Before communicating with others and enacting a plan of action, it is essential that team members work together to create a shared understanding of what the initiative wants to accomplish and what they will do together to make it happen. The purpose of the initiative and its key elements should be general enough that, ideally, each organization or individual will be able to envision how their strengths or focus can help advance the initiative’s mission/vision. This step may sound easy, but it is frequently overlooked because people assume they have the same goal in mind. Uncovering the commonalities and refining the goal can be more difficult that it seems at first.
It is also crucial that the team have a common understanding of terms and concepts, as well as an environment of respect for clarifying questions about definitions and topics. This is particularly critical for a broad, multi-sector network, where each field has its own priorities and understanding of commonly used words. Whether you are communicating with your team members or with audiences you would like to support your initiative, you want to be sure that what you aim to communicate is what is being heard. Therefore, be aware of the different interpretations of various terms.
The articulation of your mission/vision will be your core message. This is the general message that will be used and should express the concepts that you will communicate to all your audiences. In stating the goals of the initiative, it should also reflect the character of your community and emphasize its values. There are many ways to explain your purpose; you want your message to frame it in a way that will be viewed positively in your community (see sidebar on framing).
Below are several questions to consider while developing your message.
Tips for creating effective messages
See the Tools and Resources section for example of talking points.
Effective framing changes the conversation on social issues. For background on the concept of “framing,” see Susan Nall Bales and Franklin D. Gilliam Jr, Communications for Social Good, “Practice Matters: The Improving Philanthropy Project,” April 2004:
“Messages conveyed by mainstream media take on the value of public narratives about the ways of the world, and different types of stories produce different social learning. When news frames public issues narrowly, as problems of specific people or groups, support for policy proposals plummets. When a media story highlights conditions and trends, by contrast, public support for policies to address the problem increases dramatically. Further, how the media frame or present public issues is critical to the final resolution of public problems. Not only can framing affect whether the solution to any given social problem is judged by the public to be individual or collective, but the media’s use of a specific frame is an important influence on the way people judge the relevance and legitimacy of a communication’s implicit or explicit call to action. This set of findings elaborates the communications concept called ‘framing.’”
Updated March 2018