These days, the term environmentalist comes with an absolute rack full of baggage.
As an environmental organization, I’m sure you are staffed with people who feel some connection with the term. After all, what good would an environmental organization be if it wasn’t staffed by people who align their beliefs with protecting nature, who put the needs of our earth high on their priority list?
And that’s great.
But the question is… how are you portraying yourself to the public? Do they think you are environmentalists, scientists, lobbyists, activists?
Think of the answer to this carefully, because it has a lot to do with how, exactly, you manage your communication materials. Spoiler alert: the answer doesn’t exactly lie within the staff bios on your web page.
It mainly lies in your messages to the public.
Each of the above terms instantly conjures up specific images of a particular type of person.
And I’m here to tell you—if you don’t already know—environmentalists have opinions. Scientists have facts. Lobbyists have powerful connections. Activists have passion.
So the question actually becomes… what does your average prospect think you are? Through what she believes is in which category you will reside in her mind. And perhaps more importantly, how, exactly, you will influence her beliefs, values and actions.
Fact versus opinion
The fact is, (and this is a fact… or is it my opinion?), that prospects these days have a very high level of resistance to those who they can immediately recognize as trying to influence their opinions.
What’s perhaps more important is they have a high level of interest in debunking what is fact and what is opinion.
If what comes out of your mouth sounds like an opinion when they are looking for fact, one of two things will happen.
- They will roll their eyes and delete your message, throw your letter in the trash, or click away from your homepage. And your fundraising dollars will have been wasted.
- Or, perhaps even more worrisome… they’ll check up on you. One click to another site and you’ve lost your big promise, your credibility, and your prospect. In their eyes, you will be discredited forever.
Build your platform and own it
One way to avoid the eye-rolling, mouse-clicking prospect is to build trust. (Don’t think this is worth your marketing dollars? Read about why that is worth it here.)
Another way is to be clear in your message (and to yourself and your staff) about what your niche is. You may define yourself as an environmentalist, because you as an individual care about everything that normally encompasses that term, but your business probably only focuses on one aspect of it.
Be an expert in your one area. Don’t be tempted to branch out. Branching out away from your expertise or mission statement almost instantly places your message in the opinion pile.
And when you do venture to have an opinion on some aspect of the environment? Don’t bombard her. (See above statement on the mouse-clicking and eye-rolling thing.) Be selective about your opinions, and please, root them in facts. Keep away from cloaking fear-tactic-opinions as facts.
Beware of trying to both inform and influence. You may think that the goal of your organization is to do both… to influence her opinion with facts. But honestly, most people who are on your website or reading your promotional materials already agree with your opinion. They are most likely looking for facts to back up that opinion. The easiest way to gain your prospects trust is to focus on facts that are directly related to your specified niche.
If you try and sway her with too much of your own opinion, she’ll be on to you quicker than you can say, “But, seriously! This is true!”
However, if you manage to back up her own opinion with a slew of facts, she’ll feel indebted to you. If after every interaction with you she can say, “I didn’t know that…”, then you’ll be one step closer to landing the big fish.
Her trust, support and ultimately, her donation dollars.