If a phone call roused you at 2 a.m. and the voice at the other end demanded you to explain your work in no more than three sentences, could you do it?
If you answered “no,” you need help.
Providing that help has been a passion of mine ever since a trip I made to the Midwest a few years ago to conduct media training with a nonprofit organization that does fantastic work but whose staff was at a loss to describe it in a crisp, compelling way.
We did mock TV interviews with eight staff members, including the executive director, and right near the end the “reporter” said: “We’re just about out of time. Is there anything you’d like to tell the viewers about your organization?”
Eight people gave eight different answers, and each was pretty “meh.”
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They talked about how old the group is, that it’s a “nonprofit, nonpartisan” organization, and the like. They recited laundry lists of what they do but nothing about why they do it.
At best, they were maybe informing people. They certainly weren’t inspiring anyone. I don’t mean to pick on anyone here. They were acting in a depressingly normal way.
What they needed — and you might, too — is what strategic communications specialists call a “message platform.”
You know your business or nonprofit inside out. But odds are you haven’t stepped back to look at your mission and vision from the viewpoint of an outsider, especially potential customers or donors. People like me don’t know as much as you do about what you do — and that’s a plus. We can see the forest while you focus on each tree.
To start the message platform development process, we ask a lot of questions. Our goal is to tease out your beliefs, motivations, and goals — not dictate them to you. Then we come back with concise statements to workshop with you until you have a set of talking points customized for the various audiences with which you deal. A good message platform also includes blanks that you and your staff fill in with personal anecdotes, examples, and stories.
We’ll push you to think hard about the “why” that often lies below the surface of your everyday thoughts but is more powerful than 100 “whats.” The “why” actually activates a different part of the brain — the part that motivates people to action.
A good message platform — just like a sturdy platform in the physical world — gives you a solid place on which to stand. And it puts everyone on your team on the same page, delivering messages that are not only persuasive, but also consistent. Once you’ve got a message platform you feel will work, we train you and your staff on how to use it. It can be awkward at first to answer with “why” when someone asked you about “what.” But when it’s mastered (it doesn’t take long), you’re honoring the great work you do by explaining it in the most effective terms.
Ready to get to work on your message platform? Contact us today.