How will you ever get to it all? With seemingly limitless channels available to nonprofit marketers to cultivate, your fundraising and engagement efforts now require developing messages for each medium. Email? Of course, but it’s not the engagement driver it once was. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, traditional direct mail, your web site, blog posts, even text messages – how will you come up with unique messaging for each platform? Where will you find the time, and where will all those messages come from?
Consistent messaging focused on outcomes inspires your supporters to act (donate, attend, engage, or recommend). Most nonprofits are already aware of the need for multi-channel marketing, and with an exploding number of channels it becomes increasingly challenging to present a consistent message across all channels in a format and tone that’s best for each medium. Like Hercules battling the multi-headed Hydra, it can feel like an impossible challenge that only the mightiest, best-staffed organizations can manage to master.
The good news? You don’t actually have to create unique messages for each platform. There will be differences in how you express your message, but using a unified approach to your messaging streamlines your approach across platforms, reducing the effort to build relationships with supporters, no matter how many platforms you are on.
What you need is a Messaging Framework for your nonprofit. With a Messaging Framework as the foundation, and a multi-channel communication strategy on top, you have the key to connecting with your supporters, making your fundraising and advocacy appeals more productive.
So, what can you do if you’re not Hercules? Let’s explore how a Messaging Framework can help every nonprofit tame the runaway multi-channel beast.
Why Use a Messaging Framework?
A Messaging Framework has two primary benefits –
- It helps you map your objectives and pair them with the key themes and messages that will resonate best with your target audience.
- It gives you one story to tell, regardless of platform, so that your audience has your key points reinforced each time they see a message from you.
A Messaging Framework is a sharp, specific tool to help you record and visualize ways of communicating with your organization’s target audience(s). You have a good idea of who your audiences are. You also know what your organization needs from prospective donors. How do you connect the two?
Begin by answering some important questions. Your answers will unlock your tools, the superhero weapons you’ll need for your quest.
Start by Identifying Your Key Themes
The first critical step to creating a Messaging Framework and an effective multi-channel communication strategy is identifying your organization’s or initiative’s key themes. Starting with themes puts you squarely in the mind of your audience – your donors, volunteers, and those who benefit from your work.
Think of these as “trigger words” – the words or phrases that evoke an emotional reaction from your supporters. Themes are tricky, and your first effort at identifying them may not be where you wish to end up. Themes are usually found at the intersection of the head and the heart.
For example, if your nonprofit rescues dogs and cats from abusive or homeless situations, that’s great. But the reasons your donors support you are complex. Perhaps they bonded with a stray when they were young. Perhaps they have traveled in countries where emaciated animals roam the streets, bedraggled and begging or feral and frightening, and their heart just broke. Perhaps they know the public safety issues created by would-be house pets mingling with the animals we consider pests and vermin.
The key themes that you might adopt for your Messaging Framework, then, could include companionship and family harmony, protection of vulnerable animal populations, even beautifying neighborhoods.
Next, Develop your Key Themes
Developing your key themes is like doing core work at the gym – once you get strong in the core everything else becomes easier.
With sound themes in place you can work in two directions:
- Toward the abstract, from your overall key message and desired perception you want people to receive from your messaging, to your value proposition and even mission statement.
- Toward the very specific, as you find theme-specific key messages and the data and stories that provide evidence and support to connect with your audience.
It follows that your themes must be visible in all your promotional content. Your donors and others must see their reasons and their perspective in the way you speak about your work. Frame what your organization does in terms of your impact in the areas that matter to them. Speak about outcomes and results for the beneficiaries of your programs rather than your prowess in fundraising. Seek to evoke an emotional reaction by showing how you deliver impact, not just grants or services.
The True Value of a Messaging Framework
- The process of creating a Messaging Framework helps drive consensus, as completing it is an effort that bridges multiple teams, disciplines, and layers in the organization.
- The Messaging Framework becomes the canonical “single source of truth” for all groups and individuals in your nonprofit responsible for different platforms (e.g., development, events, social media, and direct mail).
- The most crucial benefit is that your supporters will see the same nonprofit across all channels, with consistent messaging driven by the Framework.
Back to the animal shelter example from above – regardless of whether the vehicle is Twitter or Facebook, a brochure or a blog post, your website, or an email or direct mail appeal, the themes of companionship, family harmony, protection, and neighborhood beautification should shine through.
Learn more about Messaging Frameworks
The key themes are your building blocks for creating a Messaging Framework. To learn how to develop a full Messaging Framework and use it to deliver your nonprofit’s message with maximum impact, join us for a free webinar, Creating a Complete Multichannel Messaging Strategy for Your Nonprofit, featuring communication specialist, founder and principal of 3C Comms, Bryan Rutberg.
In this fast-paced interactive session, you also will learn how to tailor your message format for different channels, and tips your organization can use to build productive relationships with your supporters to drive engagement and giving.
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