The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

3 Steps to a Powerful, All-Organization Team of Messengers [Part Two]

Be sure to check out part one of this two-part series on messaging.

3 Steps to a Team of Powerful Messengers

Training your staff, leadership, clients partners and supporters is a high-impact, low-investment marketing strategy for every nonprofit, but one that’s frequently overlooked. It’s the ultimate low-hanging fruit for nonprofits like yours.

Take these three steps to launch your team of messengers:

Step One: Build Buy-In and Ask for Help

Ensure that your message platform is clear and relevant. You may have been using these messages for a few years, or they could be new.

If you’ve done it right, you’ve sourced the insights of your colleagues and leadership in developing these messages. Along the way, you’ve nurtured their understanding of and buy-in to the process.

Secure leadership buy-in by sharing the value of an all-org message team (and what happens without one).

Position the message team as a program, not a one-off; as a way of doing business, not a Band-Aid.

If you or your bosses see training as one-time or finite, results will be equally limited (but that may be how you need to start). Be aware that this strategy is likely to be perceived as a significant cultural shift—and it is, since it tears down formal or unspoken silos with your organization—and the complete transition may take some time.

Open the conversation by sharing your vision, and then emphasize these immediate benefits and longer-term gains:

Benefit: Greater accuracy and consistency of messages conveyed in conversations and communications across audiences and programs.
Gain: Clearer, quicker connections with more of your target audiences.
Gain: Increased likelihood of motivating the actions you need.

Benefit: Improved understanding of goals and priorities across the organization.

Benefit: Enhanced ability to harvest and share relevant information and feedback with the right colleagues across the organization—on programs, audience preferences and values, and more.
Gain: Stronger programs and processes via acquisition of broader and deeper audience insights and cross-department collaboration.

Benefit: A more highly skilled group of staff and board members.
Gain: Greater employee and board satisfaction.

Gently introduce the concept to your colleagues.
It’s always best to start dripping out an idea like this in casual hallway or drop-in conversations (or the virtual equivalent). You’ll learn what resonates with your colleagues and what doesn’t, and you can fine-tune before rolling out the program more broadly.

Recruit your message team. Email your colleagues to:

  • Ask for their help (attention, time, and effort) in strengthening conversations and communications.
  • Outline their potential impact as organizational messengers.
  • Calm their qualms by sharing your realistic expectations about how much extra time and effort this will take. Note: In most cases, your colleagues are already having the conversations; becoming a skilled messenger will help them do so more confidently, quickly, and effectively.
  • Build interest (WIIFM—what’s in it for me?—or how becoming an effective messenger will help them) and confidence (with a brief overview of how you’ll help them prepare via training, practice, and feedback).

Include the message platform along with some context on why and when the messages were developed, how they connect with each target audience, and how they differentiate your nonprofit from organizations competing for attention and action.

Also, share a brief one-page summary of your overall marketing strategy that shows at a glance how messaging fits in. It’s hard to be an effective messenger without an understanding of the larger framework.

Post these docs in your organization’s online workspace for ongoing reference.

Step Two: Build Messenger Skills

Lead skill building for your message team. Invite your message team to join you for an in-person messenger training focused on training, practice, and feedback.

Begin with a review of the message platform—its purpose and value, and when and how you developed it.

Next, inspire your messengers with specific examples of how their new skills will help them (for example, next time you’re at a conference and are asked what you do, here’s what you’ll say and how it’ll make a difference). Provide concrete models of how this approach is working in colleague organizations (tap into your peers in colleague organizations here).

Then, train your messengers in speaking (when and how to deliver each type of message), from the unchanging tagline to the elevator pitch that’s customized to the interests of the conversational partner.

Ask your messengers to listen hard—that’s the first step to being an effective messenger—and to share what they hear with the right colleagues throughout your organization.

Role-playing in pairs is a proven technique for increasing comfort level and effectiveness. Practice makes almost perfect here. Ask a pair or two to roll it out in front of the larger group to get your messengers listening and to generate useful feedback.

Note: If your team is geographically dispersed, hold a video training session. This approach works best when facilitation responsibilities are distributed among participants at the various locations rather than coming from a single location.

Create a turnkey message toolkit that your team can reference, including:

  • Message platform.
  • One-page organizational fundraising and marketing strategy.
  • Message cheat sheet—email to messengers’ smartphones, or index cards for non-smartphone-users—with the message platform and when, how, and why to use each element.
  • Messenger hotline and online FAQs for ongoing questions and guidance.
  • Monthly email outreach sharing success stories and tips to keep your message team focused and confident.
  • Style guide featuring standards of how to present your organization’s messages and graphics.

Step Three: Thank, Share Successes, and Provide Ongoing Support

Nourish the ongoing message focus within your organization. This includes thanking your messengers for their focus, effort, and achievements and showing how their work has made a difference for the organization. This trifold recognition approach works well:

  • Trumpet successes with specifics in one-to-one and all-team communications.
  • Recognize star messengers.
  • Recognize the entire team in an annual celebration.

Keep the message team going and growing with ongoing communications. Continue training on at least an annual basis. There’s turnover to consider, and a regular refresher course powers focus and skills.

I urge you to get your all-org message team off the ground now to gain the immediate benefits and longer-term gains outlined above. They far exceed the time and effort you’ll invest—great ROI guaranteed.

Let me know how it goes!

How do you guide your colleagues to be more effective messengers? Please share your strategies here.

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About This Blog

Linda Lombardi
Content Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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