Wednesday, August 24, 2011

5 Ways to Achieve Greater Impact & Effectively Communicate Your Mission

posted by
Nicole D. Almond, MNpS,
Manager of Marketing,
Communications,
and Stakeholder Relations
ASU Lodestar Center
Do you know the first steps in telling your organization's story? Do you have a strong sense of effective marketing campaigns to propel your organization to the next level? Do you feel your stakeholders and constituents truly know what your mission and goals are? Are your donors truly vested in the mission of your organization? If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, then this blog is for you.

First off, today's post will be a first in a series of get-to-know the Lodestar Center staff. As the Manager of Marketing, Communications, and Stakeholder Relations, I work to advance the Center's mission to ensure that our portfolio of research, education, technical assistance, and convenings are known by our stakeholders. I have been fortunate to work at a few nonprofit organizations, and there is always a critical need to effectively tell the story. Ready to dive into how to convey messages using specific marketing channels, and ultimately, how to measure the results of your work? Keep reading...

Use Your E-mail Signature.

A fast and super easy way to market your organization's mission and upcoming events/programs is to make the most of your e-mail signature. Quite simply, email signatures can be a no-cost, high-return marketing tool for your organization. Think about this: if your organization has 25 employees, each of whom sends 15 emails per a day to people outside of the organization, for approximately 250 business days, that's 93,750 placed "ads" annually, all at no cost.

If you have more employees, the impact is even greater! The most effective signature lines include: name, title, organization name, phone number, web address, tagline (organization mission, specific event notice, campaign, etc.), social media contacts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), and graphical elements such as a logo or a banner ad for a program, event, or campaign you're marketing. Remember to keep signature lines up to date and to train staff on how to create their signature line and how to add it to their email program. A signature line that's done right can help build a brand or recognizable identity for your organization. It also allows the people you email frequently to make mental connections with the emails they've received from other members of your organization.

Storytelling... today.

Since we first began to speak, telling stories has been used to engage an audience and capture their attention, perhaps even motivating them to act in some way. However, in our world, one of the most challenging tasks can be translating complex issues and ideas into a compelling story. In Storytelling as Best Practice, Andy Goodman states that "storytelling is the single most powerful communication tool an organization can possess."

Every nonprofit has a story. As the organization's marketing professional, it's your job to make sure it's being told — and truly engaging the audiences you need to reach. One way to begin telling your story is to have a comprehensive, and simple, positioning statement. This statement should be two or three sentences that establish your position in the philanthropic world — a brief elevator speech, if you will. Additionally, current talking points for staff and board members should be readily available. These talking points are key messages that briefly cover the "who, what, when, where, and how" of your group. Everyone should be on the same page when it comes to speaking effectively — telling your story — about what you do and who you impact at your organization.

Build a Marketing Plan.

It's important for all administrative staff to have a clear understanding of your organization's marketing plan for the next fiscal year, the next three years, and the next five years. This 1, 3, 5 year plan will serve as your road map, illustrating your course and outlining goals and benchmarks to hit. Additionally, this plan will help management clarify its mission and provide a logical framework to pursue business strategies over the forthcoming years. Most plans offer a benchmark against which actual performance can be measured and reviewed (more on this later.) There could be an entire blog about how to build a marketing plan, but for the sake of today's post, I'll only outline the key elements.

Some of the best strategic marketing plans have these components:
  • Objectives: Three to five specific and measurable steps to achieve your communications goals.
  • Target Audience: Who are the top audience groups you need to engage to meet your objectives, and what do you need them to do? Do you know the habits and preferences of each group?
  • Best Strategies: Given your target audience groups and the actions you want them to take, what are the best ways to motivate them to do so?
  • Tactics: Decide how you are going to deliver the messaging to your audience.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Determine who is to do what and how.
  • Step-by-Step Work Plan: Establish the necessary steps on how to roll out the program and deadlines for each task.
  • Budget: How much is this all going to cost? The goal is to achieve the greatest ROI and to keep track of the budget in order to influence budgetary needs for the coming fiscal year.
  • Evaluation: Measure outputs and outcomes. Find out what's working (so you can do more of it) and what isn't working (so you don't continue to waste time).

In most cases, there will be clients/constituents/audiences that will need to be engaged differently. Here at the Center, we offer valuable courses on how to effectively evaluate your programs. For more information, click here. Nancy Schwartz with GettingAttention.org, offers a complete marketing plan here. Does your organization have an effective marketing plan in use? If so, we would love to hear more about it. Feel free to post below in the comments section.


Benchmark... everything.

Again, this could be another blog topic all in itself, but the data will set you free. Literally. It is important to establish a baseline and set benchmarks and goals to strive to achieve. Start by looking at your website usage analytics (more info on this below). Find out what the most visited pages are on your site and figure out what the keywords are that users are searching on to get to your homepage. Always know the response rate to both direct mail and e-mail and keep track of it. For e-mail, also know the open and click-through rates, which is especially helpful for online fundraising campaign call-to-actions. Also, remember to survey your constituents and conduct other audience research as needed.

Virtual Trending.

It's no secret that we live in a virtual world. If you know what you're doing, then analyzing top trends on your website and electronic communication can not only save on costs but further prove that you're achieving results. The top metrics that are most often used and analyzed are unique visitors, repeat visitors, pages per visit, inquiries (via email/form), and conversions (this includes file downloads, if applicable, online donations, and e-newsletter sign-ups). It's also important to measure the data against previous months, or event seasons in some cases, and year over year.

Simply stated, consistent and memorable branding helps your constituents and donors to keep your organization top of mind, and even spread the word about it. Consistency isn't something that's achieved overnight. In fact, it's a long-term process. For me, I often have to step away and recharge my battery by searching for new inspiration from peer institutions and organizations. It's far too easy to sit back and think that what you are doing is the end-all be-all. The reality is just when you think you have it right, you need to keep learning, keep researching, and continue to update your website and other communication methods. The bottom line is that you need to inspire your audience to action and prove to stakeholders, the vital role marketing plays in delivering on your organization's mission.

Nicole Almond's specialties include strategic print and social media communication, constituent relations, membership retention planning, program development, event planning, and volunteer management. Nicole earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and also earned a Master of Nonprofit Studies (MNpS) from ASU's Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation within the School of Community Resources and Development. For questions, contact her directly at Nicole.Almond@asu.edu or 602.496.1085.


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Click here to read "Current Status of Arizona's Philanthropic Resources" by Marissa Theisen.

3 comments:

  1. So glad to have you on board staff with us, Nicole. Fabulous info and resources about marketing in this blog! Can't wait to see what we all accomplish next given your leadership!

    ReplyDelete
  2. These are some great "best practices" you have touched on, Nicole. As we have so often observed in our one-on-one meetings, there is a LOT for us to do here at the Lodestar Center. It's an exciting time. The longer I am here at the Center, the more I realize just how important analytics and benchmarking are.

    It is not easy to get an organization to the point where it models "best practice" techniques and strategies in the majority of its various facets, but it is a noble - and ultimately attainable - goal to aspire to. I know that we here at the Lodestar Center have much to improve upon, but we also have a lot of things to be proud about.

    Since I was just deeply involved in redesigning and relaunching our "Principles of Effectiveness" program, I am keenly aware of these issues. I hope that nonprofits out there will remember not to get discouraged, but just make a plan and then dig in and get to work on gathering the lowest hanging fruit. It's always a great feeling to look up from being buried in your work to realize that you have accomplished more than you realized.

    As cliché and/or cheesy as it may sound, I guess my point is that with vision and hard work, great things can be accomplished. I wish our nonprofit colleagues great success as they seek to have greater impact and effectiveness.

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