September 21, 2017
 
Influence the Conversations that Help Nonprofits Thrive

By Amy Perry

Amy Perry
To get their marketing messages heard, nonprofits need to participate in and influence the dialogues people are having about their organizations.

Effectively influencing the conversation starts by defining your brand. In the nonprofit world, your brand is your promise of value, and it’s measured by how well that value meets your audiences’ expectations.

Brand is how we separate ourselves and communicate our differences. This is why nonprofits must keep brand messages authentic by being laser-focused on the issues that matter and by continually reminding people why they care and why they have chosen to give, work, or get involved in your cause or organization.

Engaging Customers in Conversation

When you engage in conversations you stop calling the people who interact with your organization donors, constituents, consumers, or, worst of all, persons. You start thinking of them as people. The brands that insult us are those that lump us into a category and are therefore only focused on themselves.

Dialogues allow you to think past the marketing goals and think about life, society, and the cultures that make up your audiences. And they allow you to pay attention to the quality of people’s lives, understand what motivates them, and, as a result, play a meaningful role.

Eight ways to Influence the Conversation

1. Relationships with brands are personal.
So make all of your communications just as personal. Organizations that understand the importance of being focused on people know how important it is for audience members to be thought of as individuals.

2. Don’t let your marketing and communications goals overshadow what your audiences want to hear.
Understanding your audiences is central to understanding how and where to communicate with them. You must have an active presence on social media sites to determine when and where your various constituents are talking. Consistently communicate. Share interesting, high-quality content regularly. Your audience will view you as a reliable source and will come back and engage repeatedly.

3. Remember your roots.
Reach back into why you got involved in your organizations in the first place. Your heartstrings are rooted in the mission.

4. Lead with a clear purpose.
Be sure your communication has a clear purpose. Your mission is at the core of your messages when articulating the value you bring to people’s lives.

5. Get rid of the jargon when interacting with those who care.
Jargon alienates people. When you use language that is not directed at them, people lose interest. It eliminates the opportunity to connect with those who may not be familiar with your organization. And, it destroys the compelling part of the story.

6. Don’t make your audiences work to get to the point of your message.
In all your communications, figure out what you want to say and distill it. If you don’t have the time or manpower to create a key messaging document that would inform your communications, hire someone to create it for you. Whatever you pay, it will return 10-fold. Good writing is hard work. Do the work or get it done and use it.

7. Tell your stories.
Stories bring your brand and its values to life. When you tell a story it becomes part of who you are. It explains something about you that you can share with others. The same is true for brands, especially nonprofits. You already have the emotional factor built in.

8. Listen to your audiences’ stories.
Nowhere will you find more compelling information than in the heartfelt, timely, disappointing, inspiring, tragic, or critical stories told by your varied audience. Take advantage of this treasure trove of information and incorporate it into your communications.

Engaging in the right conversations helps to strengthen your brand. Without the right emotional connections—nourished by conversations—you can’t get people to care, and caring is the reason they’ll support your nonprofit.

Amy L. Perry is a brand and communications strategist who works with nonprofit and educational institutions to sharpen and articulate their brands. Contact her at amy@amylperry.com or on the web at www.amylperry.com.

July 2011

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