RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING IN A NON-PROFIT WORLD
Audience engagement has been a hallmark of Mark Weber’s leadership of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation – whether that audience is donors, grantees, the general public, or any combination of these.
Print materials, speakers’ bureau, local media, e-mail newsletters, social media … these are all ingredients in the “recipe” used to reach and engage people in the Community Foundation’s market area. But wait; there’s more!
Events and campaigns have also been imagined and implemented in order to raise awareness about the Foundation’s mission and work. These have included:
- EP Gives Week – A city-council-proclaimed weeks’ worth of activities, including community dialogue and learning workshops, culminating in the Community Foundation’s annual fund-raising gala, EP Gives.
- The EP Givers Award – A partnership with local media to draw attention to the work of non-profits and civic organizations that “give back to the community,” including nominations, newspaper profiles, and public voting that leads to a $2,000 prize.
- EP Gives 10,000 – A campaign to inspire local residents and businesses to pledge and contribute at least 10,000 hours of voluntary community service over a three-month period. (See my infographic showing how we expanded the EP Gives brand to all of these related activities.)
- Prairie Brewfest – A new fund- and friend-raiser combining craft beer sampling and entertainment as means to introduce the Community Foundation to a new demographic.
ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Mark A. Weber has used social media for years, both professionally and personally, to engage with audiences and position himself and his employer.
He hired Southwest Media’s first social-media manager, and greatly expanded the Eden Prairie Community Foundation social-media presence beyond the single channel it used up until 2013.
You can check out examples of his personal work and his work on behalf of the Eden Prairie Community Foundation by using the following links:
CREATING WEBSITES FROM THE GROUND UP
No stranger to using Joomla and WordPress to expand and operate websites, Mark A. Weber has also created websites from the ground up, including the website for the Eden Prairie Community Foundation’s fall event, the craft-beer festival known as Prairie Brewfest.
Check it out at this link: EPCF’s Prairie Brewfest website
Mark A. Weber also led the effort to redesign the Eden Prairie Community Foundation website in partnership with Cary Walski of GoCoPilot. You can see the results of that effort at www.epcommunityfoundation.org.
AN INFOGRAPHIC THAT TELLS A STORY
Challenged by the Eden Prairie Community Foundation’s Development Committee in 2015 to improve the organization’s annual Century Giving appeal, Mark A. Weber paired with graphic design Dorothea Rossmeisl to create a quick-read infographic that conveyed the organization’s growth story:
INNOVATION IS IN MARK WEBER’S DNA
Under Mark Weber’s leadership, Southwest News Media has been at the cutting edge of media innovation. Here are some examples:
Strategic Plan – The organization, concurrent with Mark Weber’s promotion to general manager in 2004, went through its first strategic planning process with consulting help from RSM McGladrey, Inc. This process of many months culminated in an aggressive strategic plan able to serve Southwest and its approximately 50 employees for years to come.
Innovation Challenge – Interested in sparking more creativity in newsgathering and news design, Mark Weber in 2010 held the company’s first Innovation Challenge. Competing for a prize, editorial staffers were divided into teams and asked to create new and interesting ways to present news in the print editions. Editors from a sister division were brought in to the judge the competition, which resulted in several new ideas that were successfully implemented in the newspapers, including the News Tracker timeline you see here. The project was recognized in the June 2010 issue of Suburban Publisher, a newspaper trade magazine with national circulation.
Social Media – An aggressive foray into social media was launched under Mark Weber’s watch, and he developed and wrote a social-media policy to guide company employees in their work. As a result of that effort, the company’s products as of June 2013 had 13,692 Twitter followers and 7,210 Facebook likes, increases of 157 percent and 90 percent, respectively, over the previous 18 months.
Digital Tools – Southwest has been one of the most progressive community news operations in Minnesota in terms of investing in and developing digital products, including niche websites, a digital advertising agency, new technology such as online pay meters, and more. Much of this emphasis is focused on transforming the business in light of industry-wide declines in readership and advertising for traditional projects such as newspapers.
HOW TO COOK A DELICIOUS E-MAIL NEWSLETTER
It’s a challenge to write a great e-mail newsletter when it’s sent to a general audience with wide-ranging interest in and allegiance to your organization.
So Mark A. Weber came up with a recipe to guide content.
The result is an entertaining newsletter that serves many of the organization’s important purposes.
You can see the recipe at https://www.scribd.com/doc/257231833/Recipe-for-EPCF-Email-Newsletters
SAMPLES OF MARK A. WEBER’S JOURNALISM
Mark A. Weber has been writing and photographing interesting subjects for newspapers and magazines his entire adult life. Here are some recent samples from Edible Twin Cities, the local- and sustainable-food magazine he published from May 2011 through July 2013:
Cover story on grass-fed beef – This was the cover story for the March-April 2012 issue of Edible Twin Cities, under the headline “Grass-Fed Beef: Greener Pastures Ahead?” All of the writing and photography, including the magazine cover, were done by Mark A. Weber. See it at http://bit.ly/19P3Z6s
Megan O’Hara interview – This Q-and-A and the accompanying photograph in the September-October 2012 Edible Twin Cities focused on an activist in the Minneapolis local-food community: Megan O’Hara, wife of then-Mayor R.T. Rybak. See it at https://www.scribd.com/doc/257231833/Recipe-for-EPCF-Email-Newslettershttp://bit.ly/16K6p4t
Bossy Acres profile – A two-woman, upstart farming business named Bossy Acres was the focus of this article and photos in the March-April 2013 edition of Edible Twin Cities. See it at http://bit.ly/12hdTsl
A NEWS PRODUCT ‘RE-IMAGINED’
Mark Weber successfully directed a 2012-2013 to “re-imagine” the 39-year-old Eden Prairie News weekly community newspaper.
The challenge of this project was to re-position the broadsheet-sized print product in a crowded and competitive Eden Prairie media market. The Eden Prairie News, with Mark Weber as publisher, accomplished this by revisiting its news coverage priorities and reformatting the newspaper to a new “compact” size that would stand out and be more convenient for readers to hold and use.
In addition, the newspaper staff used this opportunity to launch a number of innovative news features in order to further engage readers.
Many of the ideas for this project were taken from the recently reformatted Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch newspaper, with Mark Weber working with the Dispatch staff. One of the innovative ways the Eden Prairie News communicated the changes with readers is to create a special website – www.DesignedForEP.com – that explained the changes and why they were being made.
The “new” Eden Prairie News debuted June 6, 2013.
A recent example of Mark Weber’s pro-bono work in communications is the creation of a detailed Communications Plan for the Eden Prairie A.M. Rotary Club’s largest fund-raiser, the “Vino Classico” wine-tasting. You can see the communications plan at
SPECIAL PROJECT: THE EDIBLE COOKBOOK
“Edible Twin Cities: The Cookbook” debuted in May 2013 to further extend the Edible brand in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. The lovely, 166-page cookbook contains about 100 recipes and profiles of major players in the Twin Cities local-food community.
Edible Communities approached Edible Twin Cities Publisher Mark Weber and Editor Angelo Gentile about the cookbook idea in late 2011, and soon they were collecting more than 100 recipes from local chefs, farmers, food producers, and local-food activists, and writing profiles of some of those same folks.
The cookbook hit the bookstores in spring 2013 after a lengthy series of writes, edits, photography sessions, proofs, and more. In its review of the cookbook, the alternative newspaper City Pages said, “… the wide array of recipes from those who know Minnesota’s food systems best has earned a place on our kitchen shelf.”
The book is now available at Barnes & Noble bookstores and online. (You can see my Thinglink image of the book at http://www.thinglink.com/scene/404279070688280578.)
SUCCESSFULLY OPERATING NICHE MAGAZINES
With Mark Weber at the helm, Southwest News Media greatly increased its audience by diving into niche publications, including Savvy and Edible Twin Cities magazines.
Savvy magazine was launched in spring 2010 after operating as a website for about a year. The monthly magazine focuses on women throughout the Twin Cities, but especially the southwest metro area, and it uses special events and original content to engage this audience on topics they consider important.
You can see examples of that content at www.savvy.mn
Edible Twin Cities was acquired by Southwest News Media in May 2011. Its focus is the local, sustainable food community in the Twin Cities area – farmers, chefs, food producers, home cooks, food co-ops, farmers’ markets, food activists, and more.
The magazine, which was increased in frequency to six times per year starting in 2012, is part of the Edible Communities family, with more than 70 titles nationwide. But marketing of the local title largely fell to Publisher Mark Weber, Editor Angelo Gentile, and Sales Specialist Jeanne Reiland.
They have successfully expanded the magazine’s brand with a heavy emphasis on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest) and special events (a brewery tour, sponsorship of Arboretum food events, and more).
More information about Edible Twin Cities can be found at www.edibletwincities.com.
POSTCARD BOOKS EXPAND PRODUCT LINE
The pictorial histories of Carver County and Scott County were brought to life in two postcard books published by Southwest News Media, under the direction of Mark Weber, in 2009 and 2010.
Southwest initiated the projects in order to add revenue and expand the Southwest brand to book publishing.
The Carver County Historical Society and Scott County Historical Society were instrumental in helping complete the projects. In exchange for credit in the books and sample copies, the historical societies provided free access to their postcard archives and helped verify information used in postcard captions. In a classic example of reader engagement, area residents were also invited to submit historic postcards for publication in the book, in exchange for a contributor’s credit and a free book copy.
The books are examples of how to publish great content with limited manpower and budget. Only three or four staffers were tapped to complete the projects. Printing was done at a company-owned plant, Crow River Printing. (See an Thinglink image of the postcard books at http://www.thinglink.com/scene/407912601159204864.)