It's not pretty. But it is standard-issue human nature: We need someone to scorn.
Or more accurately, we need someone to look down upon. Having someone below us automatically elevates our confidence and status. You hear it all the time among professionals: Catty remarks. Disparaging comments about skills, experience, ideas, choice of scent, or hair. If we're discreet and kind, we scorn in private, where no one can hear or see. We want to say it. Lord: we have to say it. But we don't want anyone really hurt in the making of this superior attitude.
So, total disclosure: In the realm of donor communications, my personal favorites to look down upon have been (1) the environmental movement in the U.S. (I've had an uncommon amount of exposure at the state and regional level); and (2) volunteer committees making final decisions about marketing efforts.
The saying goes, No one raises statues to committees. For good reason(s). Marketing professionals abhor committee decision-making on principle, assuming (usually from some painful experience they're happy to recount) that committees will always seek safety in consensus and only approve meek or compromised ideas. Sir Barnett Cocks (I think that's a real name) said, "A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled."
Well, not always, it turns out.
It turns out, in real life, with a tiny bit of mental wrangling, that a committee of novices can achieve excellent results ... if you apply this road-tested method developed by Patricia Pennell of Michigan.
She has found a way to get BOTH (1) good communications (2) from a committee of environmentalists. And she is neither deranged nor sedated. She does not telecommute from a crater on the Moon. And she likes her job. Far more remarkably, she likes, respects, and applauds the people she works with on her committees.
What Patricia has done is wisely adopt a tool used by ad agencies the globe over ... to stay sane and to keep peace.
The ad industry calls this tool a "creative brief" or a "strategy statement." All it is, really, is a series of questions. And it is so darn essential to your success that I've devoted entire chapters to it in three separate books: How to Write Fundraising Materials (2007), Keep Your Donors (2008), and Seeing Through a Donor's Eyes (2009).
See for yourself what this remarkable tool is. Go to my website. Download the LGROW PDF. You'll see the before, the communications piece the committee came up with on its own ... and the after, what the committee came up with once the members answered all the questions on the creative brief.
Patricia Pennell's creative brief is also included in the PDF, so you can adapt this powerful creative tool for your organization right away.
>>> Takeaway>>> Guesswork, even guesswork by really smart people, is no substitute for answering the questions in a creative brief. Learn to depend on it. I do. I write one for every project.
Tom Ahern can be found at www.aherncomm.com