Lesson 7: Who is your ideal supporter?

This is part of a series introducing you to Claxon University, where nonprofits can learn everything I know for $949.

Claxon University’s first course is Words on a Mission. Each of the twelve lessons in the course asks a fundamental question a nonprofit needs to answer in order to develop high-impact messaging. In each post in this series, I’ll share what the question is, along with a snippet from the video lecture.

Lesson 7: What is your ideal supporter?

Lesson 7: Personas from Claxon University on Vimeo.

Lesson 6: Who are your believers?

This is part of a series introducing you to Claxon University, where nonprofits can learn everything I know for $949.

Claxon University’s first course is Words on a Mission. Each of the twelve lessons in the course asks a fundamental question a nonprofit needs to answer in order to develop high-impact messaging. In each post in this series, I’ll share what the question is, along with a snippet from the video lecture.

Lesson 6: What are your believers?

Lesson 6: Three Types of People from Claxon University on Vimeo.

Get Out of Your Own Head

[This is the latest weekly post from our intern, Tessa. You can find all her posts here.]

Get Out of HeadI’m often guilty of this: Because I like spicy food, cats and Dostoyevsky so much, when someone tells me they don’t like these things, it doesn’t make sense to me. I think things like, “How can anyone think that bland food tastes better??” and, “But look how cute its little face is!”

I have to consciously step back and realize that my reality is not the reality of others. We all have different personalities, experiences, and cultures that have shaped who we are and how we respond to things. I have to remember that long Russian novels are not for everyone.

Every marketer must keep this in mind when they’re crafting their messages and finding their mediums. I check Twitter when I wake up in the morning, I read articles that my friends share on Facebook. I’m attracted to satire and corny humor. For my nonprofit, I could create a marketing plan that exclusively uses Facebook, Twitter and blog posts with a satirical tone. And there’s a good chance that would get me absolutely nowhere. I’ve seen firsthand very clever marketing ideas shut down because the person with decision-making power thought it wouldn’t work. What she really was saying was, “This wouldn’t work on me.”

You have to get out of your own head and into your audience’s head. Figure out: Does my audience even use Twitter? What are their daily routines? Would they respond better to a casual tone, or a professional one? The easiest way to do this is to create a persona – a fictional person that embodies the audience you want to reach.

Get to know this “persona” – know as much as you can about them. You can do this through research, surveys, or just plain talking to people. (This post walks you through building a persona step-by-step.) Find out what they enjoy, what they value, and what drives them. And then speak to their wants, needs, motivations, etc.

No matter what messaging you use, you won’t appeal to everyone.  So you might as well appeal to those that matter most to your cause.

Personas are people, too!

 

Photo credit: http://recycledinc.wordpress.com/
What do I do with all these personas?!

Susan Howlett brought me a question her class had asked about personas that had “stumped” her. It takes a lot to stump Susan so I figured, if Susan’s stumped and her class is stumped, you might also be stumped. This post is an effort to de-stump-ify you if you are, in fact, stumped by how to handle personas.

Before we get to the question, let’s be clear on what a persona is. Personas help you decide how to most effectively engage with your believers. They are a fictional representation of your ideal supporters. They help you get into the heads and hearts of the types of people who would be part of one of your target audience groups. What do they care about? Where do they get their information? How do they engage with organizations online? (For a blow by blow on how to create personas, download this awesome resource from Hubspot.)

A very specific point before we move on: If we’re being honest, we rarely write a piece from the perspective of the reader. Instead, we use ourselves as a proxy, i.e. we sit down and write something that we ourselves would want to read. If we like it, won’t everyone like it? No. What resonates with you and hits your emotional hot buttons doesn’t really matter. (Sorry to be harsh, but it had to be said.) What matters is what matters to those supporting your organization. So you have to get out of your head and into theirs. Thus personas.

Now that you know why you need personas and how to create them, the question then becomes: “If I have a whole bunch of personas and each of those personas is motivated by different emotions and, therefore, different words, how the heck am I supposed to make sure my annual report/newsletter/blog post/speech resonates with all of them!?”

The short answer is: you don’t.

The slightly longer answer is: you can’t please all the personas all the time. If you did that, you’d end up with boring, bland stuff that no one would want to read because you’d be trying to appeal to everyone. The whole point of having personas is to be able to craft messages that hit the mark for that particular persona, right? If you try to hit on everything that might possibly, conceivably matter to all of your personas at the same time, it’d be like unleashing a blaze of arrows at the same time—they’d go hither, thither and yon while never hitting the bulls eye. So sad.

Here’s what you do: you optimize each piece for one persona.

Every time you sit down to write something, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the goal of this piece?
  2. Based on #1, which persona does this piece need to resonate with most in order to be successful?

Optimizing for one persona doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with other personas. It means it will resonate most with the types of people you need to connect with in order for that particular piece to be successful. For instance:

Are you optimizing your event materials for ‘Sue the Sponsor’ or ‘Fred the First-Time Attendee’? (If you want more help on the event sponsor front, check out Shanon Doolittle’s amazing event fundraising video series.)

Is your Annual Report optimized for ‘Erin the Existing Donor’ Or ‘Patty the Potential Donor’? Erin will be delighted to learn more about what her donation has done, but really what’s in it for Patty? Usually not as much as we’d like to think. Optimize for Erin.

Is your newsletter really, truly optimized for ‘Dawn the Dutiful Donor’? If, based on your research while building your personas, you learn that the Dawns of the world prefer hard copy newsletters, then sending it electronically, although less expensive in the short-term, might be costing you money in the long run.

At first, optimizing for one persona will feel scary. But try it a few times and, usually, the results will speak for themselves.

Quick Tip: Zan McColloch-Lussier shared this tip with me many moons ago and it’s a really, really good one. Whenever you sit down to write something, write down the name of the persona for which you are optimizing. Yep, like write it down where you can see it. You’ll be stunned and amazed at how much more on target your messaging becomes when you have a crystal clear mental image of who will, eventually, be reading it. (Cuz as we covered above, it ain’t you.)

Photo credit: http://recycledinc.wordpress.com/

Messaging Fluency & MSG

Bootcamp Week #8: Supporting Messages by Audience

(this week’s vid)

What’s the difference between ‘advanced’ and ‘fluent’ when it comes to speaking a language? Your ability to calibrate to different audiences and settings.

For instance, it’s one thing to tell your colleagues that you tried the latest spot from the MSG150 food blog. It’s quite another to relay that same information to a chef from Le Cordon Bleu.

It’s about your audience and what matters most to them. That’s why it’s important to come up with your top three target audiences (the groups of people who are most important to the success of your organization) and know what they care about. Really, truly care about.

If you’re the Seattle Aquarium, visitors, volunteers and donors are all extremely important to you. But what they need to hear in order to engage differs dramatically.

This Week’s To-Do’s

  1. Download the Nonprofit Messaging Framework template.
  2. Brainstorm a list of target audiences.
  3. Narrow that list to your top three.
  4. Write a short paragraph describing what matters most to each target audience.
  5. Create two to four messages for each audience.
  6. Put proof points and stories for each supporting message that will motivate them to take action to take action!

Next Week

Sharing and using your Messaging Framework.

About Claxon’s Nonprofit Messaging Bootcamp

This is week #6 of our Nonprofit Messaging Bootcamp. If you’re just joining the Bootcamp, here’s what you need to do to get started.

Down with jargon & the general public

Here are key take-aways from the bevy of convos I’ve had this month about messaging and the Nonprofit Messaging Roadmap, including at yesterday’s Tune-Up Tuesday:

  • There’s still a lot of jumping to the how and what of your work. Say it with me: “Why first. Then what and how.” If you’re on a mission to eradicate adult illiteracy (for instance), you’ve got to share that first. Then you can move on to the fact that you’re doing this by mobilizing a cadre of passionate literacy advocates, etc. etc. etc. Frame it up before you serve it up.
  • Jargon. Egads, do we ever love jargon. Even if you think your audience knows what ‘wrap-around services’ or ‘field-tested diagnostics’ are, there’s still probably a more straight-forward way of saying it. Say it that way.
  • Everyone and the general public still aren’t target audiences. Sorry. Your nonprofit doesn’t have the resources to market to ‘people’. You have the resources to market to your best supporters, your believers. Who are they? If you don’t know, figure it out.
  • Messaging should reflect your organizational goals and strategy. Check out this great post on the Getting Attention blog for some food for thought on this.

Since identifying and engaging target audiences is still such a significant roadblock for many nonprofits, March’s theme will be (you guessed it!): Identify Target Audiences. Here are some of the things you can look forward to:

  1. Writing Target Audience Personas (no more than 3).
  2. Building an Editorial Calendar based on the experience of one of your ‘Personas’.
  3. Organizing a Communications Advisory Committee made up of your best supporters who fit your ‘Personas’.

We’ll have templates and how-to’s so as long as you read the March newsletter and blog posts, you’ll be all set.

If you’d like some in-person support, we’d love to have you join us on March 15th for our next Tune-Up Tuesday at the Hearing, Speech and Deafness Center in Seattle.

Any other lessons learned or thoughts to share on all this?

Marketing-Fundraising: A Happy Continuum

We chose to focus on the Marketing-Fundraising Tango this month because so many of our nonprofit friends and colleagues voiced confusion, frustration or consternation at how this works (or more accurately doesn’t work) at their organizations. The amount of brow-furrowing over this is interesting to me since marketing and fundraising are simply different means to the very important end of engaging people with your cause.

Here’s perhaps a different (and hopefully helpful) way of thinking about this. Rather than thinking of these two functions separately, think of them as points along a relationship continuum. On one end, you have marketing and the other fundraising. On the marketing end of the continuum, you focus on attracting new supporters to the organization by reaching out to groups of individuals (otherwise known as target audiences). These are largely one-to-many activities such as advertising, community events, and PR.

As you slide further toward the fundraising end of the continuum, the activities become more tailored to an individual, rather than a collection of individuals. They are personalized activities meant to deepen a supporter’s relationship with your organization.

When you think of marketing and fundraising as a continuum, then you simply adjust your position to support your current goals and objectives. If you have had above-average attrition and need to attract new donors, you might settle on a spot closer to the marketing end of the continuum. If you have a solid donor base and want to increase the number of major donors you have, you’d likely slide over to the fundraising end.