Thursday, June 16, 2011

How attractive is your messaging?

What are other people saying about you?
Do they find you attractive?

Sarah Durham of Big Duck, author of Brandraising( How nonprofits raise visibility and money through smart communications gave us a shpiel on how to package our to be attractive. (

A headline for me:
We Jewish educators struggle to get our message out clearly. Recently I was at Behrman House encouraging them to create an online portal that not only supports the classroom. Please create the online portal that supports the non classroom only model. David Behrman looked at me like I was from Planet Palin.

Sarah Durham suggests beginning with "How was your Hebrew School experience?"

Start with the term people know and then move to the innovation.
Interesting. I am pretty strict about not using Hebrew School. Those two words are like an Edsel, the Ford model from the late 50's that is "synonymous with failure."

So I've tried to find another language. The Beit Midrash. A Hybrid model (secular ed uses that). The Non-classroom only model.

I'm going to try Sarah D's suggestion. Start with what folks know, oh you didn't love Hebrew School...that's why we build a different what comes next?

Sarah's working with us again next Tuesday.

She says a congregation's brand follows its vision and mission.
Link your organizational strategy with your branding and daily communications. Congregations struggle to say what they are concisely and in an attractive way.

When I taught Organizational Dynamics at HUC I'd say to my students, "I guess this will get me kicked out of HUC, but please don't use Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Hasadim as your mission or vision." Then students said, "Oh that's what Larry HOffman says too." Ok I'm safe.

What potential congregant is saying "I'm checking my iphone for the nearest place where I can get me some Torah, Avodah and Gemilut Hasadim." And what employee can understand his charge guided by, "My job is to Torah, Avodah and GH." Come on compelling, defining?

Sarah says we need a cohesive message and look (e.g. same colors, fonts) that flows across all programs within the congregation. When sisterhood, men's club, the early childhood center all have their own brand/look/message you got yourself a mess.

Most people make decisions from an emotional place, not an analytical place (see Switch a book by Chip and Dan Heath), says Sarah. Right now congregational/educational visual brands often look more like shoes piled at the bottom of a closet, and the message, well I'd say it often as inviting to today's ear as Chaucer's
"Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote"

Sarah Help Us get attractive.
Get Clear and cohesive.
Get Compelling.

What's the clear message of the larger congregation?
And how do our educational innovators convey an attractive message?

There is something pretty exciting going on with the Coalition of Innovating Congregations. Ok they still get you ready for your Bar Mitzvah and
They are:
*putting a hammer to the classroom only model of Hebrew School, the one you love to Hate American Jewry
*taking risks and creating space for parents and children to learn, celebrate, and reflect together
*structuring quality time for families within the rhythm and rhyme of Judaism
*helping parents and children have a vocabulary to conquer the strains and opportunities of daily life
*creating a loving, communities that model the "good life," (a life of values)

What's the message in the marketplace?
We get you ready for your Bar Mitzvah and for something a lot more challenging and with a potential for a lot more ahead.

Sarah Durham, come help us.