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How to create brand advocates through CSR

August 30, 2016 | by Vicki Bohlsen

There are a myriad of ways for companies to participate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from directly supporting the community, to creating unique and health-focused working environments, all the way to something as simple as being transparent about practices – both internally and externally. Chances are your organization is doing something positive in the realm of CSR and you just haven’t realized it yet. Once you discover that great thing you’re doing, the next step is to figure out how to share that message with others.

Part three of our Power Play workshop series focused on turning those positive CSR efforts into a force for creating advocates, brand champions and rabid fans. For example, you’re probably familiar with Lush’s recyclable packaging and fight against animal testing or Whole Foods’ emphasis on local sourcing for products and donations to food shelters. Then of course there’s local group American College of Education who is an avid supporter of Teacher’s Treasures, who both work hard to improve the current state of education in the United States.

Stop and think – how did you know these things? How did those wonderful endeavors happening behind the products become standard knowledge for consumers even outside of their main audience?

There are several ways of communicating your CSR story to a broader audience, so we invited four of Bohlsen Group’s experts from different backgrounds to share their insights during out event. The audience during this most recent Power Play workshop definitely put our experts to the test with some great questions. While the full Q&A would be quite lengthy, here are some key takeaways to inspire you toward speaking about your CSR endeavors:

Heidi Harmon Bohlsen GroupHeidi Harmon on Media Relations

A lot of companies are afraid they will be seen as bragging if they tell the media about the cool things they’re doing. Sometimes a press release is a scary thing to put out there, however, if you do it in the right way, it allows the media to do the bragging for you. There might be a potential client or vendor who finds they want to work with you because of what they read in a press release or feature article on your company. In this way, media relations can be a more authentic way of generating your fan base.

Mandy Bray Headshot 250x250 2Mandy Bray on Content Marketing

Remember the old adage, “Facts tell, but stories sell?” When creating content around your CSR program, always make the extra effort to put stories and people at the center of your campaign, above and beyond listing your accomplishments. People buy from people, not brands, and when your story is told from the mouths of enthused stakeholders – whether employees, customers, or partners – you’ll generate a fan for life and avoid that sense of bragging.

Muriel Cross Bohlsen GroupMuriel Cross on Social Media

Get your employees and internal audience to be your own brand ambassadors and share your social content from their own accounts. When we became B Corp certified we were all aware of what was happening beforehand and were as excited about it as our president Vicki Bohlsen was. That meant once the announcement went out, we were all talking about it from our own accounts, and to this day we still share content related to the B Corp practices i.e. Bohlsen’s Best blog posts. Social media is a direct pipeline to a potentially large untapped audience. 

Spencer HotzSpencer Hotz on Strategic Planning

Do your employees understand your CSR endeavors? Is your message consistent across social platforms? Are the focal points in your content pieces the same as the ones in your press release? Where is your main audience finding you? Planning how to participate in CSR is just as important as planning how to talk about it. You should create a dedicated internal team to work on key messaging, keep an eye out for strong ambassador stories and help ensure that your whole organization is consistent when sharing your story.



Hendricks County Community Foundation Turns Over a New Leaf

August 25, 2016 | by Kerry Barmann

To mark 20 years of helping Hendricks County residents support local causes, the Hendricks County Community Foundation (HCCF) undertook a rebranding project. They didn’t want change for the sake of change, rather they saw this as an opportunity to advance a piece of their most recent strategic plan: to increase awareness of the organization and the impacts they have in partnership with the people of Hendricks County.

They recognized that many people – including those who already share their time, talents and treasures with HCCF – couldn’t easily explain what they did. To this end, they engaged Bohlsen Group to do three key things:

  • Refresh their brand, incorporating an updated their logo and brand dimensions like a defined personality and voice.
  • Create a new website that conveys succinctly who they are, what they do and, most importantly, why it matters.
  • Provide general council on how to effectively roll out the new image.

To lay the groundwork for both the branding and the website, we first wanted to understand how the organization saw itself today and moving into the future. We also wanted to recognize how their supporters and the community saw HCCF.

We ultimately created and proposed two logo options: an evolution of their existing leaf design and a revolution that would reinvent their mark.

The revolution logo was rooted in storytelling. Because it was often challenging for their advocates to explain what they do, we created a tree to illustrate how a community foundation works:

  • Donors are the foundation of the organization. They are broad in their profiles and strong in their collective impact, with some leaving legacy gifts, others funding a specific need and many others who are able to make smaller gifts.
  • All of their constituents, including donors, advocates, staff, volunteers, board members, come together at the heart of the organization to feed HCCF’s mission.
  • Resources are directed back out in the way of grants, scholarships and organizational support. The variety of colors and sizes of the leaves represent the variety of the organizations and causes they impact as they reach into every corner of the county.

This logo resonated with them, as did the new tagline “Where Local Good Grows” and the brand personality that was put forth in the proposal.

From the logo, the website design was able to take shape. The color palate was carried forward and the tone and personality from the brand guide were used in rewriting the website content.

During this exercise, we worked collectively to preen pages that were no longer necessary. Having clear objectives, defined audiences and an understanding what each needed from the website helped us make efficient decisions on what to cut and what to leave.

In crafting the copy for the site, we were able to take an outside perspective, putting ourselves in the shoes of their core audience – a local resident who wants to make an impact on issues they care about and seeks a quality path to do so – allowing us to simplify often complex concepts in the process.

When it came to existing collateral, like most nonprofits, it didn’t make sense to throw out all of their letterhead, pens and other materials. Early on, when the decision to update the logo was made, we made recommendations on how to responsibly phase in the new look and voice. We worked with HCCF to identify what items would eventually need to be updated and when they would naturally be replaced. We prioritized and planned and they systematically began dropping the leaf and old color scheme, replacing it with the new tree and tagline.

To unveil the new identity, HCCF chose to launch the website in conjunction with the opening of their annual scholarship application window on August 1.

The website went live. The new logo was added to the building’s signage and their office door. Postcards baring the new logo were sent to every high school student in the county promoting the scholarship program. The switch was flipped.

Hendricks County Community Foundation is able to enter its third decade being seen as the organization where local good grows.

To view HCCF’s new look or learn more about their scholarships, please visit their website:


IN Light IN Festival: Celebrating 100 years of The Indianapolis Foundation

August 23, 2016 | by Jake Doll

Summer may be drawing to a close, but Indianapolis is holding nothing back as it continues to boast world-class entertainment and art.

While any local may point you in the direction of monuments, parks or museums, don’t miss the newest experience to make you #LoveIndy even more.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Indianapolis Foundation, join the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF), in partnership with Northern Lights MN, for the upcoming festival IN Light IN.

The event is a two-day experience, hosted on a nearly two-mile stretch along the downtown Indianapolis Canal and Walnut Street, a part of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. IN Light IN will feature artists, live performances of song and dance, filmography and more. All IN Light IN projects go LIVE at 8:52 p.m. and end at 1:02 a.m. on August 26 and 27.

The installations will allow patrons to become immersed in a world of dazzling, inspiring art focused on the beauty of light.

You will be able to physically walk under, through and among diverse creations. Projects will boast scale, beauty and technology to make this a one of a kind and never before seen experience in Indianapolis!

Don’t miss your opportunity to wander, dance or paddleboat through the evening on August 26 and 27, 2016. For a full list of artists and a sneak peek at the work that will be shown during the festival, visit

Can’t wait for IN Light IN? You can see Brooklyn-based artist Amanda Browder help launch the festival with a digital installation on the facade of the Indianapolis Power & Light building, located on Monument Circle. On select nights through August 27, you can view her work, “At Night We Light Up.”

Seeking to experience even more of what Indianapolis has to offer? Plan to Devour Downtown Indianapolis and then stroll along the Canal Walk for a perfect evening. You can even rent an illuminated paddleboat from Wheel Fun Rentals to enjoy the IN Light IN festival by water!

The countdown is on, make your plans now, and be sure to follow along as more details are announced via social media:

  • // CentralIndianaCommunityFoundation/
  • // cicfoundation
  • twitter // @CICFoundation
  • hashtag // #inlightin

Don’t forget to share your photos with us using the ‪#‎INLightIN hashtag. We can’t wait to see what you post!

Karen Edited 2

A Beer with Bohlsen’s Best: Karen Hurt

August 16, 2016 | by Vicki Bohlsen

Each month, we highlight one Bohlsen Group staff member who represents the best of our work and the culture here at Bohlsen Group and let you sit down for a virtual beer together. This month’s honoree is Account Executive Karen Hurt, who facilitates the work and communication between our nonprofit clients and our specialized leads, ensuring that goals are met.

I have had the opportunity to watch Karen grow and become an integral part of Bohlsen Group’s success pretty much from its inception. Karen interned in 2011 and was a stand-out!

After her internship ended, she moved to and worked in Chicago before moving back to Indy to join the team more than four years ago. Karen was hired as a publicist to work in our Author Publicity Services division. Soon after hiring Andrew Hayenga to run the nonprofit division, Karen moved into a nonprofit coordinating position that ultimately led to her most recent promotion to Account Executive, Nonprofit.

Today, she has a full platter of nonprofit client accounts that she leads. Her proficiency and professionalism in this area has helped showcase our expertise to current and future clients, which has helped grow our client roster. It has been a pleasure to watch her grow and excel over the years. She is no doubt a positive influence to us all.

When telling Andrew that I wanted his thoughts on my desire to name Karen the employee of the month, he had this to say:

“I wish that everyone on the team had the opportunity to work closely with Karen on a client account or a specific project. Given our work together in the early days of the nonprofit division, I likely understand her value to the company better than anyone, and I do wish everyone could be exposed to her kindness, professionalism and supportive nature. I know I look up to Karen as an example of how to be a great practitioner, service provider and teammate, as do others. She’s certainly deserving of the honor.”

Andrew couldn’t have said it better; Karen is very deserving, indeed. Thank you, Karen, for all your contributions to Bohlsen Group!

Favorite beer?

I’m usually drinking red wine, but from my brief time living in Chicago, I’ve gained an appreciation for Goose Island’s Sofie.

What’s your current obsession or inspiration?

I’m currently obsessed with paper planners. As someone working full-time, pursuing an MBA, and attempting to keep my life together, writing things down on paper and making it look pretty has been really helpful. I’m currently using a Day Designer by Whitney English and an Erin Condren Life Planner. Not only are they functional and gorgeous, but I love that both products represent companies started by women who saw a need, created a great product to fill it, and started a successful business. They both engage with their customers regularly online, too, which I love.

Favorite thing about working in the PR/Marketing industry?

I love that we have the ability to affect what people think about. Especially working with nonprofits, I think we’re really lucky to be able to direct people’s attention to some of the amazing people and organizations working to improve our city every day.

How do you know you’ve had a successful day? 

I love knowing we’ve made a client’s day easier! I feel like our team is an extension of our client’s team, so when we’re able to do something well that a client doesn’t have the capacity or ability to take on internally, and we have great results to show for it, we’ve all won.

What’s one nonprofit or cause that you are passionate about or volunteer for? 

I’ve volunteered for Girls Inc. since 2013, and I love the work they do. Girls still receive messages every day that it’s not cool or okay to be smart or pursue their dreams. Even with just an hour a week, I hope that when girls leave a Girls Inc. session, they know that they’re more than what others say about them, that pursuing their education is worth the effort, and that there’s a community rooting for them to be successful.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

“I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? Are busy doing.” Shonda Rhimes

What’s something that people are surprised to learn about you?

I am known for my general dislike of the outdoors, but I did take a Biology of Spiders class to fulfill my science requirement in college and loved it. It included finding specimens of 10 different types of spiders for the lab requirement, so I was out in the park, crawling behind walls, or in basements finding all kinds of spiders for my collection for a whole semester. Spiders are really interesting! And I’ll do just about anything to get a good grade.

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3 tips for successful social media customer service

August 11, 2016 | by Jordan Overton


Imagine this. You’ve shattered the screen of your smartphone and you have to purchase a new one. You take time out of your busy schedule – balancing work, errands, friendships and relationships – to drive to a shop where you can get it replaced. You’re already frustrated with the work week and now you have to drop several hundred dollars on a new phone. When you walk inside the store you’re assuming you’ll receive great customer service and that everything will go smoothly. You’ll have a new phone in no time!

But then you walk up to the counter, and you’re ignored. You wait five minutes and no one greets you. The store is busy, so you stand there for five more minutes, which turns into an additional ten, and you still haven’t received as much as a hello.

What’s your reaction?

Odds are you’re not too happy. Moving beyond the frustration, you may decide to move your business to a store where you feel valued.

Now imagine if this happened via Twitter. A shipment you were supposed to receive never arrived or a concert was canceled and you weren’t notified. You try to reach out via social media – because face it, that’s the world we live in now – and you’re ignored. You wait 30 minutes and don’t receive a response. Days go by and you hear nothing.

It’s not acceptable in person, so why would a brand think not responding would be an acceptable option on social media?

According to a recent study, 80 percent of brands believe they offer “superior” customer service. Yet only 8 percent of the customers believe that to be true. Obviously, that’s a huge gap, and that gap can result in the loss of business and can easily cause your company’s bottom line to bottom out.

With these three simple, yet effective, tips, social media managers and organizations can work to fix the issue of customer service online:

Show your customers you’re listening

It’s no longer an option to ignore customers on social media. Today, social media offers businesses the opportunity to create a loyal fan base in under 140 characters. Because of the potential social media has to build a business, brands have to listen to both their fans and their detractors at all times. They can demonstrate this by responding quickly to praise, as well as complaints. If one of your followers lets you know they had a great experience, respond and thank them for reaching out. If one of your followers had poor service, or feels like they’re not valued, respond and work to solve the issue. You can’t have the good without the bad, and you can’t choose to ignore criticism and solely accept the praise. This will come across as self-serving, and you will alienate your customers.

Be a human

Robots are cool, but no one wants to talk to one on social media. Your brand needs a personality, and that personality should be reflected in every single thing you do, including your social media posts. Personalize your responses and let the customers know you want to work together to solve the issue; don’t simply copy and paste from a script. Developing a process to address questions via social media can be great and save time in the long run, but don’t simply rely on template messages. While they could get the job done, they could also make the customer feel like their complaints aren’t actually being heard by anyone. And since 70 percent of the buying experience is based on how a person thinks they’re being treated, alienating a customer is just bad for business.

Follow through with results

Building a connection and showing your customers that you’re listening will mean absolutely nothing if you don’t deliver results. The interactions might have gone well, but if the problem doesn’t get fixed, the customer will still leave with a negative experience. Go the extra mile to help resolve the issue. This could require offline work and possible coordination with multiple departments, but it will satisfy the customer and build brand loyalty. For example, if someone has a bad experience at a local music festival, connect with that person and send them some kind of care package with a promise that you’ll do better the next time. Just think of what could happen when that person shares about their great interaction on social media. You will have successfully taken a negative and turned it into a positive for your brand.

Follow these tips, and you’ll begin to build loyal customers that will become brand advocates in no time!