I’ve been to lots of board meetings where we’ve spent hours drafting and redrafting the 30-second elevator pitch. We’ve obeyed, step by step, marketing positioning templates from the best communication companies. We’ve worked with the board to practice the pitch, to make sure they were all comfortable delivering it. Our goal was to get everyone to speak with a consistent voice and say the same thing. We were sure that once we got that, everything else would fall into place.
It rarely works.
By forcing people to speak with a consistent voice you’re actually creating an obstacle. It’s as if you announced, “OK, it’s clear we all love independent films but to raise funds for our Indy Film Society we need to agree why the work of the Indy Film Society is important and we need to speak with the same voice. So let’s all agree on one shining example of a powerful independent film and go out and tell that story.”
Not only will that meeting never end but you’ve just wasted all the rich experiences and talents of a presumably gifted board by limiting and packaging their individual passions into some marketing communication box. It often results in a “pitch” that could be applied to any one of a thousand different organizations.
Of course, everyone needs to be heading down the same path strategically. But I’ve discovered that it’s more important to help your board learn to speak from their own experience, with their own voice and passion.
Do this through narrative. We’re all aware of the power of a good story. Stories move us, they touch us deeply. They speak to who we are, what is possible. They remind us that there is a deep well of resources within us that can rise up and meet challenges. Despite this we seldom spend time showing people how to use this most simple of tools. How to tell their story.
The next time you have a board meeting, ask people to share their stories. Ask why they are involved in your organization. Not from a metrics level – ‘Because I’d like to extend the reach of indy films’ – but from a personal, emotional level. Like, say, ‘Because after watching Sideways I learned something about myself, that I had let my daily routine quiet the passion I used to have for life. Sideways woke me up.’
By all means, create your strategy statement. Make it clear and convincing. But before the board sallies forth and reveals your mission through the lens of a ‘case for support,’ they should all, first, hold up a mirror.
When a piece of them colors the 30-second elevator pitch, the telling – and the results – will be far more compelling.