How You Can Break Through the Noise


This post is included in the March 2015 Nonprofit Blog Carnival  How Nonprofits Can Break Through the Noise

You have a message you want to send. Easy enough, right?  But today people are barraged with information coming at them from all different directions.

How can you stand out and get your audience’s attention?

What do you want to achieve

A popular discussion on LinkedIn over the last couple of months asked the question “When you write a communication what’s the first thing you consider?”  Some of the responses included outcome, audience, and message.  These are all important, but I think outcome is the first thing to consider.

What do you want to achieve, or what’s your call to action?  Do you want someone to donate, volunteer, attend an event, or are you sharing an update?  Make sure that’s clear and don’t muddle your messages with more than one call to action.

Choose the right audience

You’ll always have more luck with people who know you and are interested in your work.  Past donors will be more likely to respond to your appeal than people on a mailing list you purchased.

You also need to know your audience. Think about what types of messages they’ll respond to.  You may need to write different messages to different groups.

You only have a few seconds

Create a strong email headline or envelope teaser to get your message read in the first place.  You only have a few seconds to get noticed.

Instead of something boring like March 2015 Newsletter, entice your donors with Find out how you helped Jason learn to read.

Create a strong message

Once someone has opened your letter or email, reward them with a good message. Be sure it’s clear, conversational, and well written.

Think carefully about your message.  Be donor/audience centered.  Share success stories and show your donors how they’re helping you make a difference.

Make it easy to read

Make your message easy to read and scan. Don’t squish together a bunch of long paragraphs in 10-point font. Use at least a 12-point font and break up the text with lots of white space. Remember, most people aren’t going to read your message word for word.

Short and visual is the way to go.  Instead of a phonebook annual report, create a two to four page report with photos and infographics instead.

Be mobile friendly, too.

Use the right channels

The best channels to use will be different for each organization. Ask your donors which ones they use the most.  Often it will be more than one.

Don’t give up on direct mail. Your appeal letter or event invitation is more likely to be seen if you mail it.  You can always follow up with email and social media.

Consistency is key

All your messages and materials, both electronic and print, should have a consistent look.  You want your donors to recognize your brand and see you as a reputable source.

Be known but don’t be annoying

Don’t worry about communicating too often.  Most likely you’re not communicating enough.  People are deluged with email and social media and may miss your message the first time you send it.  You often need to send messages such as appeals and event invitations more than once.

If you can create clear, strong messages for the right audience, you should be able to break through the noise.

Photo by Nicki Dugan Pogue

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