What was the message again? How to create a sticky message.

06b6abaa90422778ddd37f485f1ef1b2Public Affairs tip: Spend time getting your messaging right so it connects with people’s emotions.

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.

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Creating social change: the power of optimism

optimismPublic affairs tip: Talk to your values not your feelings.

Welcome to the third and final instalment of this series. At the end of this post you’ll find a comprehensive Creative Public Affairs guide that explores how to engage effectively with secondary schools.

One of the joys of getting older is that you pick up a few useful insights.One of the biggies is learning that staying optimist and inspired helps keep you motivated .

Here’s some tip on how to promote a positive mind-set. Why not try out a few and tell me how you get on. I’d love to know.

  • Feed your personal energy. Stay inspired.
  • Repeat after me: Change is possible.
  • Talk to your values rather than your feelings. It helps you and others to engage with what really matters.
  • Always keep your destination in mind.
  • Keep reminding yourself that people can do great things together especially if you make the messages personal. Focus on people’s everyday concerns and interests.
  • Consistently talk about what you do and why you’re doing it. Again concentrate on positive messages that concentrate on action, impact, effectiveness, outcomes and benefits. Clock what people are paying attention to. There’s your hook!
  • Share your successes eg announce when you’ve arrived at one of your milestones.
  • Choose how you want to be seen. How are you communicating your project’s identity? Are you going to invite opinion/feedback on how things are going? Will you be promoting your work internally in newsletters, bulletins and social media?
  • Seek local news coverage when success happens.
  • Help other people understand how they can get involved in the work you’re doing and how they can make a difference in their local communities.
  • Finally, never give up hope.

After all: “What matters most is that we learn from living.” (Doris Lessing)

I hope you enjoy the Guide: May 2014 VOLUNTARY SECTOR GUIDE How to effectively engage with secondary schools.

Good luck! I’m always happy to promote good stories.

If you need any help on communication, lobbying, campaigning and working with the media, please get in touch.

 

 

 

How to make joined-up working work well: a nifty idea

how to create successful partnershipsOne thing I love about being a public affairs professional is talking to loads of different people and picking up inspiring success stories; then sharing them.

Looking back on 2013, The Homework Club – set up by Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) and The Abbey School struck me as a nifty idea THAT WORKS. It began in October 2012 and:

  • Supports children and young people (7 to 18) from refugee families from neighbouring schools to do their English, Maths and Science homework.
  • It runs between October and April – twice a week – Tuesday and Wednesday between 4pm and 5.15pm.
  • It has room for 45 children/young people
  • Most attend twice a week.
  • RRSG select the children and young people who need help with their homework.
  • The project co-ordinator at The Abbey School selects the “tutors” from their upper and lower sixth form.
  • Abbey teachers supervise the sessions with RRSG representatives on hand.

RRSG’s story: “What prompted us to work with The Abbey School was that we were getting a lot of parents coming to the centre saying they’d needed some help for their children with their school work. They didn’t have the reading and writing skills. As well as improving educational performance amongst children of refugees and asylum seekers, we wanted to expand their career and higher education aspirations; increase their self-esteem and confidence; and engage refugee parents with their childrens’ learning. (Nina Lugor, Casework Manager, RRSG)

 The school’s story: “What prompted us to work with RRSG a few years ago was that I recognised that our girls’ general knowledge about the world could be a little better; and that there was a lot of negative refugee press stories going around at the time. Initially RRSG accompanied a refugee to tell his story. It was very powerful for all of us. We extended the relationship with RRSG to assembly talks; and Refugee Week activities. We thought the homework club would be mutually beneficial and it was. The student tutors got a kick out of making a difference, seeing someone learn. It also helped them with their personal statements for university; and the International Baccalaureate (IB). The home work club is a cheap, easy and practical way of making a difference. The model could easily be transferred to other schools, perhaps one day a week with one school staff member co-ordinating it. There’s no cost involved apart form the staff time (which three of us gladly volunteer). For me, I’m particularly glad at the success the homework club has had in promoting community cohesion and raising awareness of global issues.” (Julia Turkington, Director of Enrichment & Head of English and History, The Abbey School).

If you haven’t chosen your Christmas or local charity yet, please do donate to RRSG which does some fabulous work by visiting local giving. 

If you’ve enjoyed this post, then please do add a comment; drop me a line at sofija@creativepublicaffairs.com; give us a call/text me on 07966 369579. I’d love to hear about your success stories working with secondary schools.  Seize the day!

How to create powerful key messages

how to create powerful key messagesKey messages capture the essence of something that you want to communicate. They’re bits of information that people/organisations want their target audiences to know. They articulate what you do, what you believe in and how your work benefits people’s lives, the planet. . .

Here’s a couple of key messages to chew on:

“The melting Arctic is under threat from oil drilling, industrial fishing and conflict. You can Save The Arctic.” Greenpeace 

“Speaking openly about our mental health is an essential element in breaking down the stigma surrounding it.” Rethink 

Key messages are normally sprinkled into communications – website pages, newspaper articles, press releases, presentations, media interviews, MP meetings etc.

When creating strong key messages for your public affairs and media work remember the 10 steps:

  1. Short and simple – no more than a couple of sentences.
  2. Easy to understand.
  3. Conversational and is easy to say aloud.
  4. Jargon and acronym free.
  5. Has emotional punch.
  6. Captures the spirit of what you want to achieve.
  7. Uses a tone that will connect with your audience.
  8. Expresses your brand.
  9. Focuses on one broad idea.
  10. Is easy for people to remember.

So time to get out there. As Amelia Earhart once said: “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” 

If you liked this blog then you might find these helpful too:

Key message development 

How to make your key messages interesting 

Good luck with your messaging. If you need any help just give us a call on 07966 369579 or contact me @businesses4 good or sofija@ creative public affairs.

People’s stories: passion lives here

yellow brick roadOne of the key tasks of a public affairs professional is to create content which is then communicated to engage people with what organisations do and what they believe in. We do this by:

  • Commissioning new research

  • Identifying an interesting statistic

  • Developing some key messages

  • Enlisting a “celebrity” or an “expert” and

  • Composing case studies/human stories

Stories can be collected in a structured or unstructured way. With the first you’re collecting information from a prescribed list of questions. For instance, you might be collecting case studies to support an awareness campaign so you want the story to speak to that campaign.

With unstructured story collection you’ve chucked the questions out of the window. You’re open to what might emerge. One benefit of this approach is that it enables people to talk to their story. It can also produce some helpful insights and shape a story that – perhaps – you never knew existed.

If you want to know more about how to tell a great story why not click here. Includes a video by Isobel Allende’s (activist, feminist, writer).

I hope you found this post helpful. Please do leave a comment or question; and follow me @businesses4good if you want tips on how to communicate, campaign and lobby more effectively.

Effective e-mails: 6 useful tips

email meContacting influential people – whether they’re newspaper editors or MPs – can be a little like walking a tightrope. You know they’re busy people so you don’t want to hassle them unnecessarily; but you  really want to engage them with your latest news, ideas, campaign . . .

Here’s some strategies that have worked for me:

  • Do your research. Do you know someone who knows them? Perhaps they can give you an insight into the editor’s future scheduling; or an issue that’s keeping the MP awake at night.
  • Keep the e-mail short, simple and straight to the point. 
  • Have these three key sentences ready: an introduction proving that you know something about the person; why you’re contacting them; and what your idea, offer or question is.
  • Include your URL in signature. Make it easy for people to contact you.
  • Be realistic and generous. Thank them in advance for any help they can offer. If you don’t get a response, don’t take it personally. Follow-up though.
  • Write short, descriptive subject lines that give the reader a reason to open up. So you really need to know your audience. What’s important to them at the moment?

If you want to know more:

How to email important people

Best practice in writing email subject lines

Perfect subject lines

Do you have an email tip to share? Please do add a comment; and why not follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

 

How to create good social policy: 10 tips

adopt a policy

1.  Be realistic. We’d all like to have a magic wand but only the fairy queen has one.

2.  Be clear about your outcomes. An outcome is not the activity itself (serving lunch to a group of older people who currently live at home) but the impact it has on their lives (it might increase their confidence eg ). 

3.  Be aware outcomes come in three shapes:

Individual: Frank feels much more confident.

Service level: 10 people are able to stay independent at home.

Strategic: More people can live the life they want.

4.  Be rigorous about how you’re going to measure success.

5.  Be careful to get buy-in from all relevant departments.

6.  Be open. You might have to change your mind.

7.  Be respectful of evidence. Experiment. Do a pilot.

8.  Be clear about who’s meant to be doing what.

9.  Be sure to encourage constructive feedback from all staff.

10.Be honest. Will this really make people’s lives better?

If you want to know more about outcomes-based policy development helpful reads are:

NCVO’s Measuring and Commissioning Outcomes and Social Value and The experience of the use of outcomes-based commissioning in Camden.

Hope this has been useful. Why not give me a shout if there’s a policy issue that’s keeping you awake at night. Please follow me on twitter @businesses4good.