Have you been guilty of giving a long, rambling response when someone asks what your organization does? You know your organization does great work, and you know what you do, but can you succinctly tell your story or message to others? Have you figured out how to effectively craft your story? What if your current messaging is no longer accurate because your group has evolved? Have you put serious thought into the way you convey your work? Or how others in your organization define what you do? Let me give you four quick tips to start your thinking on crafting a message.
- What are three ways you want to be known?
If you had to distill down all you do into three points, what would they be? You may need to brainstorm with your team. Maybe fill up a whiteboard with all your thoughts. Then, see if you can group the variety of ideas into three buckets. Continue to massage this list until your top three surface.
- After identifying your top three, keep the words real and true.
Sometimes we want to be lofty with our language. Maybe too lofty. Sometimes our words are aspirational—what we want to be not what we are. Be disciplined enough to keep the language real and true. This is the foundation for solid messaging. Believability and trustworthiness go hand in hand. If people don’t believe you, they won’t trust you. We begin to earn trust when we are consistent, sincere, and real. Make sure your language is real and true.
- Make your message believable, but memorable.
So, you want your message to be sticky. How do you do that? By making it memorable. You can make it memorable by humanizing your story, keeping it simple (keep in mind that context trumps content), and connecting with emotions. People will forget 90% of what you say, but they will probably remember how you made them feel.
- Know your various segments. Segments (or audiences) often require different messsages. For example, you may message one way for internal communications, another way to the general public, and perhaps a totally different way to elected officials. So make sure you know your various segments.
Have some fun. Pull together a few key players. Maybe even head to your favorite brewery and talk through these components together. It will probably be of great value to hear what others in your organization think. Let’s craft that story!
With any relationship, frequency of engagement is important to continue growing the relationship. The same holds true for groups that need to stay in front of elected officials. But a group needs a reason, something new, or something different to say when booking meetings. And with every month having a unique theme, why not explore using these themes to get back in front of elected officials. We recently did just that during Hispanic Heritage month as we honored the contributions hispanic restaurateurs have made within the City of Raleigh.
A Targeted Persuasion client that wanted to ensure elected officials were aware of the ways in which restaurants have helped Hispanic people to succeed both culturally and economically. Whether it’s someone’s first job, how they pay their way through school, or a dream come true of owning their own business, restaurants are an industry of opportunity.
To demonstrate the role restaurants play in our culture and economy, we asked the City of Raleigh to issue an official proclamation recognizing September 15 through October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. We also identified a local restaurateur whose family moved to Raleigh decades ago and founded several successful Mexican restaurants.That restaurateur attended the city council meeting where the mayor read the proclamation and accepted a souvenir copy of it from her. In his remarks, the restaurateur thanked the council for making Raleigh such a welcoming place for his family and such a fertile place for his business. To cap it all off, he even gave one of the councilors a birthday gift that symbolizes the blending of his Hispanic heritage with Southern culture; a t-shirt that reads “hola, y’all.”
By taking the opportunity of Hispanic Heritage Month to get the city to issue a proclamation, we were able to highlight how important the Hispanic community is to our city, how good the city is for business and how well the restaurant industry provides economic opportunity to people. It was a great experience for everyone involved and the councilor even tweeted at the restaurateur after the meeting to thank him for the shirt. Sometimes simple gestures go a long way.
Much of our public affairs work at Targeted Persuasion involves helping our clients build relationships with elected officials. For most models, this looks like scheduling advocacy meetings for an ‘ask.’ You probably know how this goes: someone schedules a meeting, the team has their pitch down, and they close with the ‘ask.’ However, in true relationships both parties give and both receive. And this premise holds true when helping build relationships with elected officials. So, instead of walking in with an ‘ask,’ how about finding ways to help the elected official.
Our team recently used this approach in Asheville. We hosted a meeting with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer. The City of Asheville has three bonds on the November ballot. This bond referendum includes $74 million that if approved by voters would go toward improving transportation networks, recreation facilities, and affordable housing. And as a way for the Mayor to meet our client, we invited her to share and educate our group on what these bonds mean for Asheville.
Around 15 restaurateurs, were there to hear Manheimer. Representatives from Asheville Independent Restaurants, the Chamber of Commerce, the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, and the Carolina Small Business Development Fund also attended.
“It was great to finally meet the mayor and have her in our restaurant,” said Sherrye Coggiola, who owns The Cantina along with her husband, Anthony. “We’ve been here for 6 years and have been heavily involved in the community, so it was great to be able to engage her on this important topic.”
“You hear about the bond referendum in the news all the time, but when you have detailed questions it’s hard to get them answered by just reading an article,” said Liam Rowland, head chef at GO Kitchen Ready. “She took the time to make sure we understood the implications, which is really important.”
While restaurants play a major role in Asheville’s thriving tourism industry and employ thousands of people in the city, most of the attendees had never previously met the Mayor. The restaurant owners were also interested in finding out more about the bond referendum and how those measures will affect their businesses.
In the end, everyone won. And it began by thinking of ways we could help the Mayor. And what better way to begin a relationship than by giving?