Don’t just defend your budget, defend your mission

Don’t just defend your budget, defend your mission

By Matt Arozian

You’ve heard the old story of two hikers running from a bear. The first one, gasping for air, says, “we’ll never outrun that bear.” To which the other says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun you.”

The sequester has arrived and budget cuts are hitting public sector organizations. But how do you “run faster” and defend your organization or program?

The answer is different for every agency. But it’ll be far easier if you’re already well-known for the success of your mission. It should be a given that your program delivers value. If not, that’s a different issue. But if so, you should be communicating that value very early and very often to stay well ahead of the bear. Here are three ways to start:

  1. Quantify the “good that you do” by defining what makes your organization or program uniquely successful. Don’t risk assuming that everyone knows. Define areas for improvement, potential risks and future goals. This way you can frame your message both in terms of concrete results and vision.
  2. Identify and understand your key stakeholders. If they care about you, it’s for real reasons. Your mission matters. Make sure your message matters to them as well. By gaining their support and keeping them engaged, you will have a greater chance of communicating your mission success.
  3. Make your message consistent.  That doesn’t mean that you should frame the message in exactly the same way for every stakeholder. Rather, you should express your value in terms each type of stakeholder understands. That message may be a simple explanation for citizens, success towards meeting your goals for executives or ROI for financial types.

As an example, take the marketing plan behind the movie “Jerry McGuire.” One set of ads for the film featured a love story theme—a single-mother office assistant who has a secret crush on the handsome partner, all culminating in the infamous “You had me at hello” line. Meanwhile, another set of ads focused on the relationship between a loudmouth football player and his agent with the other infamous line, “Show me the money!”

As a result of these parallel campaigns, women were asking their boyfriends to go with them to this great new romantic comedy while men wanted their girlfriends to go see a sports movie. In the end, because the movie marketing team knew their audiences and spoke specifically to them, both men and women turned out to buy tickets.

The best defense is a good offense: make sure your great work and effective results have the opportunity and visibility to speak for themselves. That’s how you leave the bear in the distance.

Hiking photo courtesy of Flickr user Diloz through Creative Commons

About Matt Arozian

VP of Strategic and Creative Services specializing in messaging

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