At MWS, working with cause-driven organizations is one of our passions. In our experience, they face some special challenges in making sure their mission is both concisely formulated and diffused throughout their communications. The Firefly Sisterhood is one organization we've worked with to lay some important groundwork for this kind of mission execution.
The Firefly Sisterhood is a 501(c)3 nonprofit with a mission to foster one-to-one connections between women recently diagnosed with breast cancer and inspirational survivors. As a fledgling organization, Firefly worked with an agency to develop the organization's message and brand identity. But they didn't have the in-house resources to really bring those materials to life.
"One of the things that organizations struggle with is consistently using the right language to talk about what they do," said Kris Newcomer, executive director of Firefly. This can be especially fraught for organizations that, like the Firefly Sisterhood, deal with difficult or sensitive issues.
But the challenge that Newcomer faced in integrating their brand is one that organizations of all sizes have to manage.
For larger organizations, it's a matter of providing the communications team with the training and materials necessary to get everyone up to speed. Smaller organizations without a dedicated communications staff often benefit from more direct support.
Newcomer's priority was to develop Firefly’s blog, along with other communications materials, in line with their new brand strategy. For the emergent organization, the blog was an important place to establish a trusted voice and demonstrate leadership in the cancer support community.
After reviewing Firefly's brand strategy and discussing their goals with Kris and her team, MWS created a series of blog posts to help Firefly institute a publication schedule and to provide templates for a variety of approaches they could take for future posts.
From personal interviews and profiles, to researched pieces, to advice and how-to's, our white-branded posts—often reposted by other local and national organizations—built out a voice that resonated with Firefly’s audience and drove traffic to their website.
One post that resonated with Kris and with the blog's readers tackled the importance of language head-on. In a discussion on Firefly's Facebook page, people had been chiming in with some strong opinions about their preference for (or aversion to) terms such as "survivor," "victim," and "battle" when it comes to the experience of having cancer. The debate inspired us to research and write a post about how the language that patients and caregivers use to talk about cancer has a serious impact on patients' lives and health.
"I loved that post because it really spoke to the kind of care we were taking in developing our own vocabulary as an organization. It was a great example of how your work gave us a guide for how to present ourselves through our blog," Kris reported.
This year to date Firefly has already served over 130 new clients, and they're on track to triple the capacity they started with in 2014, in part by expanding their connections with women in a wider range of language and cultural communities. We've been thrilled to watch them grow and bring their remarkable mission to life for so many women.
We’ve all been there (well, maybe not actually there): You ask a question, your question is misinterpreted, you respond with clarification, but that, too, goes astray. You give up feeling like your original question wasn’t fully answered, and you’re more confused than you were before you asked it.
It’s a problem as old as conversation. But it’s more frequent now that so much of our professional communication takes place over email, text, or messenger services like Slack.
We all know the basics for writing answerable emails: Make it personal (but not too personal); keep it short (but not too short); ask for what you want (and make sure what you want is do-able).
But what happens when you follow the rules and still end up in a communication rabbit hole? It happens to all of us—in fact, it just happened to me on Slack.
Why do our messages go astray? Usually because we're vague, we forget our audience, or we don’t loop in the right people (or we loop in too many wrong people)
In my situation, I wrote a vague message to the wrong person. I got a sharply worded reply that immediately put me on the defensive. Prompted by Slack’s slick, immediate interface, I replied too quickly when I should have pulled back to figure out where I went wrong.
Learn from my mistakes, especially if you interact in a lot of ways with different clients, colleagues, and assorted professionals.
In addition to making it personal, keeping it short, and asking for what you want, be direct and explicit in your ask, remind yourself who you’re speaking with (and keep it relatively formal), and be sure you’re speaking with the person who can help.
And, if all else fails, pick up the phone. I did. And I found that what I’ve secretly suspected is true: Sometimes a human voice is better and more efficient than anything technology can offer.
English PhD, former arts administrator, obsessive cook, native East Coaster, mom to two rabblerousers.
English PhD, former high school teacher, obsessive organizer, native Midwesterner, mom to three troublemakers.