Tactical Shifts for Brand Voice in the Non-Profit Space

Tactical Shifts for Brand Voice in the Non-Profit Space

If you are in the non-profit space and manage the brand voice for a fully funded organization, you are probably in a position to stay the course without shifting strategy – assuming your main concern is maintaining the status quo. For non-profits who rely on donations or who have Boards that require measurable progress, you may want to consider shifting tactics and strategies in the coming months and years.

A tactical shift away from the national spotlight can seem, in the short term, to plunge a nascent organization back into obscurity. Under the Obama administration,“good works” and progressive leadership were hailed and feted – so it made sense to go big and go large. Under the Trump administration all signs point to shifting power, and the legislative spotlight, back to the state level. Grassroots campaigns, I predict, will make a bold comeback under this administration. That is some heavy spadework for organizations who are not prepared to go local – but here are some small shifts that can help you prepare:

  • If you haven’t already, identify like minded groups in the social space and listen to how they are adjusting to the new environment. Pay close attention to local organizations who may have overreached into the national conversation and who are now retooling to again focus on local, state or regional audiences. What conferences are they hosting or attending in 2017? What chats do they monitor or sponsor on Twitter?
  • We have seen backlash against social justice efforts when they have been deemed to not be inclusive enough. Many passionate supporters of the #WomensMarch, unaware of the conversations taking place on social media, unknowingly stepped into a contentious fray and experienced sudden/swift criticism from activists lurking there. Change-up your usual listening posts and filter bubbles and listen to the other conversations going on in and around your space. Keep an eye on trending topics across different platforms.
  • It is easy to erect silos in social media – especially when you are managing against a small budget with high expectations. Known audiences are easier to interact with, they support your messaging and provide a steady backbone to your KPIs. True growth takes place outside of those silos. Consider adding practices that help you or your team break out of the known environment. What social media sites do they use personally and are brands active in those spaces? Revisit older channels you may have neglected.

Conversely, organizations who have been excluded from the national conversation for the past eight years and who now may have a more willing audience should embolden their efforts to establish thought leadership. Messaging no longer has to deliver shock value to be noticed. It is time to embrace a confident and less defensive posture.

Brand Voice in Choppy Water

Social media as an earned platform for brand voice has become as ubiquitous as billboards on the highway. There is something comforting about a steady drumbeat of messaging that is wholly disconnected from the day to day grind of politics and social commentary on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Brand voice managers know that it isn’t always appropriate to be promoting your brand – so listening to your audience and the general gist of the news of the day before presenting a statement, or any content, is an important skill to master. Is there anything worse than a brand that attempts to earn props by being the first one out of the gate to adopt a trend? Yes: the brand voice that has lost direction in its messaging in an effort to be the first out of the gate to adopt a trend.

Organizations with a clear directive will rarely stray off course. In my experience the non-profit affixed on a social justice theme, for example, rarely uses its resources to further a cause that does not align with that mission. A non-profit leader recently commented, for example, that there was no point in connecting with the current administration in D.C. as this administration (these people) are never going to be interested in (fill in the blank) message. An honest and healthy perspective.

Some non-profits attempt to play to the middle. And some non-profits, pretending that politics do not exist, blithely state that they “have made their information known to the incoming administration” as if they had even a snowball’s chance. This is not an honest assessment nor a helpful position from a communications standpoint – it signals indifference to reality and jettisons the legitimacy of any historical progress the non-profit might have had for no real gain and an embarrassing public posture.

Some simple rules:

  1. Speak with an authentic voice.
  2. Be transparent. As with most effective communications efforts – being upfront and honest usually wins the race.
  3. Show your passion. If you have a cause you believe in, understand well and can support you can let your knowledge flow to help influence change for the greater good.

Coming up: some strategic and tactical shifts to consider in the near term.