Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, teamworks communication management www.teamworkspr.com
We increasingly are involved in creating content for our nonprofit clients. They have great stories to tell and they are passionate about their work. As a result, they tend to want to be “involved” in the communication process. These organizations also have a variety of stakeholders – donors, board members, volunteers, staff – who also are dedicated to the cause and want to be involved.
The idiom, “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth” quickly becomes applicable. So many voices often muddy the waters and result in disjointed message. So, how do you preserve the writing process, limiting it to one or two creative wordsmiths to work their magic, while ensuring that everyone on the broader team feels involved and heard?
Recently, we embarked on a project to help a local nonprofit revamp its communication tools. The website, newsletter and marketing materials were a mix of catch phrases, taglines, and conflicting or outdated messages. The organization was willing to start with a clean slate, creating new messaging that will help it move forward in its next phase.
Instead of trying to schedule sit-downs with all the staff, the board, and key clients, we developed a survey using Survey Monkey. A dozen clear, concise questions allowed each respondent to share their thoughts about the organization. How did they view it? What did they think its focus should be? What three words would they use to describe their organization? The survey was shared with a list of 45 stakeholders. The response rate exceeded 50 percent and the answers made it crystal clear what our messaging should (and should not) be.
Drafting a new master messaging document that included an “elevator pitch,” key media messages, a revised mission statement and organization descriptors flowed naturally from the data we received. It also brought some “challenging” questions to the surface about previous messaging and positioning that we were able to address with the leadership team.
Our resulting communication “broth,” so to speak, proved tasty. The client noted, “I like the feeling I got when reading it. You seem to have captured a precise, yet broader spectrum of who we are and what we offer.”
Our job as communicators and writers is not to tell organizations who they are. Rather, it is to guide them through the process of recognizing who they are, and then to help them articulate it. Writing doesn’t have to be a group process as long as stakeholders feel their input is heard and valued.