Messaging in a Bottle: How to Tell a Compelling “Story of Us”
With each new client, creating an individually tailored communications strategy feels a lot like building a house: Just like every home has to have a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living space, every comprehensive communications plan must include media relations, marketing, advertising and social media, all working together to create something harmonious and inviting.
Of course, all these components must be built upon a strong foundation — in this case constructed not of concrete but of powerful, persuasive messaging language. Without taking the time to establish how your organization wants to tell its story, your house runs the risk of crumbling.
We’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately here at Canary HQ.
Founder and president Megan Wendell is at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Portland this weekend, where she’ll co-lead a peer-to-peer roundtable discussion on “Responding to Controversy in the Digital Age.” Step one: Solve the problem before it starts by ensuring that your organization’s message can withstand a little conflict.
We’re also continuing work with the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, whose “Save Pennsylvania’s Past”crowdfunding campaign has been a study in turning objects into stories, stories into support. And what’s been the capstone of this project’s success? You guessed it: messaging.
Time and time again, we find that our clients’ greatest challenges — and best successes — can all be traced back to messaging. Here are three things to keep in mind when your organization prepares itself to dive into the big “story of us” conversation:
- Messaging works when it creates an emotional conversation — tapping into and resonating with the shared concerns and interests of its audiences.
- Effective messaging anticipates questions by answering the “why, who, how” aspects of a story. In the case of the Conservation Center, we focused on why each artifact should be saved, how the conservation work would be implemented, what happens to an artifact with voter support, and who was tasked with the conservation of those objects.
- Remember that messaging alone won’t affect change in audience awareness, interest or investment; it needs to be supported by social media, media relations, community outreach and engagement and other platforms for getting stories heard.
Using the Conservation Center as an example, here are three strategies for approaching storytelling and encouraging organizations to stand by their messages:
- Speak with institutions to learn more about their own story, their audience, their artifact and their outreach: Canary helped the campaign’s participating institutions tailor a general message about the value of conservation to create a context for talking about the value of conserving their particular artifact.
- Provide the tools to get the story out: In the Conservation Center’s case, this included developing templates, creating resource guides and explaining the nuances of the different social media user experiences (e.g. how to message effectively on Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Instagram).
- Emphasize consistency in messaging across the board: We provided the framework and the message house, allowing each institution to incorporate their own language.
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