A Culture of Workplace Giving

A Culture of Workplace Giving

Community Non-Profit Organizations

Shift Collaborative has been in business for almost four years, and I believe that we are only at the beginning of defining our company’s culture. This process of defining is likely [we hope] to be an ongoing and evolving process as we grow, expand, and adapt in the creative industry space. One of many things that our small group sees eye to eye on, is making an impact beyond our work, and creating space within the organization for each team member to explore their individual impact in the community.

Doing good is an individual and personal thing. To ask that the entire team to support one charity, or do one good thing together, feels prescriptive. I suppose that that would be better than not doing anything at all.  Workplace giving is a major support pillar for many nonprofit organizations. According to American Charities, $4 billion is raised annually through workplace giving. While money is the visible and tangible asset of workplace giving, we desire our workplace giving to go deeper.

We’ve decided to support each others’ endeavors, and when we can the company also gives back to the change-making activities of a team member or a client. Our team members sit on nonprofit boards, volunteer in the community, speak out on issues of importance to them, and advocate for social justice. The community and charitable activities that team members engage in and what they gain from those rich experiences allow them to see our work at Shift through a different lens.

Here are a few examples

  • Sara Coffey is a co-organizer for TEDxPittsburgh and co-founder of Open House PGH, an intentional community known for their weekly Community Dinner and social justice work. These efforts keep her connected to the community in a way that brings her joy. She gains a perspective on a variety of subjects around diversity, inclusion, leadership, and community sustainability. And, her design work at Shift is reflective of those experiences. Her self-description on Facebook sums it up nicely:

     Living in #Pittsburgh inspiring positivity & motivation through art, health, & social change.

  • Andrew Gordon is involved in the Pittsburgh community through his church, Shadyside Presbyterian Church. He has served as a mentor to members of the youth, and donates money toward the charitable and community-oriented missions of the church. Contributing to Shadyside Presbyterian’s mission of loving and caring for others, both locally and globally, is rewarding to Andrew, as it helps him feel connected to the positive changes taking place in the places where he lives, works, and travels.
  • Therese Joseph gives back to the community through service and encouraging individual growth within her churchtherese-cleaning-up-detroit community, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. An example of this type of impact includes the youth service trip she chaperoned this past June. Partnering with Catholic Heart Work Camp, she led a group of teens from her parish, Holy Trinity Church, to Detroit, Michigan, where they spent a week cleaning up abandoned properties and houses across the city. The service trip served multiple purposes:
    • Their service and hard work helped to prepare the abandoned land and buildings for their next stage of life within the community.
    • The physical illustration of their work as a team and the kind of drastic changes that can take place when there are simply enough hands helping, encouraged local residents to get involved with community organizations to continue the revitalization work after their trip had ended.
    • And most importantly, the service projects, interactions with local residents, and team discussions helped to teach our local teens, the next generation of Pittsburgh change makers, how to see beyond themselves and their screens in order to empathize, love, and serve others, including those whose circumstances may be different from their own personal experiences of life.

Yes, we are a regular office of humans coming and going. Work comes in, work goes out. But we care for our clients; we are excited by the work. Those are the assumed and shared feelings among the team.  The office is also a place for discourse and debate, a thoughtful space to express reactions to what is happening on the streets outside of our windows, what is going on in the city at large, and the good and bad that we see beyond the city and state borders.

I hope these greater connections are always a part of our company culture.

Community Matters

Community Matters


It’s my turn to write a blog post. My article was supposed to be about the civic mindedness of our team members. Our team members champion important causes and they invest time and put energy into them. The work deserves to be highlighted, but I just can’t write about it right now.

Only months after Pittsburgh is named one of the most livable cities in the country, we experience a tragedy in Wilkinsburg when gunmen opened fire on a backyard full of our neighbors. NPR was in town one day before the shooting to host a candid and at times tense discussion about who this city is most livable for.

Is our city livable for all humans, all of the time? Is that even possible? Continue reading

Latest Addition to the Shift Team

Shift News

We (Eric and Sarah) recently sat down to talk with Tim Colbert, the latest addition to the growing Shift Team. Our new Public Relations Director is returning to his adopted hometown after 10 years in New York City, where he worked as a director (and award-winning video producer) at a global Business-to-Business marketing and public relations firm advising industrial manufacturers on branding, business development, and media relations.

His most recent venture, TC Communication LLC, embraced a blend of corporate and local businesses clients.

The transcript has been slightly condensed and edited for clarity and, we hope, interest.

Welcome aboard! Tell us a bit about yourself.

tim-colbertI was born in Cleveland (don’t worry my family is from Western PA and I inherited the Steelers-fan gene), attended Duquesne University, and worked in the non-profit sector for many years, including very happy and productive tours of duty in PR and marketing at Pittsburgh Public Theater, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Pittsburgh Opera, and Phipps Conservatory. World-class organizations I am proud to have been associated with.

Then, in a complete change of pace, I took the plunge — and my chances — in New York, where I first worked for a boutique agency specializing in modern dance (Alvin Ailey and Merce Cunningham were clients), classical music groups, and theater companies. It was an eye-opener.

How so?

The competition for coverage was unlike anything I had experienced earlier in my career. The agency was extremely well connected and we still spent hours every week just making sure that our clients got into the listings sections, let alone developing the long-lead pitches to generate favorable feature coverage. It was a whole new game. It forced me, in retrospect, to toughen up in that very tough environment; fools were not suffered gladly.

So how did you end up at a global B2B firm?

Professionally you need to stretch and challenge yourself. There was an entire world out there I was hungry to learn about – the ways of corporate America, the manner in which innovation is nurtured and harnessed to develop new products, hot to generate big coverage with international trade media; these were all very, very green fields. I was fortunate to work my way up the ladder and lead global accounts in the plastics, chemicals, and printing industries for multi-billion dollar Fortune 500 companies.

We achieved great success because (A) I had smart and ambitious people working with me who were never satisfied with the status quo; we pushed one another very hard and (B) this sounds counter-intuitive, but my background in non-profit was the best secret weapon you could imagine.

The virtues I learned in Pittsburgh’s non-profit community served me extremely well in New York: innovation, creativity, collaboration.  Look at this way, if you’ve spent your entire career working for large companies or in one industry then the all-too-human tendency is to stick with the tried and true, be it in business development, branding, or your external-facing communications.

So if anything I brought a different world view and drastically different set of skill-sets than those large industrial clients were used to seeing. And it worked out very well.

That sounds like a difficult transition?

The difference between promoting a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to pushing performance additives for transportation coatings (what civilians call “Car Paint”) isn’t as much of a stretch as you’d think —  Good PR is Good PR. Develop a strong value proposition, make sure you’re telling a good story, and get the word out in a timely fashion to the right people in cost-effective and efficacious ways.

And I don’t need to tell you both that the Social, Local, Mobile era provides opportunities and challenges for clients in lots of different spaces.

So why the return to Pittsburgh? And why Shift?

It was seeing all the coverage of that big duck. I wanted in on the duck action (laughter).

It’s pretty simple: I do my best work when I work with smart people who have a passion for this business. I’m referring to both of you of course. And while you are both very nice, you also have edge. As an entrepreneur myself,  I know what it takes to start a business and run a small business. It’s exhilarating, terrifying, and gratifying…and all before noon.

Two, you put the clients first. This is the key thing for me. As entrepreneurs and as veterans of the non-profit space you both have the experience and the feel for the challenges they face. And as a result Shift brings all that to bear on how to best strategize and execute on their behalf. You’ve lived it and it’s to their benefit.

But edge is important. It keeps you nimble and keeps you creative. It doesn’t mean you become “edgy” in interpersonal dealings. It is an awfully powerful furnace that keeps generating the heat of fresh thinking.

Won’t you miss New York — The Edge Capital?

I’m really going to miss my friends and neighbors. But I will be in and out of town depending on what sort of media coverage we need to generate in New York; I have many couches on which to surf.

But as within any small ecosystem here’s the one thing I won’t miss and why I’m so happy to be joining Shift: Client Focus.

Not to be Pollyanish about this, and indeed every agency publicly trumpets their clients, but I think the competitiveness for plum jobs in the NYC market breeds far too many agencies and agency people to focus on the wrong things. Too many are obsessed with producing work that gets them buzz and recognition but doesn’t truly address what the clients actually need to be successful. When your audience is other agency people the client is inevitably short-changed.

This business needs to be about developing the long-term relationships and producing the superior work that enables clients to meet their objectives. Too often I have found that it’s about furthering an individual’s professional aspirations. That borders on malpractice in my opinion.

What can our clients expect you to bring to Shift?

In the same way that my Pittsburgh non-profit experience benefited these enormous corporate entities, my expertise in communicating value across global supply chains equips me with a respect for the metrics, processes, and rigor required for client success.

My perspective is different, and I believe that adopting some corporate best practices will ultimately help our clients grow and meet their goals. I don’t judge a corporate path versus a non-profit path — both have value and both sectors have important lessons for each other. In that respect I’m sort of a translator between these two worlds.

I’m also obsessed with the power of the story. Every organization and every entrepreneur has a great story to tell — sometimes it’s pretty obvious (“This cures Halitosis!”) but it usually requires some digging and finesse. Get the story right, compellingly and consistently communicate it across the right channels to the right publics, and evaluate. Keep it simple and the clients benefit.

What are you most looking forward to?

Personally, it’s all about reconnecting with so many old friends and colleagues and members of the media — and not being one of just a few people dressed in black and gold on Steeler Sundays.

Professionally, I am thrilled to collaborate with the smart Shift People and start busting my ass on behalf of our clients. They count on us to deliver great value and results. That’s where my focus rightly is.

Welcome Tim! We are excited to have you on board.  You can email Tim at tim[@]shiftcollaborative.com.

The Right Marketing Mix

Marketing Strategy

by Sarah Mayer, Shift Principal

I think one of the hardest thing for companies to figure out is what amount of resources to devote to which marketing channels – what is the right marketing mix?  The answer to that quandary is relatively simple, although the strategies developed for them may be complex.  Begin by determining: what content do customers and prospective customers need to make a buying decision?  From there decide which channels make the most sense to deliver that information.  You will also need to be confident that your product and pricing are where they should be and get reacquainted with the 4 P’s of marketing – product, price, promotion and place.Marketing-Mix

Take your average small business owner, let’s say a auto repair shop.  They have for the most part probably driven leads by traditional methods – word of mouth, signage, print advertising, maybe radio or outdoor.  Well, these days word of mouth has turned social and people are making decisions based on what their friends and family recommend, how informative a website is, how easy it is to get and receive information online and whether or not the business has invested time in their social media.  So, the auto repair shop owner is now scratching his/her head about the lack of diversity they have in their marketing mix.

Coincidentally, we recently met with an auto repair shop owner who has been in business for over 20 years on a busy highway.  They have in their favor a great location, quality service to stand behind, competitive pricing and a large (yet aging) customer base.  Their biggest concern is that they are spending money on traditional methods like print advertising that just are not working any more.  They also have a very large customer database that they are not utilizing at all whatsoever!  In this case, we would recommend investing in a more content-rich website, increase social media presence, incorporate SEO and paid search, market to their database through mail and email, and develop a referral program to reward their loyal customers.  So, a diverse marketing mix, just like your financial advisor talks about!

There are no cookie-cutter marketing plans.  You have to do the work to get the strategy just right and have it actually work.

    • Find out everything about your current customers and your prospective customers.
    • Diversify your marketing channels in order to reach your targeted audience.
    • Be involved, engage either by listening and talking or just listening and then making changes based on what your customers want.

As we always do with our clients, measure results and then adjust as you go because marketing is always evolving.

Five Reasons to Attend Podcamp 2014

Five Reasons to Attend Podcamp 2014

Community SEO Social media

by Sarah Mayer

You may not be familiar with Podcamp, so let me start there.  Podcamp is by its own description is an ‘un-conference’ although it does have some of those familiar conference components. Podcamp in Pittsburgh has been around for eight years and while the conference was started around podcasting, it has evolved each year to add on more new media elements. I’ve attended Podcamp for the last three years and here are five reasons you need to go to Podcamp 2014.

  1. Education from real local people: yeah, it’s cool to glean tips from a big name in social media, but I’d much rather hear from someone in my own backyard who is approachable, accessible and understands my market.
  2. Relationship building: I’m about to admit something here on my company’s blog that may come as a shock to some, but I have a touch of social anxiety.  Going to new places, where I’ll have to start conversations and/or keep conversations going freaks me out a little. The first year I attended Podcamp, I don’t think I knew anyone there.  I pushed myself to sit near other people rather isolate myself in a row of empty chairs. People talked to me and then I talked back and thus began the start to long-lasting relationships. I walked in this year less sheepish, immediately seeing and greeting people that I know and work with on a regular basis because of Podcamp.
  3. Talent recruitment: We are a small company but from time to time we need to staff up for big projects.  Podcamp (as well as that year’s conference hashtag) is a great place to source talent for digital, writing and media relations roles.
  4. New and old:  there are always new elements, themes and sessions from different folks, but you can hear from the people that have been a part of Podcamp since its inception and are still involved. That mix of new and old gives attendees an authentic blend of education and information from various sources.
  5. Swag: come on it matters a bit. I love my Podcamp t-shirts.  I have three now and when I wear one out, inevitably someone asks me, “What’s Podcamp?” And I exuberantly tell them what it’s all about. That’s a moment that most marketers pray for – fans owning the brand and spreading the word for them.

One more thing that isn’t so much a reason to attend, but a reason to support the event is that Podcamp is volunteer run and the conference is free. They sell VIP registrations for $25 and there are sponsorships available too.

Have you been to Podcamp Pittsburgh? What are some of the reasons that you attend?

Morning in East Liberty

Morning in East Liberty


The morning started out like any other day – alarm goes off, shower, breakfast, etc.  But as I pulled into my parking spot and gathered up my computer bag, coffee mug and lunch, a song that I love came on the radio.  Rather than hurrying into work, I sat there and listened to the whole thing, enjoying the memories of where I was when I first heard it, what the song meant to me, and all the sentimental fondness that a song can bring out of you.

I was instantly transported into a pleasant frame of mind and at the same time acutely aware of everything going on around me. I work in East Liberty and the sites and sounds are prime for people watching. I’m usually amused, surprised and smiling most days during my walk to our offices in the Beauty Shoppe. The hustle and bustle is unique to this community and so different from typical 9-5 crowd you get in downtown. This community’s progress and fascinating people are my favorite part of having an office here.

Here’s how my 3 block walk went down

Outside of the parking lot, I see a man lurking innocently practically inside of a large, man-sized shrub.  He is smoking a cigarette and fumbling with his CD player.  The sweet smell of his cloves cigarette wafts through my nostrils as I crossed the street.

I look up and see multiple kodak moments, maybe Instagram moments to be current: (1)  a beautiful church on the corner with the just right light beaming down on its architectural features. (2) The corner featuring the Union Pig and Chicken sign with blue sky and perfectly formed clouds behind it (3) Cherry blossoms on a landscape mixed with present, past and future community amenities.

Then, I pass through a crowd of men, ranging from young to old, all hanging on the corner by the convenience store.  One asks me what time it is, another smiles and nods, another says, “hello there.”  Friendliness and warmth reaching out to me from sidewalk strangers.

A momentarily blip then takes place to interrupt all this bliss.  The woman in front of me lights a cigarette and discards her empty carton on the ground.  Record screeches to a halt in my head.  I kind of gasp, I consider picking it up. It drifts into the street, danger. I walk on.

Next, a car horn sounds in my direction and older gentleman dressed for Sunday driving waves hello.  I wave back.  The record plays on; my faith in humanity slightly restored.

As I step into my office building, I find myself repeating…Today, just be a good human.  The song playing in my car, by the way, was Today by the Smashing Pumpkins.

Measure ROI with Website Analytics

Measure ROI with Website Analytics

Marketing Strategy Measurement

Purchasing and pre-purchasing decisions happen online these days.  Businesses that want to compete, let alone stand out, need to be actively pursuing an online marketing strategy. More so, organizations need to have control of their website to make frequent content updates and analytics installed to measure those efforts.  And while technology, like running a website and analyzing traffic data, may seem daunting to some, it’s really pretty accessible these days.  Tools like Google Analytics have revolutionized monitoring what is happening on your website.

Website Analytics Snapshot


If you’re into data, then Google Analytics gives you more than enough data to sift through, but if you’re not so much into numbers and just want to see the basics of what is happening on your site then it’s accessible to you too.  Here are some key metrics to review:

  1. Users – this is the number of unduplicated visitors to your site over the time frame you specified (we recommend looking at a monthly view and comparing to that the prior month, but also to the same month last year when you have that much data).
  2. Bounce Rate – this is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left the site from their entrance page).  This can help you understand what pages have the highest bounce rate and give you insight on how to improve that page so that people stay and visit more pages on your site.
  3. Demographics Information – under this area, we like to look at the city metric as most of our business and prospects are in Pittsburgh, PA.  For a local business this metric can be interesting to review.
  4. Visitor Frequency – if you have a blog on your website, then your expectation may be that there is a high percentage of return visitors. So you should set a goal and measure that particular statistic against your expectation.
  5. Mobile Traffic – maybe you don’t have a responsive website and see via the analytics that a large portion of your traffic is entering your site on a mobile device.  This may convince you to make your site more responsive.
  6. Traffic Sources – The above five stats can all be found under the category “audience.”  Under traffic sources you can find data on which keywords are being used by visitors in the search engines, which search engines refer the most traffic and which websites refer you traffic.  It’s a very helpful section for identifying what is working with your social media marketing and search engine efforts.
  7. Social – this is a relatively new area in Google Analytics.  Here you can see which social media networks are sending you the most traffic, the metrics on a particular URL which was shared via social and any conversions that resulted.  If you are taking the time to produce unique content on your site and then leveraging those URLs in social media, this area is a key statistic on the effectiveness of your content.  You can create more than one version of your URL for posting in various social channels, thus tracking which channel is most effective for that piece of content.
  8. Content – in this area you can review the pages of your site that receive the most traffic. This can be especially helpful in evaluating the success of a new page or a content campaign.

These are just some of the basic metrics, but with a tool like Google Analytics there are many more layers . The bottom line is that by tracking some of these data points, an organization can measure their activities in social media and other  marketing efforts. After all, results are the end game.

So you want to start a blog, eh?

So you want to start a blog, eh?

Content Marketing

First of all, there are a few things you want to establish before you launch into anything.

  • What is the overall theme of the blog?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What do you hope to achieve with the blog?

Image credit to Kristina B http://www.flickr.com/photos/barnett/

1.       Choose a focus

Once you have the primary theme(s) in mind, it should be easy to pick a topic and write the first post. Within each post, you’ll lose the reader’s attention by covering too many topics at once.  Narrowing the focus on the blog is important for reader retention and establishing credibility on your subject matter. Remember: try to focus on one key idea – if you want to write about a variety of things, that’s great; use those as future blog ideas.

2.       Decide on goals

You may have clear goals already in mind.  If not, consider asking other bloggers what sorts of goals they are setting.   Some of those goals may include:  Positioning as a thought leader in a particular subject matter.  Increasing speaking engagements. Booking appointments with potential new clients.  Get more social media engagement and exposure.

Make sure the goals are specific.  If the primary goal is to book more appointments, but there is no link to the online appointment calendar in your post or on your blog page, well then, appointments are not going to be set.

Remember that there are many resources available, especially via various social media channels. For example, find ways to drive traffic to your website via LinkedIn here; a refreshing approach to getting new clients to find you can be found in this blog post; and don’t forget that blogging can be like many other social media channels – the more you connect, the more exposure you have. So make sure that you’re reading other peoples’ blogs, commenting, linking to them if they’re relevant to your material, etc.

3.       Remember, you are a thought leader

You know more about your field of expertise than the average person. That’s why you do what you do. Some of your potential followers may have an idea of what you’re talking about; some may say it might as well be Greek. If you start with an overview then become gradually more specific, it’ll be easier for your audience to follow than if you launch into tech-speak from the get go. You don’t want to lose your audience before they get through the opening remarks!

4.       Decide what platform you want to use to host your blog   

For some great choices, check out this website comparing 10 different hosting sites and what benefits each offers – so you can choose the best fit.  Choose a platform that is easy for you to learn, use , customize and consistently update.

5.       Make it visually interesting  

Sometimes, no matter what words you choose, the message won’t be received. But adding a picture or embedding a video (if it’s relevant) can keep the audience’s attention. These can be something simple taken at your office using your smartphone, or something you saw posted online that bears relevance to what you’re discussing. Also, if you’re discussing something like a brand or a business, link their website, Facebook page, Google+, or other relevant page to it.

Once you have the basics established, remember that you have the ability to make your blog anything you want it to be. Have as much fun as you’d like – your readers will likely appreciate a little personality being added into the mix!

What challenges do you or did you face in starting a blog?

Marketing Shifted. Now what…

Marketing Strategy

Due to the emergence of what most call new media (i.e. social media, blogging, video, online reviews, etc) marketing is shifting almost daily. Traditional marketing has gone digital.  Buying has gone social.  Experiences with new and current customers are happening online first before the real-world.  As a business, organization or professional it’s important to take a thoughtful look at the best way to adapt to all this evolution.

How to Shift Your Marketing

  • Reevaluate your marketing and communications PLAN – does your plan address new media channels?  If not, then it’s time to dust it off and study the channels where your target audience is hanging out. Or it might be time to create a new plan from scratch.
  • Devise realistic and measurable GOALS to fit your refreshed marketing and communications plan.  Goals keep you on track and accountable.  They help us define what is working and what is not.
  • Identify what TECHNOLOGY updates you will need to put in place – such as a responsive website, analytic tracking, creative assets, a content hub (blog/article area).
  • SHARE your goals and strategy.  Bringing employees, customers and partners into the fold, helps build a connection to the brand.  Those engaged audiences will want to bring in new customers for you.

Shift in business is inevitable.  How you respond to it, makes all the difference in the world.  We want to hear from you.  What’s the biggest shift your business has seen in the last year?