The Consistently Compelling Seattle Aquarium: How Do They Do It?

Being consistently compelling is key when it comes to creating a lasting connection with your supporters. It’s what makes good brands great. It helps you stand out from the crowd and keep you at the forefront of people’s minds. It’s also really hard—especially when you have so many audiences and channels to juggle!

That’s why we wanted to interview Marsha Savery, Director of Marketing for the Seattle Aquarium. Whether it’s a billboard on the side of the road or an octopus in a glass tank, the Seattle Aquarium is consistently compelling no matter the setting. We were lucky enough to get Marsha’s tips on how they work their magic.

© Seattle Aquarium 2011
  1. Be able to clearly describe your brand: Marsha describes the Seattle Aquarium’s brand as clean, consistent, family friendly and professional. The graphics are very strong and vary according to the Aquariums’ three main audiences: families in the tri-county region with children under twelve, volunteers and donors.
  2. Have a common thread: The Director has the final say on visuals, which for families are tailored to be fun, vibrant artwork. Graphics for volunteers are photographs of the ocean and fish, and those geared towards donors are photos of the ocean, children and marine wildlife. The thread that keeps the visuals consistent is the Aquarium’s message of preserving marine wildlife, which is embedded in all they do.
  3. Have one conductor: Many people create content throughout the organization, but when it comes down to it, Marsha manages to make sure it all works in concert—social media, web content, billboard graphics, etc. The message never gets diluted because she keeps all the pieces working together. Even advertising done by an outside agency, as for the Aquarium’s summer outdoor ads, is managed solely by her.
Marsha’s biggest piece of advice–especially for smaller non-profits–is to have well-designed materials and messages!
She recommends reevaluating your organization’s messaging, including the graphics, as well as your logo. For the materials, preferably have them done by a marketing or graphics professional. While organizations are often pressed for money, having a pro craft your materials will go a long way to helping your image.
“I think non-profits should find someone they trust who can give them advice on how to present themselves in a polished manner. It’s so important to look like you’ve got your act together so somebody may help fund you. And graphics can do that.”
Marsha isn’t alone in being a fan of a strong logo. A Child’s Right felt so strongly about it that they have a full-time designer on staff, something the Chronicle of Philanthropy picked up on in their recent article on the organization.
Thanks to Marsha for telling us how we can all be consistently compelling!

Messaging Fluency & MSG

Bootcamp Week #8: Supporting Messages by Audience

(this week’s vid)

What’s the difference between ‘advanced’ and ‘fluent’ when it comes to speaking a language? Your ability to calibrate to different audiences and settings.

For instance, it’s one thing to tell your colleagues that you tried the latest spot from the MSG150 food blog. It’s quite another to relay that same information to a chef from Le Cordon Bleu.

It’s about your audience and what matters most to them. That’s why it’s important to come up with your top three target audiences (the groups of people who are most important to the success of your organization) and know what they care about. Really, truly care about.

If you’re the Seattle Aquarium, visitors, volunteers and donors are all extremely important to you. But what they need to hear in order to engage differs dramatically.

This Week’s To-Do’s

  1. Download the Nonprofit Messaging Framework template.
  2. Brainstorm a list of target audiences.
  3. Narrow that list to your top three.
  4. Write a short paragraph describing what matters most to each target audience.
  5. Create two to four messages for each audience.
  6. Put proof points and stories for each supporting message that will motivate them to take action to take action!

Next Week

Sharing and using your Messaging Framework.

About Claxon’s Nonprofit Messaging Bootcamp

This is week #6 of our Nonprofit Messaging Bootcamp. If you’re just joining the Bootcamp, here’s what you need to do to get started.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?