When I first started working with Neimand Collaborative a little over six years ago, we were developing incredible research-based message frameworks for organizations using an elegant combination of research, analysis and message development.
It was rare that we would implement the campaigns for which we were developing messaging and recommendations, though—they had to be the right kind of client, the right size campaign and the right fit for our small team (at the time, we were five people).
That got frustrating for me really fast.
We’d hand over compelling brands, transformational research insights or genius messaging…and we’d see them get slaughtered. Completely lost in translation. Maybe we weren’t as brilliant as we thought we were—or maybe we just needed to see them through to implementation.
It’s been a process to make that kind of an organizational shift in our company—and I say that knowing we’re tiny compared to most. I learned to get creative with the way I’d correct my boss’s knee-jerk “we don’t do implementation” proclamation in client meetings. “Well sure,” I’d say, “he doesn’t do implementation.” Or, “Yes, we do. But it’s not all we do.”
So now, we implement. And, as a result, we’ve gotten to be much closer to the issues we care about. We’ve helped the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network advance research, support patients and create hope for people affected by pancreatic cancer. We’ve seen early childhood education become a national priority—and be included in the last two State of the Union addresses. And we’re helping a leader in the electronic payment industry build a bridge between their products and the financially underserved.
And, through this process, I’ve learned a few things that help guide my thinking as we develop campaigns:
1. Build a team. I find the most dynamic and successful campaigns to be the ones that include a number of partners—not those that are run by a single agency. Bring more people to the table and create a culture of collaboration—not competition.
2. Resist your inner moth. The latest and greatest “tool” is always tempting—but more often than not, you’ll want to play to your strengths and figure out how your constituents want to hear from you, not how you want to talk to them based on the latest app or the newest “engagement tool.”
3. It’s not all about you. As social impact marketers, we’re driven by the causes we serve—after all, we’re do-gooders, right? It’s easy when developing a campaign to forget that it’s not about our organization, our cause or our call-to-action. It’s about the people we’re trying to motivate. When developing campaigns, we have to remember to start with where our audience is—and then move them to where we need them to be.
I’m happy to say that our approach has evolved in the last six years: Messaging and strategy without implementation? Fuhgeddaboudit.