8 Common Messaging Challenges
Some quick reminders and primers coming into this post:
- Message is what is HEARD, not necessarily what you SAY. (Read: What’s in a Message?)
- A potential funder needs to be engaged around the message at three levels – the WHY, the WHERE (money goes) and the HOW (can help – supported by a funding rationale). Read our Altitude Framework PDF for a comprehensive look at this.
Here are eight common messaging challenges we see:
- The message (engagement) starts at the wrong altitude. Engagement begins at 30,000’ – about changing, saving and impacting lives. A quick assessment of the way most ED’s are talking about the organization and you see that it’s so programmatic (think: 14,000’). We do a lot of coaching to get people up to the 30,000’-changing-the-world-level.
- No simplicity. Not able to state 30,000’ on a napkin. Not able to communicate three priorities. Not able to articulate a simple funding rationale.Special note: One way to simplify your message is through the use of visuals!
- No engagement. Several times each month I look at an organization’s message and say,“That’s actually pretty damn good! I’ll bet you’re just not ENGAGING anyone with the message.” What I mean is, you don’t need to wordsmith or reframe anything. Instead, you have a message problem in that no one is actually HEARING and INTERNALIZING the message. This could be because we’re not out visiting with or it could be because we’re out talking and not LISTENING. Listening allows us to frame our message in a way that makes sense to the other person.
- No funding rationale. No math or no story to support ‘the ask’. This is identifiable when we have a funding goal only and we’re either saying, “Can you give?” or we’re just picking a number out of the air. See my earlier post on 9 Types of Funding Pitches.
- No WOW. Only commentary here is that most organizations DO have a WOW factor. They often don’t see it because they focus on what’s not perfect.
- Story is not awesome. By this I mean your 30,000’ narrative is not representing your transcendent purpose, your BHAG, your audacity.
- Framing is about the INCOME. Not the IMPACT. A common 14,000’ example. Whereas we should be communicating how ALL of our funding supports specific projects, priorities and programs we say something like, “We need funds for staff salaries… admin… overhead.”YUCK. You frame everything around your excel spreadsheet and not the PURPOSE or INTENT of the expenditure. Again: Yuck. Another example is the message that’s all about the business plan. WHY do you exist and WHAT do you hope to achieve with said business plan (around the IMPACT).
- All CAUSE, no CASE. (Or, All PROBLEM, No SOLUTION.) This refers to a message that is heavy on selling me on the problem. So much so that I never really engage with the CASE – either because it’s not there, or because you’ve lost my attention. Note: Hitting all three altitude levels actually makes a simple and complete CASE FOR SUPPORT.