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The Art of Creative Messaging for Nonprofits

Let’s face it, creativity is not something that comes naturally to everyone…most times either you’re creative or you’re not.  Maybe it’s one of those “right brained/left brained” things.  But, with a little help, you can break that right/left brain barrier and easily get some really creative messaging to support your nonprofit’s promotional activities.

The Winn Group is a full service marketing and ad firm for nonprofits – we have to be creative (and we love it).  But here’s a secret (shhh, don’t tell the boss)…we’re creative because we have an AMAZING team from which to draw creativity from – and we follow some simple guidelines in our creative process.

Here are the steps to can take your creative messaging and marketing to the next level – like the pros.  (hint, hint: Sign up for the newsletter – on the right – for more tips like this in the future).

1) Decide on what kind of impact you want to convey and what action you want someone to take.

This is simply a matter of deciding on what you want out of your promotions campaign.  Do you want to stir emotions?  Do you want to bring awareness to an injustice or to the fact that your nonprofit is doing something about it?  On the back end (after you’ve stirred emotion or brought awareness, for example), what do you want them to do?  Donate?  Join your group?  Volunteer?  etc.  What’s your call to action.  Knock out this step before moving on.

2)  Determine what you know about your target audience and know what your nonprofit has to offer them.

It pays a lot in the long run for you to figure out some stuff about the audience that will read/hear your creative messaging.  What’s the demographic?  What “moves” them to action?  What pools do they swim in (churches, philanthropic associations, etc.).  Now, what about your nonprofit is different than others?  What is your “unique promise” to your audience that would cause them to engage.  This is what we call “branding” (check out this blog entry for more branding tips).  Check this one off and move to #3.

3.  Now, craft your creative messaging for your promotions campaign.

By now, you’ve figured out what you want your message to convey, what you want the hearers to do with it and you know a little something about the audience you’re targeting.  Next, you’ll want to get everyone in a room with a big whiteboard and craft the story about your nonprofit.  Good messaging tells a compelling story – always! Brainstorm about your story and put stuff on the board that associates with this story.  I.e. metaphors, word associations, “what if” concepts, jokes & parodies, (dare we say) controversial & provocative statements/topics – stuff like this.

4.  Take the top ideas and craft a message for your promotional campaign.

Keep it simple – use words and imagery that are short, compelling and tell your story in VERY few words (did you see we put “VERY” in caps?).  Be sure that your message appeals to a broad audience – don’t pigeon hole your message where only a few people can understand what you’re saying.  And, most importantly, craft a creative message where the reader/viewer can insert themselves into the story.  Make them say “how can I be a part of that?” or “I can identify with that.” through your promotional campaign message.

5.  Test it.

Take the final creative message you’ve painstakingly crafted to a handful of “outside” people to see how that message affects them.  If they respond exactly the way you meant for them to – you win (and you all get a raise!…eh, maybe not).

Follow these steps and your nonprofit can go from creative ZERO to messaging HERO!  People will finally “get” your message and your desired outcome will be realized.  Life will be good once again.

In the mean time, be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter (on the right) to get more tips and tricks like this.  Or better yet, contact one of our account managers.  They’d be happy to work with you to get your promotional campaign off to a successful start.

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