When you communicate clearly, meaningfully and engagingly about your organization and your job within it, you gain what I call ambassador status. Nonprofits and small business need all their staff members to achieve this ambassador status. How can they reach this goal?
Draft common language
Craft one common message that will be carried by many voices to diverse audiences. Examine your mission statement if you have one. Aim for one or two sentences in plain English that encapsulate what you do. The point is to give a concise overview, not to include every last program or service. This may take several attempts.
Here’s an example from my consulting business: Mollie Katz Communications helps nonprofits and small businesses communicate in support of marketing, advocacy and fundraising.
For extra benefit, take the process a step further. Draft a line or two of context for people unfamiliar with your organization or field. Without dumbing down the subject, choose wording that everyone can understand.
For instance, if you work with people facing a rare disease, you know that when you talk to people who don’t have rare diseases, they aren’t sure what it means to have this kind of health challenge. Aim to fill this gap in a general way.
You can mention, for instance, that your group helps people with rare diseases find information, treatment and moral support from others like themselves which can be difficult for them to find on their own.
Notice how that last sentence sets you up to continue having conversation about your organization. That’s just what an ambassador does.
Explain your job
Once people comprehend the organization, they often want to know about the job of the staff member in front of them. To prepare for this, staff members can make a few tries at describing the function of their particular jobs in broad but digestible language. Have them test their explanations out on coworkers and friends to see how it goes over before considering it final.
A grant writer, for instance, might say: I help us raise money in larger sums by writing proposals we submit to funders such as foundations.
A government relations person might say: I follow what’s happening in Congress and the states and help our organization fight for favorable laws on our issue.
The best ambassadors sound natural. The staff needs opportunities to practice. One way is to do some role playing at team meetings or full staff meetings. Consider devoting some training time to written and oral delivery of these messages. Whatever the format, discourage verbatim repetition. Favor delivering the same meaning, not necessarily the same words, every time.
Find opportunities everywhere
Once your people have honed their messages and learned to deliver them, urge them to take advantage of the myriad opportunities to use them among new people. Check in with your staff to find out about situations in which they found these communications skills useful.
Let your whole workforce know that top management values their ability to be brand ambassadors. Explain why, and help them prepare. When your people represent you on business travel, online or around the community, you’ll know they can communicate with ambassador status.