Transform Your Messaging from
Inside the Box

I’m always grateful to find a point of view that helps me understand more about what works communications-wise, and why. Today I want to thank nonprofit innovator Dan Pallotta for his guidance to Stop Thinking Outside the Box.

If you’re like me, you’re sick to death of the inside the box/outside the box paradigm. It’s  become a cliche, so all too easy to ignore. But don’t…Pallotta makes this vital point:

Thinking outside the box without understanding the box is a petulant exercise in resistance — every idea that comes from the process has the box written all over it. It’s a reaction to the box. It’s fighting the box. It’s a child of the box….It will fail.

Here’s a great example of how Pallotta and team worked from inside the box to transform messaging for the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC):

In the breast cancer fundraising field, it’s all about who can out-hope the competition. Hope, hope, hope is the mantra everywhere. So our campaign for the National Breast Cancer Coalition became: “We’re giving up hope.” The message was that hope is not what overcomes great obstacles. Deadlines and commitment do. And the organization has committed itself to an end to breast cancer in 10 years.

I find this approach, and the messaging that resulted, absolutely compelling — because it is so different from what we hear from most organizations in the breast cancer field, and so meaningful. And so do supporters of finding the cure for breast cancer, many of whom now support NBCC, according to Pallotta.

Make sure you know what’s inside your organization’s box — 1) how other organizations competing for the same attention, donors, volunteers and program participants talk about their work and impact; and 2) what your target audiences expect to hear from you — to escape from the box in a way that’s meaningful to your audiences and compels them to act. That’s transformation.

Up nextt: Why the unexpected is so engaging.

P.S. Get more in-depth case studies, templates and tools, and guidance for nonprofit messaging success in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Nancy Schwartz on November 29, 2011 in Branding and Messages | 0 comments
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