The President’s Message: News or Snooze?

The President's Message: News or Snooze?

You’ve seen it in newsletters, mission statements, annual reports and non-profit appeals.

A message from the President.

Wow, a message from THE PRESIDENT. It sounds like it should be super important, or at the very least, interesting.

But too often, it is neither. 

Rather, it reads like a perfunctory word cloud of catch phrases and formal jargon that rarely brings anything new to the table. Perhaps it is a prelude of the content to follow, which is like asking an Oscar winning movie star to read the opening credits of a movie but not act in it. It is rarely a stand-alone message, and often lacks the impact that it could or should have. And it is almost always accompanied by a photo of the said President looking, well, Presidential

Your message has come a long way from inception to landing in front of your target audience. Use that opportunity effectively so your reader/donor/customer will come away thinking “I’m so glad I read that”, “Wow, I didn’t know that” and/or “I’m so proud to support this group”.

So how can you make your message less painful, and more impactful?

Consider your audience, and address what would be of importance to them. For example, if you are the President of a College and you just completed building a new theatre, why would this matter to a donor? Perhaps it will attract additional speakers of interest, or maybe it will offer comfortable seating and special events for supporters. Change the President’s photo to one seated in a newly dedicated theatre seat holding a program, or surrounded by key players in the completion of the project or the cast of a current production to mirror the content. Maybe even share a quick review of an impressive event you just attended.

Think about what action you want people to take from reading your message, and focus on this. Some messages such an annual appeals may be clearly driven by donations, but others may be more informative, or to elicit pride in the organization. It is best to focus on one goal per communication, with each one having a role in nurturing and strengthening your relationship.

When possible, offer some personal interaction.

Example: A local director of a Senior Center used his prime real estate on the cover of the monthly newsletter to talk about upcoming events and programs, but he would always end it with a personal story of how he had just run a race, or where he was heading off to for vacation. It would usually be accompanied by a photo of him at a finish line, or perhaps at the top of Mount Washington. And while this may have been the smallest part of his monthly note, it was by far the most popular, and opened up warm communication with the seniors, which made it more comfortable for them to address other issues of concern.

In short, start with the information you wish to communicate and frame it around your audience’s concerns and needs. Your message should be as much about them as it is about you or your organization.