Let’s Be Fearless Communicators

As the VP of Communications and Marketing at the Case Foundation, guest blogger Allie Burns is charged with spreading the word about the Foundation’s great work with the ultimate goal of mobilizing more people to make giving a part of their everyday lives.

Earlier this summer, we at the Case Foundation officially declared our intention to Be Fearless in our efforts to drive social change—with the hope that the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors would join us in a dialogue about how we can all embrace more experimentation and risk-taking, set bigger goals, and be more transparent about admitting and sharing lessons from failure.

As nonprofit marketers, we are often the voice of our organizations, giving us a unique opportunity to lead the way in pushing our colleagues into adopting a fearless mindset.  So how can we Be Fearless in our roles? Let’s frame it in the context of our five key elements of a fearless approach:

  1. Make Big Bets: We’re often in the business of managing and setting expectations.  What happens if we free ourselves from limitations, aim high and say “why not?” Let’s make our campaign a trending topic on Twitter, land a New York Times story or go for that huge corporate partnership.  You know what they say about shooting for the stars…
  2. Experiment Early and Often: Social media has dramatically increased the number of tools we can use to get our message out there, but trying to figure out how to master it all can inspire fear.  If we want to reach new audiences and keep existing supporters engaged, we must test new approaches and platforms, whether it’s a photo contest on Instagram or a Google+ hangout.
  3. Make Failure Matter: As communicators, we all make mistakes and, in the information age, they’re amplified more than ever.  But we can learn from them and adapt – does everyone remember the (in)famous Red Cross “getting slizzered” tweet that they turned into an awesome fundraising opportunity?
  4. Reach Beyond Your Bubble: We often tend to stick to our silos— connecting with the same list of partners, media and bloggers we’ve grown comfortable with over the years.  But what might be possible if we find creative ways to develop a partnership with a company that is willing to take a chance on exploring a new issue area, or a media outlet you might not traditionally think of as covering social challenges?
  5. Let Urgency Conquer Fear:  With today’s 24/7 new cycle, this may be the most important and relevant aspect of being fearless. We can’t afford to stand on the sidelines while conversations are happening without us.  While I’m certainly not advocating reckless, ad-hoc communication, it’s important for us to be prepared to jump in at a moment’s notice and respond to real-time discussions.

These are just a few thoughts on how we might create a fearless mindset in nonprofit communications and marketing.

I’d love to hear your ideas on how you might take the lead in your organization in an effort to Be Fearless! Please share your ideas here.

P.S. Learn more about being a fearless communicator by  downloading my Free E-Guide, The Book That Changed My Life. 129 top reading picks from nonprofit leaders around the world.

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