What is your message [11 of 15]

How? Letterpress[This is part eleven of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

We’ve covered “What” and “Who”. It’s finally time to work on “How”!

In the first part of the “How”, we tackle messaging.  Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Finish this sentence: We want to be known as the organization that…
  • Imagine you are at a cocktail party. What would you say if an ideal supporter asked: “What do you do?”
  • Describe your organization in 140 characters or less.

As you know from previous posts in this series, good messaging is rooted in a detailed understanding of what your organization does, targets specific supporters, and uses engaging words. But how do you actually create compelling messaging, you wonder? Good question. The 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree is here to help.

Let’s look at tree branch 3B. What do you say when someone asks, “What do you do?” This question has an unfortunate tendency to elicit lists of activities that make the listener’s eyes glaze over. There’s no reason you need to fall into that trap, however. Instead, pretend they asked, “What does your organization want to be known for?” This answer aligns with the first stop on the Engagement Cycle and is also your answer to 3A. As you develop ways to answer this question, keep your answer to 140 characters or less because that is the length people can remember (and repeat!)

If you’re reading this blog, you likely know that Claxon has a plethora of resources to help you craft messaging worthy of your organization. Here are just a few highlights:

Words, Words, Words!

  • The Wordifier is Claxon’s new tool that helps you amplify your words. The human brain is wired to pay attention to new information and ignore the old. We stop noticing the same, tired word. So, if you use the same word a lot, or a word that is used by a lot of other organizations, people will notice it less than one they don’t see very often. The Wordifier will tell you if a word is overused and it even gives you a breakdown by sub-section. Go give it a try.
  • The Language Lab is our new podcast. Sign up and every week you’ll receive a lovely little audio prompt to reflect on language and life.

Mission Statements

  • Whether you are officially writing a mission statement or coming up with a version to use in your messaging, we have some great makeover tips.
  • We didn’t invent reading ease scores, but we wish we had because we love to use them! You have heard advice like, “Your mission statement should only be one sentence.” The only problem with this advice is that sometimes people try to strain the limits of punctuation to cram as many words as possible into that sentence and end up with an incomprehensible mess. You won’t have this problem though because you can use reading ease scores to make sure your mission statement is understandable…rather than, gulp, technically incomprehensible like the ones in this post.
  • Follow this blog to get regular tips so you don’t use lame verbs like provide or mobilize.



  • Need some extra help? Our chief word nerd, Erica Mills, would love to be your coach. She can work with you one on one or we have group coaching sessions available. (The Winter session is full but you can get on the wait list for the Spring session, which will start in April.)


Let’s take a look at the messaging developed by Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story and follow links for demographic research.)

Mission Statement:

Chirp’s original mission statement is

To mobilize all birds everywhere; regardless of feather size, shape, color, or water repellency; by providing a first class educational experience in language arts which can empower them to talk to other birds with different (valued) experiences and viewpoints, ensuring optimal diversity, effectiveness, and sustainability for the bird community.

Yikes! That is cumbersome and it scores as a 12th grade reading level. Let’s see how they cleaned up that train wreck.

First, they tried starting with what they had and cutting out the unnecessary laundry lists, parenthetical asides, and things that just aren’t core to what Chirp does.

To mobilize all birds everywhere by providing an educational experience in language arts which can empower them to talk to other birds.

This is a little more concise and the reading ease score is improving a bit, but it is still at a 12th grade level. To help with this, they focused on reworking some of those big words and made educate the primary verb.

To educate birds and empower them to talk to other birds.

The grade level is down to 5.8 now, but it feels awkward. Then they remembered the earlier work they did on the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree. What is the most important thing they do?

To teach birds how to use words to communicate with other flocks.

This works a bit better as a mission statement and has a grade level score of 4.8. They checked the Wordifier and found that “teach,” “educate,” “talk,” and “communicate” are all in the yellow category. This means that they are used a lot. It would be better to use verbs that aren’t so common, but at least none of them are in the red category. Between “teach” and “educate,” “teach” is easier to say so they are sticking with that. “Talk” is a simpler word than “communicate,” but they felt that the two directional relationship implied in communicate helped the mission statement feel more engaging.


Chirp knows that the important thing about pitches is that you need more than one. You need something short and sweet you can use to introduce yourself, a bit more information if they are interested so they can understand you, then a pitch that will engage them in your work. You also need to tailor your pitches to different target audiences. Let’s look at how Chirp can shape its mission into pitches for different situations with its personas.

Ruth, the Rockin’ Robin:

  • Know pitch: We teach birds how to talk with birds in other flocks.
  • Understand: We do this by sharing how to use new words.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you are able to use words to make new friends.

Charlie, the Copycat Catbird:

  • Know pitch: We teach birds how to be understood by birds in other flocks.
  • Understand: We do this by instructing them how to use new words.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you are able to use words to make themselves heard clearly.

Olivia, the Observant Owl:

  • Know pitch: We educate birds in effective word use.
  • Understand: We do this by teaching how to use new words and avoid jargon.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you have a rich vocabulary and the language knowledge necessary to learn from foreign birds.

Next week, we’ll be looking at the mechanisms you can use to spread your message…Facebook and Instagram and brochures, oh my!

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?