> Partnership Evolution
> Attracting Support
Building awareness is the most critical of the four stages. Each step that follows depends on how well you execute the preceding stage and how much awareness you generate. The more you are able to drive community awareness, the greater chance you have to garner high preference, high acquisition/contribution and high satisfaction for your partnership and better meet the needs of older adults in the community. To create this heightened awareness, you have to consider these three steps:
- Create a results-based message.
- Position your partnership in a unique way.
- Get your information out.
Through each of these steps, you are trying to move your constituencies to change their behavior. You want them to remember who you are and what you achieve. In short, you want them to want you.
Create a Results-based Message
People in your partnership want to make a difference. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to create a legacy that makes an impact in the community. To do that, you have to create awareness of your partnership and its achievements.
As outlined in Laying out Integrated Strategies, your partnership has to be known for wanting to have an impact and achieving specific outcomes. And Implementing Action through Effective Meetings shows how your partnership has to develop a reputation for taking action and delivering results. These results are why people will respond to your cause—and to your partnership. Flood your community with results-focused messages and images to establish your reputation for action and achievement. Your message has to be concrete, something people can see and can make an emotional connection with.
To create these effective messages, know what business you are in; what results you’ve achieved; what differentiates your partnership from other efforts; and what your reputation is. One way to look at these is to develop a 1-minute elevator speech that might go something like this:
What business are we in?
“We help older adults make informed choices about their options for support to enhance their quality of life.”
What results have we achieved? “We’ve greatly improved older adult's access to information about their options.”
What differentiates us in the market? “We have strong community involvement with vital and active roles for older adults.”
What is our reputation? “We have become the central point of access and information about options to meet the needs of older adults.”
You create your elevator speech by communicating your actions and successes as simply as possible. After you have your 1-minute speech, condense it into a headline. For example, “In this community, older adults live full, rich lives.”
Now, think in headlines—one for each of your constituencies, because each constituency has a different interest. For example, for business: “Older adults remain vital customers who are able to do business in the community.” For government: “Older adults are less dependent on government-financed social services.”
You must repeat these headlines over and over to keep your messages out in the community and focused on each constituency.
Position Your Partnership in a Unique Way
Starbucks, the Gap, PBS, Dear Abby, even Martha Stewart and Oprah, have all established brands in the marketplace. Each occupies a unique position. And each taps into an emotional need of their audience. Starbucks is the trusted place for a break from the world. The Gap offers the best casual clothes in one place. PBS provides intelligent programming. Dear Abby doles out motherly advice. Martha Stewart dishes up homey how-to’s with style. Oprah is the compassionate friend.
Similarly, you need to find a relevant, positive position for your partnership. This position is how you fit into the rest of the community. It’s what makes your partnership different from your competitors. It’s the “secret sauce” that makes the ways you meet the needs of older adults more appetizing, unique and compelling. It’s the foundation of your image and the inspiration for how the community responds to you. In marketing terms, it’s finding your “unique selling proposition.”
Your position in the community determines how your prospects see you, and especially how they see you in relation to your competition. Common ways to position yourself include:
- Price (higher, lower or equivalent)
- Unique product and service attributes (“secret ingredients” or proprietary processes)
- Specific benefits (location, speed of service, personalization, trust, comfort)
- Special users (including well-known endorsers who imply status by using a product or service)
- Special occasions (especially for life events or holidays).
An abundance or scarcity of services can also position your partnership. Regardless, you want to highlight something that sets you apart from others offering the same or similar services. Even if you have no competition, you want to position yourself as central to meeting the needs of older adults and thereby benefit the community socially and economically.
When you write down your positioning statement, you begin creating your image. This image, in turn, increases your visibility and the preference for your partnership.
Get Your Information Out
Because many of us are bombarded with hundreds of messages a day—from commercials and e-mails to phone calls and face-to-face conversations—making your message stand out is absolutely essential. This usually means that you need to communicate your partnership’s results in multiple ways all the time.
Keep in mind, however, that a broad, “spray and pray” communications approach—that is, spraying out as much general information as possible and praying it sticks to someone—is not as effective as a tightly focused, constituent-centered process:
Step 1. Segment communications. The cardinal rule of any communication is “know your audience.” Know what they need for themselves and what they want from your partnership. The businesspeople in the community probably have different needs than the older adults. Similarly, professional service providers are different from elected officials, who are different from government agency personnel. You need to communicate with all of these stakeholders, but should craft your message to strike a different emotional chord in each.
Step 2. Use the ARRT of communication. With your communication plan in hand, focus and segment your promotional approach by using this four-part tool:
- ttract attention. This means getting the attention of your intended audience. What are their issues, their needs, their self-interests and their opinions? For written messages, you’ve got one or two sentences to attract attention; verbally, you’ve got about 15 seconds. To be successful, you have to convey that you recognize recipients’ problems, issues, needs or struggles. That’s the key.
- ealize benefit. You have about one paragraph or 30 to 60 seconds to convey how your partnership will benefit the recipients of your message. You still haven’t told them anything about your work, since this has nothing to do with you. This is all about how they will benefit from reading/listening further.
- eport out. Now you can tell them whatever you want about how you are meeting the needs of older adults and benefiting the larger community. This part of the message —citing your impact and your successes—can be the same for everyone.
- arget action. People not only listen better, they are more likely to become supporters if they are asked to take some small action, such as make a phone call or send an e-mail requesting a friend attend, or show up at one short meeting on behalf of the partnership. Getting constituents to participate—even in small ways—makes a big difference in their response and support.
Step 3: Use a mix of techniques. This tactic raises awareness of your partnership’s value through the use of a variety of communications approaches, ranging from e-mail distributions, newsletters, flyers and news releases to phone calls, meetings, special events and one-on-one conversations. Remember to stay focused on each constituent segment you are trying to reach.
Step 4: Experiment. When it comes to communicating to each of your constituencies, there’s no one right way that works the first time, every time. That’s why it’s important to use a mix of techniques to get the message out. So be flexible, and don’t hesitate to experiment. Use what works and abandon what doesn’t. Given the technology at hand today, try blogs, podcasts or video. Or keep it simple with a phone call or a letter. Find what works—for each segment you are trying to reach.
Use Repetition and Consistency
Breaking through to each community audience means that you have to make your communications consistent and repeat them ad nauseum. To create an image, you have to persevere, to keep pushing at it with determination. Yet you have to get your message across briefly and simply— you can’t rely on page after page of words or lengthy speeches to convey what you're trying to communicate. Make it consistent, make it simple, and then repeat, repeat, repeat that message.
Because creating awareness is the most resource-intensive stage of the cycle, it’s an area where you must be creative. It’s also the stage where you can cooperate with other partners to reduce some of your costs: You might allow a local print shop, for instance, to put its logo or company name somewhere on your flyer in exchange for printing it. Or you might receive pro-bono assistance from an advertising agency in exchange for specific mentions of the agency at high-profile partnership events. Whatever you do to support your work, build that awareness!