Have you ever tried to explain to someone what your organisation does? Only to be met with a bewildered, confused and slightly irritated look when the lucky person’s heard you out?
If the answer’s yes, then the first thing to say is don’t panic; it’s a common problem. Converting something complex into a sentence or two takes time; and it’s a bit of an art because you’re aiming to tug at heart strings as well as engaging people’s minds.
This post will help grow your confidence on what messages are and how to develop them so they stick.
Putting it very simply, a message is a clear, concise statement; or set of statements that describes a position, opinion or point of view. Messages form the bedrock of our communication. They’re the basic building blocks that are used to reach out to our target audience and persuade them to think or do something.
Three common organisational messages are the:
- Strap-line: short, snappy, captures what your organisation’s about and what you’re trying to achieve.
- Policy position statement: where your organisation stands on a certain issue. These often draw on extensive research, so it’s really important to cut out the jargon. People tend to zone out with statistics and arguments. So please be careful.
- Elevator pitch: what your organisation does in about 30 seconds. This puts a very positive spin on what you want to change – the kind of impact you want to make – how you change people’s lives for the better, for instance.
Here’s three simple steps to help you start developing your organisation’s messaging platform:
Step 1: Be clear about who you are, what you do and why.
It’s important to get this first step right because without mutual understanding there’s little chance of creating effective communication, campaign, fund-raising, media or public affairs strategies. A common challenge for some smaller non-profits is getting people within the organisation on the same page (trustees, volunteers, staff). With larger non-profits common challenges are sharing key messages between departments; and aligning internal and external communication.
Step 2: Start with your strapline
Have you ever noticed how it’s always much easier to waffle than be concise? A strapline forces you to condense down who you are, what you do and why in around seven to ten words. It’s the jewel in the crown. It helps people engage with what you do and what you want to achieve. So it’s a good place to start.
Step 3: Empower people to become effective messagers
Given the direction of communication (fast, real time) it’s important that everyone is involved in developing and promoting effective organisational messages. Let’s imagine you’re part of an organisation that’s starting a new campaign to change a piece of legislation. Imagine how much more effective – how much more impact it would make – if everyone in your organisation went home and talked about it (on and off line). All those people telling their friends and family about:
- The one big thing they want them to know about the new campaign.
- The reason why it’s important.
- What they could do to help.
- Why it’s important for them to do something now.
If you’ve found this interesting why not try a couple of things out. Doing something will help you embed what you’ve learnt:
- Look at some of your competitors’ straplines.
- Find a campaign that’s made you do something. Work out what values sit at the heart of its messaging. Putting it another way: what tugged at your heart strings?
If you’re interested in sharing some of your thoughts or discoveries, please do get in contact. I’d love to hear from you.