If you got your staff or board together and asked them to write a few sentences about what your organization does, would you get a variety of different answers? You would if you don’t have a consistent set of messages to use.
Creating a message platform
Your first step is to create a message platform, which consists of a tagline,positioning statement, talking points, and an elevator pitch. Before you start, ask yourself:
What do you want to achieve?
Who is your target audience? You may need to cater different messages to different audiences.
What is important to them?
As you create your positioning statement and talking points, ask:
Who are you?
What you do?
How do you do it?
Why is it important?
What makes your organization unique?
What impact are you making on the people you serve and in the community?
Your messages should be clear and include a call to action. They should be conversational, so avoid using jargon. Most people respond better to a human interest story than to a lot of statistics.
If you have five different people writing for your organization, your messages shouldn’t look like they were written by five different people. Come up with a single voice and personality.
Using your key messages
Now that you have come up with a set of consistent messages, use them across channels – print, e-mail, website, and social media.
Instruct everyone in your organization
Go over your key messages with your staff, board, and other volunteers. As new people join your organization, include messaging in their orientation.
Put your key messages in your organization’s style guide. If you don’t have a style guide, I strongly recommend creating one. It’s a great tool to help you stay consistent, not only in messaging, but in writing style and design. Create a Style Guide for Your Organization
Get your board on board
It’s especially important to make sure that your board knows your message platform. Ideally, you want your board to be representing you the community. They might be meeting with a prospective funder or with the local chamber of commerce. But since board members are not part of the day to operations, they are not as exposed to your key messages. They need to be.
Everyone in your organization, no matter what they do, should be able to communicate your key messages, whether it’s part of their job or if they are having a casual conversation with a friend.
Stick with it
You need to choose messages that you are going to use for awhile. You can revisit your messaging periodically to see if it’s still relevant. For example, if you emphasize that your organization provides services to children under 12, and you just started serving teens, your messages should reflect that.
Don’t worry if you get bored with your messages. Your audience is getting information from a bunch of different sources besides you. Sometimes people need to see your message six to eight times before it sinks in.
If you think carefully about the messages you come up with, they should resonate with your audience for awhile.
Elevator pitch role play exercises
A great way to make sure everyone in your organization is consistent in their messaging is to do an elevator pitch role play exercise with your staff and board. An elevator pitch is a 30 second description of what your organization does. Elevator Pitches and Consistency in Messaging
Divide into small groups of three or four.
- Scenario one – You are at a conference and it’s five minutes until the keynote address. The person next to you asks you where you work. How do you respond?
- Scenario two – Your organization is holding a fundraising event. You are talking to an attendee who asks you to tell her/him more about what you do. How do you respond?
Come up with your own exercises and keep practicing!
Take some time to come up with a consistent set of messages and make sure everyone in your organization is using them.
Photo by Matt Hampel via Flickr