- Make it easy for your audience with clear, accessible language that can be absorbed in a moment. Romney kept it simple and easy to understand. Obama used complex words and sentences that required thought and attention to get. Too much work!
- Focus on the concrete, not the abstract. It's the tangible specifics that are memorable, like jobs which Romney came back to again and again or Big Bird (likely to disappear if he wins and cuts PBS funding). Obama's more professorial style consistently wandered towards the abstract which is hard to get understand and seldom memorable. But he hit it out of the park with the 42-student classroom story.
- Repetition, repetition, repetition. I'm left with a memory of Romney's focus on jobs, because he came back to jobs again and again. Repetition ensures your messages penetrate.
- Less is usually more. Romney spoke in short sentences, most with a single focus. Obama's meandering sentences hid his key points.
- Communicate with confidence. If you want your audience to have confidence in your organization, you have to start with having confidence yourselves. Romney was clearly in command. He manhandled moderator Jim Lehrer, ignoring manners and protocol to seize the exact right moments to counter Obama. Obama seemed nervous, spoke straight to the camera rather than to his opponent and frequently looked down at his notes.
- Be prepared. You have to be ready to respond to anything, quickly and effectively. Obama was clearly the butting ram, trying to respond to Romney's string of accusations, none of which should have been a surprise. Nor did Obama run with some of the opportunities he had for a powerful rebuttal—He could have turned Romney's plan to de-fund the beloved Big Bird into a strong rally for strengthening the education system.
- Stay positive. It's human nature to affiliate with the positive because we want things to get better. So even though Romney may have misrepresented some of his plans, he framed them in a positive way that made the audience want to believe. Focus on the future your organization and your supporters are going to create, and how it will benefit them.
- Watch body language, expression and appearance. Romney smiled through much of the debate, appearing energized, hearty and relaxed. His frequent gesture of reaching out with both hands connected him with the audience. Obama's slumped shoulders and grim facial expressions conveyed defeat and discomfort. His vertical hand gestures conveyed how difficult the path to recovery will be. Click on the drawing of each candidate's gesture here to see examples from last night's debate.
- Take off the gloves, when required. Romney was aggressive, taking every opportunity to jump on Obama. Obama never attacked, avoiding mention of potential Romney negatives (Bain Capital, the 47% video, tax returns, offshore holdings) as well as his own successes like killing bin Laden and ending the war.
The New Zealand Association Resource Centre Trust (NZARC) blog is a place for board members, partner organisations, and subscribers to contribute articles and discuss issues of relevance to the non-profit sector. Contributions are welcome and encouraged.
Three Must-Dos Before You Shape Your Message Platform
- 1. Clarify your top one or two communications goals—what you want to achieve; the action you want your audience to take to get you there.
- 2. Identify whom you need to engage to do so (your primary target audiences, no more than three).
- 3. Get to know what’s important to your audiences (wants, values and concerns) so you can articulate what’s in it for them and ensure no barriers stand in their way, and learn how best to reach them.
The Four Cornerstones of a Charity or Association Message Platform that Connects
1. Positioning Statement
- What you do.
- For whom (whom do you serve).
- What’s different about the way you do your work.
- Impact you make (something tangible, like a stat, is compelling here, see example below).
- Unique benefit derived from your programmes, services and/or products.
- The New Zealand Nutrition Foundation is a professional, non-profit organisation whose members believe all New Zealanders should have access to accurate information to enable them to make informed choices about food and the effect it has on their health. We help New Zealanders make these choices by providing a balanced viewpoint on important issues around food, nutrition and health.
- @Heart has been providing support services to children with heart conditions and their families since 1984. Our practical and emotional support is vital for those affected, helping them cope with the day-to-day challenges of living with a childhood heart condition.
- Organization: Lifeline Aotearoa
- You can choose change
- Ka Taea koe te huri to ao
- Organization: Social Development Partners (formerly NZFVWO)
- Strong Organizations for Thriving Communities
- Organization: Nutrition Foundation
- Enhancing the quality of life of New Zealanders by encouraging and enjoyable food choices as part of an active lifestyle. (Very long!)
- o Kia whakareia te ōranga o ngā tāngata o Aotearoa ma te whakamana i ngā wawatā hei tohu kai hauora, kai reka, hei oranga kakama
- Organization: @heart (also has taglines for each program)
- Functional and emotional support for New Zealand kids, teens, adults and families affected by childhood heart conditions.
3. Key Messages or Talking Points
- A set of three to seven key messages that build on the information conveyed in your positioning statement and respond to most common questions asked by your current and prospective audiences.
- Most talking points should run no more than two sentences. They can be customized to a specific goal or focus, topic or group.
- Be prepared with supporting points (a.k.a. proof points) for each talking point.
- Frequently developed for use in specific campaigns (fundraising or issue-oriented) and/or for specific audience groups.
- Use in both written and verbal conversation.
- However, talking points do not represent the exact words that must be used (especially in conversation), but rather convey the essential ideas to be conveyed. They can be customized for greater impact–to the specific interchange, the interests of the person you’re speaking with or emailing, and/or the topic of conversation.
4. Elevator Pitch
- 1. The lead-in. This is where you introduce yourself and your role in your organization to set up the conversation. It’s intended to spark the interest of the person you’re speaking with.
- 2. The differentiator. This identifies your organization as providing a unique resource valued by the person you’re speaking with, one that deserves immediate attention.
- 3. The hook. This is an open-ended conversation starter that allows you to assess the prospect’s interest level.
- 4. The call to action. This is the request to schedule a follow-up call to discuss the matter further, make an online contribution or participate in a gathering for prospective members, thereby making the conversion. Make it specific, clear and doable (e.g. don’t ask too much, especially in an initial conversation).
Now It’s Your Turn—Next Steps
- What elements are in place as defined above (or near enough)?
- For those that are in place, were they created based on the three “must-dos” outlined at the beginning of this article?
- If yes, you have some of the four cornerstones already in place.
- If no, you’ll need to start at the very beginning, with your positioning statement.
- For those cornerstones you need to revise, or create for the first time:
- Start with clarifying your communications goals.
- Identify those you need to engage to meet those goals, and get to know them.
- Start shaping your cornerstones based on this framework.
Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing. Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to nonprofit organizations and foundations nationwide. Nancy works with the New Zealand Association Resource Centre Trust to assist build capacity and capability with non-profits. She is the publisher of the Getting Attention e-update and blog. For more nonprofit marketing guidance like this, subscribe to her e-update here.
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