Creating a culture of communication [book review]
Brian Sooy’s book Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto is an inspiring, easy to read book for anyone interested in transforming the internal culture of their nonprofit. Sooy positions his book as a means to help organizations find their voice and there are enough outstanding takeaways in here that it should.
The slim paperback is packed with short case studies, charts, text boxes of key insights, and even suggested tweets making it easy for readers to share their learnings. Written in a conversational, inspiring tone, it is a relatively quick read, perfect if you don’t have a lot of time to commit to reading.
Part one: mission-driven design
Divided into two parts, the first section explores his argument that mission-driven design is a path to inspire all stakeholders (donors, volunteers, clients) to action. He correctly addresses how branding has become misconstrued. When people talk about branding they are for the most part referring to logos rather than the larger discipline of branding itself. Or they believe the cause – be it hunger, poverty, or abuse – is the organization’s brand.
He suggests instead to “avoid the B word” and shift the focus to identifying the organization’s identity and personality, which will help guide a nonprofit in finding its voice. Once this happens, both the staff and board have found a better way to communicate.
Sooy includes a useful matrix – one of several found throughout the book — called the engagement continuum – that demonstrates when relationship building increases, the need for short-term marketing will decrease. At this critical point the goal is “communication leading to stewardship”.
Part two: Cause Manifesto
The second half of the book is devoted to the twelve principles of the Cause Manifesto. A terrific infographic that captures the manifesto is pictured below. Essentially these action statements support an organization’s communications efforts to be strategic, inspirational, relational, and aspirational.
Sooy begins this section by recounting a story about one of his nonprofit clients who was so grateful to discover his 12 communication resolutions and praised them for their brevity and succinctness. These principles are indeed timeless values that, if put into practice thoughtfully, can make your organization’s culture stronger.
For instance, in “Be Social” he demonstrates why reciting core messages shouldn’t be your nonprofit’s story. He also reminds the reader that strategy starts at the top and the stories will come organically if staff and board are communicating sincerely and authentically with one voice. Sooy offers useful advice such as including a session to inspire new directors during board orientation, which will enable them to have both “the heart and mind of an ambassador.”
Sooy’s book stresses to the reader how paramount clarity is to the message and his book certainly follows that ethic by being clear and concise.
Likely meant for a mid-level or senior professional, Raise Your Voice is written for an audience that already has a solid understanding of marketing and communications principles but is sometimes faced with obstacles by board members or executive management when putting these ideas into action. It is not a how-to book but a handbook meant to stir readers to put these principles into practice. Add it to your professional development library and you will find yourself turning to it often when you find your voice is not being heard.