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9 Charlotte nonprofits get a marketing plan in just 25 hours

Peter Marco shows off key messages to Jacob's Ladder Exec. Dir. Steffi Travis and Communications Dir. Tovi Martin.

In good times or bad, non-profits are challenged just to keep services going, let alone tell the public about their good works. Recently, Charlotte PR firm Luquire George Andrews came up with a respose to this dilemma: 25 hours of straight-up, non-stop work to get several non-profits a marketing plan. WFAE's Simone Orendain attended the marathon and followed one non-profit as it went through the process. Jacob's Ladder needs a plan quick because it's on track to breaking a record for the number of people it serves. "Our agency focuses on helping unemployed and underemployed people find and keep living wage jobs. That's our mission statement," says Tovi Martin, communications director at Jacob's Ladder. She has high hopes in this first hour of the 25-hour marketing marathon. "In order to tell our story to donors and potential employers, media is going to be the most effective way to do that now. That's the nut we haven't been able to crack recently," she explains. Martin meets with the fresh-eyed team of Pete Marco, Brooks Luquire, Stacey McCray and Kathleen Foster. It's one o'clock and they know they're going to have to pace themselves. "Your media placement efforts, where were you successful, where have been successful most recently?" asks Marco. Martin answers, "Not particularly anywhere. We just don't have a good way to get to the media. Contact people changing all the time, when there's one person 20 hours a week it's hard to do just that and keep up with everything else. So much of our personnel time is committed to those clients. Luquire asks, "But you're not turning anybody away from it from any kind of criminal background or anything like that?..." Nearly 50 percent of Jacob's Ladder clients have a criminal background and 30 percent are homeless. As the day wears on the team bangs out ideas on the computer and talks through some of the benefits of hiring Jacob's Ladder clients. By 10:00 p.m. everyone is well-fed. The game of who on the staff of 45 will fall asleep first, begins. Brooks Luquire gives an update on the Jacob's Ladder project. The key messages are done and the team has some good fundraising ideas from the brain storm. The massage therapist arrives to pamper employees for free as they pull this all-nighter. But Luquire remains focused on the work. He says other fundraising ideas include holding an event where Jacob's Ladder clients are employed or auctioning ladders that have been turned into art pieces. It's noon the following day. No one on the Jacob's Ladder team slept. Luquire is now wearing glasses and there's a slight tiredness around everyone's eyes. But they're still very much focused as they unveil the final results to Jacob's Ladder Executive Director Steffi Travis and Communications Director Tovi Martin. Pete Marco reads the key messages. "Through their preparedness training and post-hired support system, Jacob's Ladder provides an investment in a better Charlotte by reducing unemployment, producing greater numbers of an independent, productive society and ultimately making our community safer," he reads. "Excellent, yes, that's true," replies Travis. Brooks Luquire presents the fundraising plans including an open house at Jacob's Ladder, which is located in the Plaza area, where lots of local businesses like to support good causes. Stacey McCray hands a current media contact list to Martin and tells her to form relationships with reporters. She says, "Finding the news hook and the news peg in stories they're already working or trends that have to do with unemployment and things you're trying to do to solve the problem. Maybe working some of those key messages into those stories they're already working on." The team also encourages them to find either a member of the media or a PR type to put on their board of directors. Travis and Martin receive a graphic template that will serve as a sort of electronic letterhead for all e-mailed communications. After the presentation Travis and Martin were very grateful. Martin is ready to try it all out. "We're excited about some of the tools they gave us that we can use tomorrow, in addition to some of the plans we can really begin to build on that are long term," says Martin. The Jacob's Ladder board retreat is this week and Travis is rearing to them this new marketing package.