Like you, my heart and head are heavy in the wake of Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, CT. Especially since I feel so helpless.
My gut is that’s how many of your supporters and prospects are feeling as well, and what will be top of mind for at least a couple more days. So be respectful and responsive, even though you’re pressured by the year-end push for support.
Here’s how to communicate best post-catastrophe:
Once your organization’s reputation is seriously damaged, it’s difficult to restore trust and focus on successes.
And once your organization’s reputation is damaged multiple times—as is the case for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, with its screw-ups in de-funding Planned Parenthood, suing other organizations with “cure” in their organizational or program names and partnering with the heart-stopping Kentucky Fried Chicken—restoring confidence and support is almost impossible.
Mila Rosenthal, Executive Director of HealthRight International, is a Letter to the Editor (LOE) expert with a significant record of success. Read on to review her most recent success — a strong, concise, pointed Letter to the Editor of The New Yorker – and Rosenthal’s tips for your own efforts.
Re: A Deadly Misdiagnosis
December 6, 2010
Michael Specter describes the way that sketchy private clinics in India are preying on people at risk of tuberculosis, and simultaneously undermining an under-resourced public-health system (“A Deadly Misdiagnosis,” November 15th). When public and private health-care systems compete, poor people are often the victims, caught between lousy care and unaffordable care. We see this in Vietnam and in Russia—anywhere that a government is unable to devote sufficient resources to the public-health system, or unwilling to regulate a private one. Unfortunately, in countries such as these, diseases like TB will continue to spread until they reach populations rich enough to afford good treatment. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to health and well-being, which includes medical care. As Specter’s article illustrates, letting only the principles of the market shape health care in poorer countries means that most people will be denied that right.
Mila Rosenthal, Executive Director
Here are Rosenthal’s tips for your Letters to the Editor:
- Identify which type of Letter to the Editor you are writing. Rosenthal distinguishes between the letter to correct the public record and the advocacy letter, crafted to get your message out on an issue. Her New Yorker letter is the latter, designed to magnify the issue covered in the article she’s responding to, and to position HealthRight International as a major player in the health rights field. She does a great job in both respects.
- Ensure that your letter is reviewed by your organization’s media expert. Rosenthal stresses the importance of the right program (in a large organization) submitting its Letter to the Editor, on the right issue at the right time. “Remember that an organization is likely to have a letter placed only once or twice a year,” she cautions.
- Encourage local offices or activists to submit Letters to the Editor in local papers. National or international organizations have a lot to gain from local and regional coverage, says Rosenthal.
- Self-publish your nonprofit’s Letter to the Editor whether they’re published or not in the target channel. HealthRight headlined the letter on its home page and covered it in depth on its website.
More on Writing Letters to the Editor that Gets Published and Read
How to Write a Letter to the Editor that Gets Published and Read (Case Study)
How to Write a Letter to the Editor that Gets Published and Read – Part Two – Letter to the Editor Tips from an Expert (Case Study)
P.S. Learn how to strengthen your nonprofit’s messaging with the all-new Nonprofit Tagline Database and 2011 Tagline Report.
Here’s a great story for those of you tasked with nonprofit marketing: Yesterday the New York Times picked up on the fact that a tagline saved hundreds of lives in Times Square.
The tagline is, “If You See Something, Say Something,” which has been used by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) since 2002 as an anti-terrorist strategy in the post-911 world.
It’s posted on almost every bus and subway and I dare say that 90% of New Yorkers know it well and how to respond. And most of us are eager to focus our watchful eyes and ears on the safety of our city. That’s the positive outcome of consistent use of a short, powerful tagline.
This tagline’s impact is rooted in:
- Consistent and widespread use (throughout the NYC public transit system)
- Focused seeding of an idea, then motivation of a clear, specific action.
- Strong graphic illustration that conveys the tagline idea, in a glance.
If a tagline can save Times Square, imagine what it can do for your nonprofit organization.
P.S. Messages that connect are a priority for all organizations and the prerequisite for motivating your base to act. Learn how to craft the most essential message — your tagline. Download the Nonprofit Tagline Report, filled with must-dos, don’t dos, case studies and 2,500+ nonprofit tagline examples!
Photo: Sion Fullana
Back in November, I received this email from the folks at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). It’s a powerful example of how acknowledging an error of substance (i.e., not a typo or missing photo) can be a good opportunity to reinforce your organization’s brand (in this case, reliability, accuracy and passion for the truth).
Here’s what happened:
- In striving to write a succinct review of a recently-published article, EDF implied the incorrect reason behind wasted electricity in the electricity production process.
- When the error was pointed out by an EDF member (an engineering professor), EDF morphed this mistake into a clarion call on its commitment to accuracy as the only way to “promote meaning solutions to our environmental challenges.”
- Sam Parry, EDF’s director of Online Membership and Activism reached out to the initial email list with a pro-active apology, correcting the error, thanking the professor and asking readers to let him know whenever they spot an editorial error.
- Outcome: Sam scored on multiple fronts — 1) Thanking EDF supporters for their support, 2) Stressing the organization’s passion for truth-telling and 3) Engaging supporters to help EDF perpetuate its focus on the “business of truth telling.”
Most communicators are mistake-phobic. We labor away — conceiving, writing, designing and finally…publishing our communications. And when something is wrong — no matter who finds it — it’s dismaying.
But it doesn’t have to be. Some errors are due to sloppiness, and that’s truly dismaying. But errors like this one can be a real opportunity. Congrats to EDF for seeing the opportunity in the mess, and responding artfully but authentically.
P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.
I’ve heard from many nonprofit marketers lately who are unmoored by the uncertain environment in which we’re living. Swine (a.k.a. H1N1) flu is just the icing on the cake.
Folks are wondering how to respectfully engage with so much competing for attention and anxiety at an all-time high. So here are a few of my guidelines for effectively sharing stories on your organization’s impact, even now:
- Take your base’s pulse. Never assume you know how they’re feeling/thinking. Ask!
- Respond appropriately. The pulse enables you to do so, so make sure you’re on the mark. When you are, you’re much more likely to engage them.
- Relate your organization’s work to current crises, if there’s a real connection.
- If your org is in the middle of the crisis, talk about it.
Read the full set of guidelines and two case studies here.
P.S. Don’t miss out on in-depth articles, case studies and guides like this one — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.