The Essence of the Red Cross – In Three Words

January 18, 2010

Soon after I began working at the American Red Cross, I realized how deceptively complex the organization actually is. In the context of that complexity, I struggled to succinctly describe the important work we do.

In a previous post, I outlined the creative process we undertook to develop key messages that would be 1) conversational, 2) memorable and 3) differentiating. At the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, we came up with key messages that focused on our role during times of disaster. We finalized on these three words:

W e   a r e   t h e r e.

That’s it—three deceptively simple words. They sit at the apex of our communications pyramid. In one sentence, the American Red Cross can say that during a disaster, “We are there.”

To add dimension and depth to that phrase, we added three bullet points that expanded the “we are there” theme. They are:

  1. We prepare. Before you need us, we are there, anticipating the unexpected. We set the standard for life-saving CPR, first aid and water training skills. We prepare the community with disaster education and preparedness programs. We support blood banks to ensure a safe and adequate supply for all of us.
  2. We respond. During emergencies, we are there, providing immediate relief and reassurance. Ever day, we serve people affected by disasters, at home and around the world. We can immediately activate a trained team of committed volunteers who are always ready to help. During tragedies, we give people ways to come together and assist those in need.
  3. We restore. After disasters, we are there, rebuilding lives and communities. We find answers, information and contacts so people can re-establish their lives. Our global network and extensive partnerships empower us to provide tangible solutions. All disaster assistance is provided free of charge, thanks to donations of time and money from the generous American people. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s the DNA of Your Communications?

January 13, 2010

Can you briefly describe the role of your organization? In a consistent way? In a believable manner? In a way that differentiates you from your competitors?

When I first joined the American Red Cross, my answer to those questions was NO! To my surprise, I struggled to find simple, differentiating ways to describe the important work of the Red Cross. Being responsible for marketing and communications, I knew I had to find a solution quickly.

So, in my simplistic mind, I set out to find or create key messages that met these three criteria:

  1. Conversational. I needed messages that would roll of the tongue and sound genuine. They shouldn’t sound canned or pre-packaged. Personally, I didn’t care much for the stuffy phrase in our mission statement that says we “provide relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.”
  2. Memorable. I wanted something that would stick in my mind even when I didn’t have a cheat sheet in front of me. I wanted to have anchor messages that would still be there if my mind went blank in front of a live TV camera.
  3. Differentiating. I needed to say something that no other organization could authentically say about itself. After all, it seems that every nonprofit tries to boast, “We care more!” or “We have the best volunteers.” If someone else can say the same thing, it’s neither unique nor differentiating. Read the rest of this entry »

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