Think about what you say when someone you’ve just met at a party asks what you do. You probably have your typical “elevator speech,” in which you share the name of your organization, the organization’s mission and a quick description of your role specifically. But what about the rest of your team? Does everyone you work with use the same “elevator speech”? And if they don’t, do they really need to?
In the third commitment of the Nonprofit Marketing Manifesto, which states: “We will build cohesion internally and communicate consistently externally,” we go on to explain that a nonprofit cannot achieve its full potential for mission impact if its internal stakeholders present an inconsistent image of who they are and what they stand for.
While consistency is important, it’s also important to allow everyone on your team to tell the story of your organization in a way that fits and feels natural to them. This is the idea behind Brand Democracy.
What is Brand Democracy?
“Brand Democracy is the process of engaging internal and external stakeholders. It means that the nonprofit organization trusts its members, staff, participants, and volunteers to participate in both the development of the organization’s brand identity and the communication of that identity.”
So, a democratic brand makes every stakeholder a part of the brand development process, and provides them with the tools they need to share the brand message in their own way.
In our 2018 Nonprofit Marketing & Brand Barometer Study, 59 percent of top performing nonprofits (vs. 45 percent of average performers) answered yes when asked if they trusted their staff to personalize the way they talk about the organization’s brand, and 51 percent of those respondents said they provide concrete guidance to help staff personalize the brand.
How do you encourage personalization while maintaining consistency?
In our current social media age, strictly regulating how all of your stakeholders–both internal and external–communicate about your brand is a lost cause.
To ensure your organization embraces brand democracy while maintaining consistency across communications, you can make a clear positioning statement and key messages available to your internal stakeholders to use as a starting point for developing their own personalized messages.
Your organization’s positioning statement is internal-facing, and it expresses the “big idea” about what you do and how you do it. A positioning statement helps your internal stakeholders consistently describe why your nonprofit exists and how it differs from other nonprofits or social enterprise initiatives working toward similar missions.
Your positioning statement should serve as a foundation of messaging that your staff, leaders, board members, volunteers and other internal stakeholders can build from when talking to others about your organization.
To fully encapsulate all that your organization does, create “master” key messages that address the following:
- WHO: What group(s) or communities does your organization serve?
- WHAT: What does your organization do for those group(s)?
- WHY: Why do you do what you do?
- WHERE: Where is your impact focused?
- TO WHAT END: What’s the intended end result of your actions and focus?
From there, your organization’s master key messages can be customized based on who is speaking and who they are speaking to. For example, if your organization provides education and financial aid services to cancer patients in addition to funding cancer research, your “what” key message will vary when you address research grantees from when you address patients or donors.
Once your internal stakeholders are aligned and using consistent messaging across social media and word of mouth communications, your external stakeholders will have a clear understanding of your organization’s messaging and begin using it themselves. Ultimately, this will help amplify your organization’s impact. You can get started finding out whether your team is aligned on your organization’s “elevator pitch” by using our template survey here.