Category Archives: Session Wraps

8 Things I Learned at ProductCamp Austin

After so many recommendations and endorsements from my fellow product management and product marketing colleagues, I am pleased to report that ProductCamp 10 lived up to its reputation as a can’t-miss event for product management professionals. Networking, learning, and innovative ideas abounded at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, Texas this past Saturday.

ProductCamp 10 Austin

Thom Singer presenting, “Giving Better Presentations” at ProductCamp

While I knew I had already missed a few ProductCamps, I had no idea Austin was actually one of the first (following Silicon Valley) to launch an un-conference ProductCamp (2008) and that it has now spread around the globe. Comparing the perspectives of representatives from other cities with our own here in Austin was fascinating.

By far, the best aspect of the conference overall was how open and friendly everyone was. Networking is a pleasure in such an accommodating atmosphere–even for introverts!

My Favorite Learnings from ProductCamp 10 Austin:

  1. Kanban process — Forget Agile, this is the newest trend in product management! It involves managing a queue of user stories, but not grouping into sprints. Very interesting…. (via @johndeo)
  2. Avoid “Tyranny of the Install Base” — Once your product gets going, you tend to only listen to sales and your existing customers. (via @mhelmbrecht)
  3. As an extrovert, I should warn people when I am “thinking out loud.” (via @mhelmbrecht)
  4. Agile experience is irrelevant; executives consider it a check box.
  5. Content isn’t king, it’s the mayor. Audience is king! (via @thomsinger)
  6. LinkedIn Premium membership allows you to see what keywords people are searching on you and prevents others from seeing that you were stalking viewing their profile. (via @MrMillerAustin)
  7. Well written user stories should be able to be re-purposed as sales script. Write as problem/benefit; never feature/function. (via @proficientzppm)
  8. I want to be a “foxy” PM, as opposed to a “hedgehoge” (agile generalist, rather than narrowly focused and intractable) (via @PGopalan & @joshua_d)

What I Missed Most:

PowerPoint Karaoke - This session, while offered, was not actually voted in. That was a shame because it looks hilarious! It basically involves making up a story to go along with the random slides you are given and having been handed a deck by my old boss to present at a major user conference myself, I know how important it is to be able to think on your feet! I hope this is resurrected at an upcoming ProductParty soon. As a former theatre geek, this sounds right up my alley!

Presenting “Architecting a Successful Whitepaper” - Unfortunately, my colleague with whom I had planned to offer a workshop session on Architecting a Successful Whitepaper had a family medical emergency and was not able to make it on Saturday. Talking with several attendees, I am sure the material we were planning on presenting would have been relevant and interesting. And I know it would have a lot of fun! I look forward to the next ProductCamp so we can try again!

Useful links:

Throughout the day, I picked up useful links to resources, articles, and online tools. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order!

Word Cloud generators:

“Best Session” winner which I missed – boo! (I’ll have to make sure I catch Mike presenting at the next ProductCamp in July…)


Do you have a favorite resource, moment, or funny story to share from PCATX?

4 Results from Crowdsource Experiment at #12NTC: Nerd, Geek and Gear Herding

This article originally appeared on the blog.

4 Results from Crowdsource Experiment at #12NTC: Nerd, Geek and Gear Herding

By Grant Howe and Stacy Dyer

At the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference (#12NTC) in San Francisco, California, we led a session called Nerd, Geek, and Gear Herding 2.0. Building on last year’s session, we were pleased that this year we had the opportunity to introduce the “crowdsourcing” experiment to collectively solve our nonprofit technology problems.

#1: Bridge Communication Gaps
Our first “crowdsourced” dilemma asked how to deal with a strong technologist who is working towards the right goals, but struggles with communication style. The importance of resolving the communications issues vs. insulating the technologist from communications was discussed. Solutions included bridging communication style gaps with coaching and buffering systems. Appropriately timed conversations can provide focus–sometimes geeks don’t like to be interrupted!

#2: Managing Without Authority
Second, we talked tips for managing without authority, such as project managing a cross functional team and getting buy-in from executives or board leadership. Here the crowd agreed you need to offer solutions, not just bring problems. Also, face-to-face communication is better than email to build trust.

#3: When It Ain’t Broke
Third, we talked about some of the implication to being “too good” at your job. When the server hardly ever crashes (because you’ve moved your IT infrastructure to the cloud), how do you get buy-in for incremental improvements? The key is to leverage technology and technical personnel as trainers and thought leaders within your organization. Raise the visibility of high-tech projects and people.

#4: Newbies Welcome
Finally, the “crowd” offered tips for making valuable, newly hired technical staff feel welcome. Tips included having all the resources they need (eg, desk, email, paperwork) ready to go. A welcome sign, snacks and a drinking cup as a gift was discussed as a high impact / low cost way to make them comfortable.  Invite the new employee to a welcome lunch with staff they will need to work with on a regular basis. Have them pass out treats as way to introduce them to other staff around the office.

Overall, our first “crowdsource” was a great success! If you have other tips or suggestions, please add them to the comments here! Thanks again for another great conference and we look forward to continuing our “experiment” again next year!

Grant Howe and Stacy Dyer presenting at 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Fransisco

12NTC: Not just for geeks

San Fran at night

San Fransisco hosted the 2012 NTC – Nonprofit Technology Conference

I just got back from #12NTC, the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference. As always, it’s an explosion of nptechie geekdom and one of the best parties events I attend all year.

And while I may be a self-proclaimed geek, NTC is not just for geeks anymore! This year’s audience boasted wide variety of folks involved in all levels of nonprofit management, social entrepreneurship, and community organizing. The refreshing diversity of social media influencers, philanthropists, and social responsibility leaders created a unique community of vibrant energy motivated to find a way to “make it work” and do good.

Where AFP is a decidedly more mature organization of fundraising professionals, NTEN’s network of younger, more tech-savvy nonprofit leaders offers a perspective on the future of nonprofit management. As a product marketer, it’s a great opportunity for me to spot new trends — like using mobile technology to engage constituents; moving tech solutions to the cloud; or for the fashion conscience, donning patterned leggings with a vintage dress. (Vanessa R., I’m looking at you!)

If you weren’t able to make it to #12NTC this year, no worries! One of the best things about having a tech-savvy audience is that NTEN is able to leverage the power of their attendees to crowdsource session notes. Check out the full list of Google docs here with session notes from everything from online community engagement to data analysis to nerd-herding!

And, of course, watch this blog for my learnings and key takeaways from #12NTC over the coming months!

Product Marketing Manager, geek, and proud NTEN member




3 Personas You Have to Meet

Maybe you already know them. They certainly already know you. They are your constituents, your supporters, and donors. Want to know who they are? Keep reading…

As a product marketer, I am very familiar with the concept of using personas to help me understand my audience. At Innogive 2012 in San Fransisco, Jeff Dunlap of MobileCause, described the three key personas who interact with causes online.

First, there is the internet artist. He actually doesn’t really care about your cause. What he wants is to impress his friends. He is motivated by the number of retweets and likes he gets in social media. So he makes up something clever–like make up a t-shirt that says, “F**K CANCER.” You can’t say that, but he can! He is, in effect, a “free agent” as Beth Kanter describes in her concept of a Networked Nonprofit.

Next, the curator picks it up. She likes to put things into collections that are easy to browse. She pins that “F**K CANCER” t-shirt in Pintrest, where it gets picked up by Martha-Stewart-types everywhere, and creates a flurry! She doesn’t really care about your cause either, but loves it when her “pin” get shared around.

Now meet mobile grandma. She loves using her smartphone to share mobile photos on Facebook. She posts a picture of her niece wearing the infamous t-shirt. That post gets picked up by another mobile grandma in Denmark, who translates the t-shirt into 3 different languages (in effect, another internet artist) and the cycle starts again.

As you can see, these personas have the power to give your cause a huge boost, even though they may not actually donate cash (or buy the t-shirt) themselves. By understanding what motivates these personas, you can create (or, at least, not squash) opportunities to go viral!

So You Wanna Be a Mobile Superhero?

Ok, so there was a lot of talk about the Justice League at Innogive 2012.

Justice League

I’m more of an Avengers fan, myself, but maybe that’s just because I’ve always liked Stark’s toys.


Kayta Anderson, shared these 5 forgotten questions we need to answer before you can be we can become superheroes in mobile fundraising!

1) Who is it for anyway?

Know your audience. She says that when at least 5% of traffic to your website is from mobile browsers (you are using Google Analytics to track this, right?) However, there was some discussion that if you don’t have a mobile site, you won’t get mobile traffic.

2) What will it do for them?

We download apps to make our lives easier. Unless the app provides a something sought after by your audience, they won’t download it. Don’t build an app for apps sake. Provide value to drive behavior.

3) What do you have?

Time, resources, money, staff. And not just staff to run it, but who in your organization will get behind the project? They have to be willing to take risks.

4) Where does it fit in?

Mobile is another channel in your multichannel communications strategy. You need to align your messages and strategy across all your channels.

5) What will it do for you?

ROI vs ROE. Traditionally, managers focus on return on investment. Instead focus on return on engagement, which measures things like new supporters, brand exposure, added convenience for supporters, improved advocacy results.


How I Met Geordi LaForge at SXSWedu!

How I Met Geordi LaForge at SXSWedu!
by Stacy Dyer

I had the privilege to hear LeVar Burton speak at SXSWedu, a conference focusing on innovation in learning.

Stacy Dyer and LeVar Burton at SXSWedu

Stacy Dyer and LeVar Burton at SXSWedu

In his keynote address Burton shared his philosophy: “at the intersection of technology and education, storytelling is the key to learning.

Wise words indeed from a talented artist and life-long learning advocate who has been a part of the legendary Reading Rainbow franchise for 23 years–the third-longest running children’s series in PBS history*. A new Reading Rainbow app will be release in a few weeks.

LeVar Burton keynote at SXSWedu

LeVar Burton keynote at SXSWedu (photo credit: Stacy Dyer)

Technology aside, it is clear that Burton’s philosophy stems from his formative experiences with great storytellers. From Alex Haley’s epic Roots to Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, Burton’s acting roles immersed him in the visions of great storytellers, and strong family connections to the encouraged an almost evangelistic passion for life-long learning.

According to Burton, Haley’s vision of storytelling demonstrates the indomitable strength of the human need for family, while Roddenberry’s vision sees the infinite potential of humans. For Burton, these vision were bridged by Fred Rodgers. It sounds strange, but for Burton it made sense. Especially when I learned that Burton attended seminary himself (Mr. Rodgers was a minister.) Burton explained how he was inspired by Mr. Rodgers impression of the media of television as a pulpit, as an opportunity to reach his flock and share his message. Burton took this lesson to heart.

After the keynote, Burton was able to attend the networking reception where he mingled with attendees. It was a great opportunity to meet and share ideas with one of my long-time inspirations and idols (did I ever tell you I wanted to be a Star Trek engineer why I grow up?)

How to incorporate the latest technology into effective learning programs is what SXSWedu is all about. As a Star Trek and Reading Rainbow veteran, Burton is uniquely positioned to publicly champion the use of technology while keeping the focus on the content–the story that is being told.

Today, educational technology leaders must focus on building a technology infrastructure for learning. What I have learned at SXSWedu this year is that infrastructure is only the first step. Tech won’t teach. As a learner and mother, I am intrigued how the next generation of educators are leveraging technology to create opportunities for extraordinary educational experiences.

* Source:


My Five Reasons For Being A Girl Scout

Stacy Dyer, Brownie

Stacy Dyer in full Brownie uniform, marching in the downtown Stuart holiday parade

Many years ago, I was shorter, cuter and I could eat a lot more cookies than I can today!

Before the days of Daisies, I joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie.  Yes that’s me to the right, check out my smile.  I loved being a Girl Scout.  Looking back there are many reasons why I enjoyed the experience and why I recommend Girl Scouts today.

Girl Scouts is fun!  I joined Troop #305, in Palm City, Florida initially because my mom’s friends’ daughters were all in the troop and I wanted to hang out with them.  We had a blast camping out, volunteering in local beach clean ups and dressing up in our uniforms to walk in the town’s annual holiday parade (complete with orange flag sock garters!)  Who doesn’t want to be in a parade?

Girl Scouts gets you outside.  A big reason for joining Scouts was the outdoor activities. I enjoyed horseback riding, camping, and wildlife rehabilitation. Scouting encouraged a great love of the natural world and it’s a value that has stayed with me to this day.

Girl Scouts gives you “prizes” and a sense of accomplishment.  Earning badges was one of my favorite parts of being a Girl Scout. Every meeting, our troop leader would organize a fun activity which would get us closer to our target. I have a competitive spirit and I relished the opportunity to have a good time and achieve something purposeful. I had so many badges, I had to get vest instead of a sash. My poor mom couldn’t keep up with sewing them on! I still crave accomplishments and rarely rest on my laurels for long.

Girl Scouts teaches you how to be an entrepreneur.  Call it Cookie Capitalism.  I learned “cold call” selling to strangers outside the grocery store and how to soft sell to my dad’s golfing buddies between the third green and the fourth tee. Back then, the only way to refuse me was to claim you had no cash. Of course, with today’s mobile payment options, and ATMs on every corner, you probably can’t get away with that excuse anymore. Selling cookies is a cornerstone of Girl Scout fundraising that instills an entrepreneurial spirit in young people—another Girl Scout trait I still carry today. I have supported myself as a freelancer and I am currently helping my husband Charles to build his coffee business on the side.  I have many an office colleague hooked on custom roasted coffee.

Girl Scouts empowers you to be the best you can be and to help others in turn. Service to others is a key part of the Girl Scouts experience.  You learn to be your better self by helping others and giving back to your community.  You also learn you are unstoppable and that really all you need in life are your friends, a pocket knife, flashlight and a box of cookies

For over a 100 years Girl Scouts has been developing girls and helping them grow into women.  Not too many organizations in this world have lasted as long.  I am so happy that I am getting to attend the 2011 National Girl Scout Council in Houston, Texas this week.  It is a chance to reconnect with fellow alumni, engage in Girl Scout leadership activities, and check out the captivating speakers.  I’m looking forward to being a part of this unforgettable event.  I will also be live tweeting from the event, follow the festivities on Twitter @stacydyer or the hash tag #GirlScouts100


Method Tweeting: Using theatre techniques to engage your social media audience

At SXSW interactive festival in March, I attended a great panel discussion, Method Tweeting for Non Profits (and Other Players)
Click here to view the slides from this panel on slideshare.
Panel presenters included: Carie Lewis, Dir of Emerging Media The Humane Society of the United States (@cariegrls); Dan Michel, Digital Mktg Mgr Feeding America (@dpmichel or @FeedingAmerica); Eve Simon, Creative Dir Beaconfire Consulting (@NaiEve or @thebeaconsxsw); Geoff Livingston, CMO Zoetica (@geoffliving); and Jennifer Windrum, Founder WTF? (Where’s the Funding) for Lung Cancer (@jenniferwindrum and @wtflungcancer).
We have recently been witness to a great example of method tweeting in action, as Eve Simon pointed out via her Twitter handle, @NaiEve. The twitter sensation, @BronxZoosCobra is a prime example of developing an online persona that inspires a fanatical response.   
The facebook page contains many comments of fans, similar to this one:
Despite the Bronx Zoo’s accident, the right social media capital has turned this potential public relations disaster into a gold mine for reaching new audiences and future donors for the organization. 
While most of us do not necessarily want a quarter of a million followers, most of us aren’t going to so far as to impersonate a snarky snake, either.  And with results like that, you cannot deny the method clearly works.

What exactly is method tweeting?

Method tweeting is the concept that nonprofits must create a brand persona via their online presence that embodies a voice for the cause. 
If Shakespeare tweeted would he use his voice or characters? Method tweeting is based on the theory of method acting.  It is about starting a dialogue and tweeting based on authentic emotional and intellectual ties.

Nonprofits use of social media

There’s no doubt that the use of social media among nonprofits in on the rise. In 2010, 60% of nonprofits were on Twitter, up from 38% in 2009 and have on average 1800 followers. But what do they do with those followers? What do they say to them?

To thine own tweet be true

To create authenticity, there must a real-world tie between the person at the keyboard and the cause.  Carie Lewis pointed out, “In order to do my job well, you have to love social media and love animals…tweet what you love.”
The key is to select a staff member or free agent who is motivated by the charity’s cause to promote the organization on social media. If that individual doesn’t believe in what they’re tweeting for, they cannot be authentic. And your entire Twitter presence is based on deception.  To be successful, they must take on the identity of the organization on Twitter and truly embody all for which it stands.

Conflicted loyalties

There are inevitably times when choices are made with which not everyone in an organization may agree. These are the times when it is most important to believe in the organization. Tweeting is believing and anyone responsible for an organization’s public social media persona must have the passion to support the organization even if they disagree with the choices being made.
There is a balance to be struck between personal voice and professional tweets.  Many folks manage multiple twitter accounts.  Dan Michel pointed out that your personal tweets are everyday expressions of your casual self, while your organizational twitter voice is more “like me at a wedding – on my best behavior.”  It is fine to publish snarky commentary on your personal twitter account (as long as it doesn’t conflict with the organization’s position) but institutional tweeting requires more a conservative approach. Talk to people as you would at a job interview or other formal setting.


Personalities blur across accounts when you manage multiple twitter handles.  What happens when your personalities cross?  It happens to everyone at some point.  You know – that tweet you meant to send from your personal account accidentally gets posted to the wrong twitter account.  
This happened to the Red Cross when a staff member accidentally posted to the @RedCross account:
You can read about the faux pas and how the Red Cross dealt (BRILLIANTLY) with the error on the American Red Cross blog.
While it may be impossible to avoid the inevitable twitter mistakes, one thing you can do to avoid crossing your personalities is to use different tools for personal and organization twitter accounts. For example, I use TweetDeck for personal tweets and Hootsuite for organization tweets.

Avatars define voice

How does your avatar represent your social media voice?  Is it a photo? Is it a logo?  What does it imply?  For example, if you are an individual tweeting for your organization, do you use a personal photo so followers know the person behind the tweets? Or do you use a corporate logo and speak with a broader organizational voice?  
Many celebrities use their headshot as an avatar, but very few actually tweet for themselves.  Set the proper expectations instantly by selecting a powerful avatar image that defines your twitter voice authentically.

Emotions and tone

Personality is key to successful tweeting. Greatness doesn’t necessarily translate on twitter.  People like to follow people – not brands. Tweeting for your organization should be a mix of the institution’s founding principles and speaking in a conversational way. 
It is true that personal spokespeople get more followers.  Michel pointed out the clear example of Livestrong’s official twitter which has over 100,000 followers vs Livestrong CEO’s account which has over one million!
The most important takeaway to remember is that authenticity and personality go a long in effectively using social media, such as twitter, to reach your audience. Maintain an appropriate and approachable tone and let personal passions that align to organizational objectives drive content.
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
-          Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 3

What do Social Entrepeneurs and Sesame Street have in common?

Blake Mycoskie of TOMS recently had appearances to both SXSW in Austin, TX and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Conference in Chicago.  I learned about his inspiration and motivation around his now famous TOMS brand and one-for-one movement.

Combining social good and the power of consumers is nothing new.

I came across a great article by Allen R. Bromberger, A New Type of Hybrid.  In it, he discusses how social entrepreneurs are using a hybrid model to combine the for-profit and nonprofit models.

Museums and performing arts organizations create for-profit retailers to sell merchandise, such as posters, jewerly, and books. And the hybrid model is nothing new to public broadcasting. The Children’s Television Workshop, owners of the Sesame Street characters, use separate nonprofit and for-profit organizations to both achieve business objectives and further a social mission.

Dan Pallotta, in his book, Uncivilized, points out why this arm’s length model is used for supporting social good with commercial activities. Rather than being politically or economically motivated, it was a religious view held by the Puritans who came to America in the 17th century. They believed that any commercial activity was sin. However they also understood it necessity, so to atone you could perform charitable activities and – never the twain shall meet.

In his article, A New Type of Hybrid, Bromberger discusses how modern social entrepreneurs are using separate, but contractual linked entities to accomplish their goals.

For any nonprofit concerned with the legal implications of UBIT (Unrelated Business Income Tax), or for-profit entities concerned that the pursuit which want to pursue a social mission, a single hybrid structure that contractual binds the nonprofit and for-profit entities may be a solution.

But Bromberger points out, it isn’t simple.

In the article, Bromberger describes various types of legal entities typically used in social entrepreneurship including, B corporations and benefit corporations and how they differ as well as the low-profit limited liability company (L3C) option.

He describes legal options to enter into activities together to achieve social good.

  • Parent-subsidiary model – where a nonprofit creates for-profit subsidiary
  • Commercial transactions and collaborations between nonprofit and for-profit companies (arm’s length model)
  • Corporate sponsorships and commercial co-ventures
  • Contractual hybrids

There is also a great discussion of legal ramifications of some of the various options and Bromberger spells out the particular IRS rules to consider.

  • Joint Ventures
  • Private Benefit
  • Unrelated Business Income Tax
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Related Party Transactions
  • Form 990

The lively comments are also a must read.  One commentor notes a new option being considered in California which would allow the formation of a Flexible Purpose Corporation (Flex Corp.) You can read more about it in California to Allow Corporations to Blend Mission and Profit at

I also loved Milton Friesen’s comment about using the open source model – create a platform upon which individual organizations can built new models – like allowing developers to create apps for an app store.

So what does all this very geeky, public policy mumbo jumbo mean?

Through open collaboration, we can essentially crowdsource innovation in social good and social entrepreneurial models! How cool would that be!

SXSW: Nonprofits and Free Agents in A Networked World

In an interactive session with Beth Kanter (@kanter) CEO, Zoetica; Danielle Brigida (@starfocus)Digital Mktg Mgr,National Wildlife Federation; Jessica Dheere (@jessdheere) Founder/Dir, Social Media Exchange; Mark Horvath (@hardlynormal) at SXSW Interactive 2011, I learned how nonprofits can leverage free agents to support their cause.

First, Beth Kanter introduced the concept of a fortressed organization as one that is “opaque and impenetrable to outsiders.” (The Networked Nonprofit, B Kanter and A Fine, 2010)And what happens when a passionate, capable, and agile free agent who is eager to help meets this fortress? They crash into a wall.  

Instead, organizations must strive to be network nonprofits.  Networked nonprofits are more connected to the ecosystem of free agents (both individuals and other organizations.) They use more collaborative ways to issue and accept requests for work, for example, using social media to locate graphic designers.

According to Kanter, in order to exemplify a Networked Nonprofit, you must be comfortable with supporters experimenting with the organization’s brand.  Bridgida recommends getting buy-in from legal to allow them to do so.  Free agents don’t care about your branding document. Be sure your lawyers know not to send a cease and desist order when you support what the free agent is doing. Use creative commons licensing to freely allow certain uses of your organization’s intellectual property.

Free agents can sometimes accomplish things that the organization itself cannot, such as operating on the ground in foreign countries. Dheere points out that it is difficult to work as an NGO in certain societies due to cultural and government restrictions, especially with respect to open access to data and content.  This is one area where working with free agents isn’t just helpful, it’s crucial. Free agents have responsibilities too. They have to demonstrate how they help, not hurt, the cause.  Kanter mentioned having a code of conduct for free agents, so expectations and boundaries are clearly outlined.

Craig Newark and Beth Kanter
Craig Newmark (@craignewmark), founder of and Craigslist Foundation, and free agent extraordinaire, was in attendance.  He pointed out that free agents help charities and NGOs stay connected with the people they serve at the ground level.

A couple of key actions that you can do now to implement your strategy to becoming a “Networked Nonprofit”

  • Be a network weaver. Start by mapping out the relationships within your organization and you will probably find you are talking to the same people.
  • Develop an engagement strategy for people outside your organization and follow it
  • Fail fast and fail cheap. Reassess afterward.

Remember: “These networked nonprofits work as social networks, not just in them.” (Ibid)

I was lucky enough to meet Kanter after her session and briefly discuss how it went, including the integration of international free agents through live conference calls and recorded videos, as well as her informal moderation style and breaking down the physical barriers between audience and panel to facilitate the discussion.

Myself and Beth Kanter

All in all, this is one the BEST sessions I attended this year and I would highly recommend the book, The Networked Nonprofit (B Kanter, A Fine) to anyone interested in learning more.

The twitter hashtag for this session was #netnon.

Beth also has a great write-up of her reflections on this session on her blog.