Ever start on a comms campaign and your mind… goes blank? We’ve all been there. You know your nonprofit inside out but sometimes that intimate knowledge can be, well, too much of a good thing.
To create truly compelling content for your audiences–the kind they’ll actually want to act on–you first need to make sure your messages are consistent and persuasive. Enter: a message platform! It also happens to be a great way to structure a story or campaign.
Maybe creating a message platform strikes you as Strategic Communications 101– or maybe you’re wondering, what the heck is this, and do we need it? If it’s the latter: yes, you do. It’s essential for every nonprofit. And if you’re familiar with the concept but haven’t revisited it recently, creating a message platform is a useful exercise for even the most seasoned communicator.
Why We Message the Way We Do
The role of a message platform is to help your audiences understand not just how you operate, but why your work matters and what impact that work has. It answers the all-important question: “who cares?”
The last thing we want to do is overwhelm our audiences with everything we want them to know; they’ll be confused as to what you want them to do or why they should care. The idea is to create compelling messages that a) elevate what is most essential, and b) are easy to remember and repeat. Once that’s established, you can gradually delve deeper into detail.
The Four Essential Elements
Here are four elements that can work together to build a structure for your story or campaign. Think of them as sample language for telling your organization’s story.
- The Purpose Messages explain why your organization exists and outline the problem the organization is here to solve. These messages explain the purpose of your work and put it in a relevant, salient context that audiences can relate to and connect with.
- The Impact Messages explain what your organization offers, not in terms of services, but in terms of impact and results. These messages help audiences understand why the work of the organization matters. They outline the impact of the work and they begin to differentiate you from others operating in the same or related fields.
- The Approach Messages explain how your organization works and how it produces the results outlined in the impact messages. These messages offer a deeper understanding of how the organization is structured and how it functions, without getting too far into the details. The approach messages further differentiate your organization by offering a glimpse of how its program areas align and ladder up to your overall mission and vision.
- The Elevator Pitch is the short introduction you give to make a connection and pique interest in a new, uninitiated audience. The goal of the elevator pitch is to get people nodding and prompt the follow-up questions that grant you permission to stay in the conversation and continue to deliver your message.
Pick ‘n’ Mix
These messages are meant to be flexible: you’ll pick and choose the ones that work best for your particular campaign or moment. Think of them as bullet points to mix and match to help you make the most compelling case.
A few other tips:
- For any campaign, start with identifying the elements that any story of your organization absolutely must include.
- Keep your messages clear, simple (aim for a sentence each), and targeted to your audience. It’s worth spending the time to polish them because you’re going to be highlighting them continuously throughout any given campaign.
- You don’t have to use your messages word-for-word in your campaign. While you might use them verbatim in some instances, they’re really most useful to ensure that your organization is consistently on message–and that your team is on the same page.
Who Cares? No, Really, Figure Out Who Cares
To craft effective messaging, you need to know what motivates and inspires your audiences. Don’t know much about your audiences? Here’s a blog post that can help.