Ashoka’s VP of Global Marketing Beverly Schwartz shares the keys to promoting your vision
You’ve come up with a revolutionary social venture that you’re passionate about and that you’re certain will transform the world. Now it’s time to get your message heard…but how? Cue marketing.
When most people hear “marketing,” they think corporations selling services and products to consumers. But having an effective marketing plan is vital to the success of any venture, social enterprises included. To win the support of your audience, you must first make them believe in your vision.
Beverly Schwartz has spent a lot of time training social entrepreneurs on best marketing practices. Schwartz is the author of the book Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Around the World and the vice president of global marketing at Ashoka, one of the world’s largest social entrepreneur networks. Founded in 1980 by CEO Bill Drayton—whom some credit with popularizing the term “social entrepreneur”—the organization works to empower changemakers, providing them with the resources necessary to solve global issues.
Schwartz shared with The Venture some of the marketing wisdom she’s given to Ashoka’s fellows over the years.
1) Remember, one size does not fit all when it comes to your audience.
The first thing every social entrepreneur should do when devising a marketing plan is to determine which audience, or audiences, you wish to target. Why? “Your messaging will change according to your audience,” Schwartz says. “Your vision stays the same, but the way you say it, and the angles may change. It’s about understanding how to segment and make things relevant to each audience.”
Begin by asking yourself these two questions: Who is your audience, and why is that your audience? Once you know the answer, then you can tailor your message to each group.
2) Know your vision—and be succinct.
Crafting your message is the next step. Think about your mission. What’s the purpose of your venture? What global issue are you working to solve? What’s your vision for the future? Then try to articulate your thoughts in one succinct sound bite. One exercise Schwartz says her trainees have found helpful in the past is to write down what you do—but in only six to eight words. “If you can say what you do in six to eight words, your purpose becomes very clear,” she explains. An added bonus: When you’re done, you’ll also have a working tagline for your social enterprise.
3) Be strategic about promotion—and don’t be afraid to seek guidance.
Now comes the promotion piece. These days, there are an infinite number of channels through which to market your social enterprise, be it social media, traditional media, one-on-one meetings or national conferences. But what will be the most effective and efficient method to reach your target audience? “I get this feeling that a lot of people think they can just send out press releases, and they’ll get an uptake, and for the most part they won’t,” Schwartz says. Research where your audience goes to get information, and try to put your message there. Measure the response and refine your strategy as needed.
Also, don’t rule out hiring a public relations consultant just because you have limited funds. “For organizations where capacity and money are slim, you have to be really smart about where you put your energy and efforts in marketing,” says Schwartz. “A good PR consultant can do wonders.” She suggests hiring a consultant for a short-term contract—one or two months—to assist in building a promotion strategy. Then you can implement the plan on your own. “It’s actually one of the most cost-effective things you can do,” she says. “You can waste a lot more money not knowing what direction you’re going in.”
One final pro tip: Many communications firms have special rates for non-profits. Some even do pro bono work in the name of social good, Schwartz says.
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