspiring story of how your research has touched someone’s life. Typically, you might choose to send it out as a part of your quarterly “snail-mail newsletter.” But once that newsletter has gone out, how will that story touch your online audiences? If you think of every piece of content as a cross-channel opportunity, you are more likely to find creative ways to share it. For instance, you might distill the story down to one powerful image with a short, informative caption and a “donate now” option on your homepage. Donors captured in this way could automatically receive the longer, newsletter version in their mailbox. Now when they receive your newsletter, they are familiar with the image and actively interested in learning more. They already feel connected to your nonprofit, making them more apt to sign them up for offline renewals.



Positioning Your Biomedical Nonprofit As An Industry Leader

January 20, 2015

134H (1)
3 Proven Marketing Tactics That Can Boost Your Brand Image

If your current marketing plan looks pretty much the same as it did last year, you can expect to see the same results. It might be time to raise the bar, and update your marketing to-do list. Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start. Here are a few Leadership Marketing tactics that can help your Biomedical Nonprofit stand out this year:

1. Focus on Inbound Marketing:
Cold calling is not always an effective way to break the ice with potential donors, which is why many nonprofits are spending their energy on Inbound Marketing instead. So, what is Inbound? It is basically getting potential customers to contact you. Inbound Marketing starts by building an online presence through blogs, articles, Enewsletters and other forms of content that don’t directly ask for a donation. The goal is to provide compelling online content that encourages audiences to reach out with questions or for more information. And when they do, you can be sure they are both interested in your expertise and motivated to support your work.

Tip: Choose topics that are both relevant to your brand and of interest to your target audience, and then use your expertise to create share-worthy content on those subjects. Be sure to tag your content with your company URL.

2. Share Your Passion:
Nonprofits have something going for them that for-profit companies may not: They have a passion for a cause that others share. This shared passion is a built-in conversation starter. But instead of just talking about it, why not make this the year that you demonstrate your passion? Show your commitment to the greater good by providing community education, sharing resources, or creating online tools that benefit others.

Tip: Sharing your Biomedical Nonprofit’s passion and expertise with the community doesn’t have to be done online, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. For instance, consider starting a Science Café. Science Cafés are live events normally hosted by a scientist, but open to the public. Science Cafés aren’t intended to be lectures. Rather, they are casual meet-ups where everyone is encouraged to join in, ask questions, and share their ideas about the topic at hand.

One of my clients, the MDI Biological Laboratory (, a Biomedical Institution near Acadia National Park, has been hosting Science Cafés for some time. My team helped them successfully brand their events with a marketing program that invited the public to “Learn about the science that affects your life”. This has helped MDIBL own these events, build recognition and foster trust within their community. Your nonprofit can host a Café, too! To find out more about the grassroots Science Café movement, visit

3. Communicate Like a Leader:
Biomedical Nonprofits are natural leaders. They lead the way with innovative research and ask questions that others have not. Unfortunately, many Biomedical Nonprofits don’t market themselves as the leaders that they are. It’s a shame, because Leadership Marketing is one of the most inexpensive ways that nonprofits can build awareness, trust and support for their cause. Commit to actively showing thought leadership by sharing your insights and expertise online and in your community.

Tip: Every marketing communication is an opportunity to show leadership! Specific thought leadership tactics can include blogs and advertorials, microsite sponsorships, audio/video interviews, survey sponsorships, whitepapers and infographics, round-table webinars, in-person events, and more.

What is Leadership Marketing?

  • Leveraging an organization’s original insights, innovative thinking and unique perspective to show thought leadership in a particular industry
  • Sharing those insights online and in your community to build trust, gain allies and move supporters to act
  • Building and maintaining a brand persona that thinks and acts like a leader


Powerful Messaging = Campaign Success

January 13, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.30.33 AM

3 Insights That Can Help Streamline Your Bioresearch Brand’s Pitch

Recently, two of Maine’s leading Biomedical Institutions, The Jackson Laboratory and the MDI Biological Laboratory, successfully passed bond measures (Question 4 and Question 5 on Maine’s 2014 Ballot) to fund their facilities and research into the future.

These success stories are largely due to the clarity of the messaging that drove their campaigns and their ability to easily share those messages across many different communication channels. Your Bioresearch Institution may never have to pass a bond measure, but it can benefit from clarified messaging.

Ready to make your pitch stronger? Here are 3 insights you can gain from The Jackson Laboratory and the MDI Biological Laboratory:

3-4 “Power Points” Are All You Need
When trying to gain support from a broad audience, the best approach is a simple one: Define your main message and support it with strong arguments. In the case of these two bond campaigns, the main appeal was to get the public to vote “Yes.” To encourage that action, each of these institutions had to give compelling reasons why they deserve support.

MDI Biological Laboratory presented 3 strong reasons for voters to support their measure: Train our workforce; Grow our economy; Accelerate drug discovery.

The Jackson Laboratory condensed their appeal down to these 3 points: Fight cancer; Create Maine jobs; Support research.

Encouraging your team to streamline its messaging in a similar way can strengthen your overall campaign and develop repetition, so your message will stick in people’s minds.

Create a SIMPLE messaging platform for your campaign before you do anything else. Start with your lead benefit or appeal, and then support it with 3-4 bullet points or “Power Points.” To start, your bullet points should be no more than one sentence long, and they shouldn’t require lengthy explanations to understand. A good rule of thumb: If your audience can’t get it in fewer than 10 words, your Power Points are too broad (and there’s a good chance they won’t resonate in your actual PowerPoint presentations, emails, leave behinds or other communications).

Simple Messages Feel More Honest
It’s easier to be convincing when you can state your case briefly. If your team can’t quickly explain why your Bioresearch Institution’s work is worth supporting, you may not be clear enough on the reasons yourself. If you need lengthy copy to make your case, it may not be a strong one. Remember, the more you say, the more you open the door for questions and objections.

Of course, there are vehicles where you will want to expound on your main Power Points—brochures and other print pieces, for instance—but by and large your digital and in-person presentations will benefit from quick messaging hits. By keeping it simple, you make it easy for your audience to digest, believe and repeat your message.

Take a look at the online landing pages for these bond measure campaigns, and you will immediately see what I mean:

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.32.26 AM

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.31.26 AM

Notice how clear and immediate the messaging is. There is nothing to second-guess and no unnecessary information to complicate the issues.

Once you’ve outlined your messaging platform, distill it down even further. What are the key takeaways, and how can you share them in just a few words?

Simplicity Supports Creativity
Your Institution will start to see the real payoff of streamlining your messaging when you begin to extend your campaign out across several marketing channels—especially social media. Clear messaging translates easily to different platforms and invites sharing.

MDI Biological Laboratory offers an example of how using quick-hit messaging actually opens up opportunities to have more fun on social platforms. On their website, they made a solid case for why they thought the public should support them. Then on social media, they invited supporters to give their own reasons. Because it was Bond Issue 5, they asked supporters to write their motivations for voting “Yes” on their hands, and then took pictures of them “giving a hand.” Here’s what it looked like:

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 10.30.33 AM

In this case, simplifying the message made it feel more personal and homegrown.

Once you have simplified your messaging, carry that spirit through with powerful visuals that will resonate with your social network and invite sharing.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 58 other followers