The Lab; Portnoy Media Group Blog

The Bletchley Circle


Editor Note: I find that good stories, no matter where I hear them, can function as inspiration for my next project. From time to time, I like to share a great one so you can share in the joy of the story too.

PBS has really been rolling out the red carpet for some great series lately. The recent Masterpiece Classic of Mr. Selfridge has been full of dynamic characters, social morays and plenty of questions regarding what’s next.

However their latest offering, The Bletchley Circle, is utterly fantastic! A great story of struggling characters. Code breaking ladies of WWII can’t disclose their code breaking skills and are viewed as less than simply because they’re women. Insult of insults! “I’m smart and female so I should get you a sandwich?” But they can’t shut off their talents. In spite of incredible odds, our heroine Susan starts to see a pattern in the recent deaths of several women around London. She reconvenes her old friends to see if they can get to the bottom of this and catch a killer.

I love this series for the intrigue and how the filmmakers talk about the characters. This past week PBS aired a Behind the Scenes featurette about the costume design of the characters. In the short, costume designer Anna Robbins talks about how they removed florals from the entire palette of the series and instead focused on geometric patterns and angular designs to reinforce the analytical mind of the heroine.

There are multiple villains in the series. Not only is a killer on the loose but because of the social conscience of the day, women shouldn’t be worrying about murders and especially about murder victims. Instead a post war Europe encouraged more conventional roles.

I can’t recommend the series enough and the title sequence is full of Enigma machines and other code breaking tools. Again, all angular to show the compartmentalization of the minds of the heroic troupe. Everything that we see on screen is reinforcing the story or the info we’re learning about our characters. Below is the trailer – check it out.

Check out the real world Bletchley Park headquarters



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Portnoy Media Group uses the influence of social networks to expand your organization's voice and tell your story. We connect people with your mission and enable your brand to be shared, discovered, and connected. Work with us as we empower your organization to dramatically extend your online presence and increase donations.

Talk of God, Talk of Science

We’re teaming up with The Ogilvie Institute to put on their conference about faith and science. Here’s the first teaser, we’ll be posting more about it in the next week.

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Celebrities and Non-Profits


This week I joined Pennsylvania’s finest Ken Mueller, Karolina Sivas and HuffPost Live host Jacob Soboroff for a candid conversation about non-profits and the use of celebrities. Check it out below.


PS. As a life long Celtics fan it’s funny that I was defending Kobe Bryant.



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A Nation At Risk: 30 Years Later



Here’s an example of a nonprofit putting together some timely rebuttal and furthering the conversation of education reform in our country.

Directed by Joe Portnoy (so I’m a little biased) , Lauren Aronson and Michelle Gininger


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The Telly’s – For Your Approval


Just submitted a few pieces of our woe from this past year to the 34th Annual Telly Awards. We won 2 last year, so we’re back for more this year!


Internet/Online Commercial – Not-for-profit

United Way of Greater L.A. – Workplace Hero

It was an incredible team effort and this campaign has really resonated with audiences. Including the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa (below)



Next up:

Internet/Online Video – Documentary

Frank – ArcLight Cinemas


This short began the Behind The Curtain Series and has really resonated with viewers.



Judging begins next week and as soon as we here, you can bet we’ll be posting it. In the meantime – Why aren’t we creating your next big campaign or art piece to build your brand? Let’s get started: email me @

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Dove Real Beauty Sketches

Are you creating media that elicits an emotional response? Something that is bigger than a product or a mission, something that will resonate or show truth?

Dove did an excellent job here.

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From the TED blog:

Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend — not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let’s change the way we think about changing the world.

Everything the donating public has been taught about giving is dysfunctional, says AIDS Ride founder Dan Pallotta. He aims to transform the way society thinks about charity and giving and change.


Why is the double standard so great?

Why is it ok for Amazon to be strategic but not the local homeless shelter or water charity?

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2 Stories

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Making the rounds this morning of the web, I’ve come across 2 videos of importance. One is profound and the other much less but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t entertaining.

The first, the more meaningful to life. The difference maker of today. The video that is well executed, incredible content matched with multiple styles of great visual content and animation is To This Day Project. This short by Shane Koyczan highlights his work and part of his life journey. It resonates because it’s true and it shows passion.


See more from Shane here 



The second is much less profound but it has a built in audience. The internet loves cats and they also love ninjas. So have them square off in a seemingly epic battle with some quick shots and great effects and you’ve got yourself a hit. The guys at Corridor Digital made this and check out their other great shorts (I’m a little partial to After DayZ)


So what do both videos have in common and how can they help you?

They focused on making sure their message was received by their targeted audience.

Give your audience what they want but not they way they want it. On one hand, the internet wants cats. And on the other, the internet wants ninjas. Put them together and you’ve got magic. To This Day showed a truth that we can all relate to – the underdog.

They had great shot composition.

One video was 8 minutes long and still I didn’t mind because it never droned. I wanted to know what happened to our narrator. The other shows miniature ninjas and requires the question, “How did they that?”.

Action steps

  • Make sure your next campaign has a direct audience.
  • Make the center of the campaign a truth that your audience can relate to.
  • Execute your story with excellence.
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Sales are Up!

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January was the best month of sales for The Non-Profit Narrative and all I can say is Thank You!

I’ve so appreciated the articles and recommendations from organizations and individuals talking about the book and helping non-profits tell better stories.

There’s a lot to sample – so check it out.

Read Chapter 1 by clicking here.

Or grab the audio version
(You can download these tracks for FREE!)

Grab the book on Amazon, iTunes, or Audible.


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Chief Kondua

Launched today is a story about Oxfam America’s latest campaign and I’m quoted in the story. A few weeks ago, I talked with Lindsay Hebert about the campaign. In the article I say some pretty strong things about Oxfam.

“I don’t know that this is making people ask questions. They’re telling me a fact, they’re not telling me part of a fact that makes me want to know more. I want to give you enough information that you’re asking questions, that you’re going to get a lean in.”

While I think it’s important to create great creative campaigns I think it’s also important not to throw stones at a bunch of people trying to help solve a world problem – that doesn’t help anything or anyone.

Truth is, I’m quoted correctly but I’d like to clarify or add to the story.

Oxfam’s latest campaign is built on a great premise – Our previous international views need to be edited and here are some examples of progress.

Educating your audience is a complex job. Turning a ship for a new heading or adjusting your course is also a tough, especially when that ship has raised millions and million for international relief.

In my interview, I questioned the use of billboards and how effective they would be to connect with donors and interested parties for the crucial “What’s next?” How would a few statements engage? My hope is that there would be some multi media or a short film. This short could do more in 60 seconds than 100 billboards.

The article really drives home the point of story as the basis for connection. It’s crucial for Non-profits, especially international nonprofits and NGO’s to tap into the common humanity that we share on both sides of the donation. Nonprofits have the best stories to tell and billboards don’t cut it alone. My suggestion would be to use billboards, bus panels and large posters as the first of many steps in a campaign. All of these pieces encouraging people to connect with them online, watch a short film, follow on Twitter, etc.

If you’re in DC, check out the billboards or visit the Oxfam America website and let me know what you think.


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