How to Build a Megaphone for Change

by | Nov 22, 2021

To impact real change in a community, you need lots of people on board. You can’t do it alone.

You need an active and engaged mass of supporters ready to jump in and help the cause. As I’ve become more involved in the effort in my community to reduce violence, I’ve noticed many other local groups failing to implement the most simple marketing strategies that would help them build the legion of supporters needed to impact real change.

So, I’m writing this for them, and you. I will give you a simple 4 step plan for your group to amass the audience you need to make real change.

First, I want to give a little background as to why this matters to me. If you don’t care (it’s fine, I’m not offended) click here to go straight to the playbook.

 

Homicide Hits Close to Home

In January of 2020, I was sitting on my couch one evening watching TV with my wife when I got an alert from the Citizen app (an app that provides local crime and safety alerts). There had been an armed robbery at the Subway restaurant a couple of blocks from us. Someone had been murdered.

My heart sank.

For the 5 years I was on staff at Castleton United Methodist Church, I was a regular there. Grabbing a quick sandwich between meetings or events and having countless meetings there. I knew some of the longtime staff.

On top of that, many local high schoolers I knew, as well as current church staff, frequent that location. I began texting friends to find information and praying everyone was safe.

It wasn’t long before the victim was identified as Subway employee, Ashok Kumar. Ashok had made me countless sandwiches over the years. He was a funny guy with a bit of a dry sense of humor. He was one of those longtime staffers. I couldn’t believe it.

 

Co-Founding The North Shadeland Alliance

In the days to follow, I found myself meeting with other citizens desperate to calm the rising crime and violence in our historically safe community. We banded together to form the North Shadeland Alliance.

In a typical year, our community has 0-2 homicides. In 2021, we’re sitting at 9. Indianapolis as a whole is 1 homicide away from breaking the city record for homicides in a year. By the time you read this, we will have likely set a new record.

When I helped found the North Shadeland Alliance, I knew I needed to build a megaphone for us to have a real impact. We needed an engaged following of supporters. We would need people to volunteer, serve, donate, share, etc. for our message and efforts to produce any real results.

So, I got to work doing what I do. I built a website, set up an email list for people to subscribe to, and launched some social media accounts.

If you run a nonprofit or volunteer organization in my city, or any city, I want to show you how easy it can be to build a megaphone for change.

Here are four simple steps you can take to build a megaphone for change in your community.

4 Steps to Build a Megaphone for Change

This isn’t hard. Anyone can do it. Here’s how.

Step 1: Clarify Your Message

When you’re first starting out in a group like this, your gut reaction is to just get moving. Get out there and start working to make a difference. That’s great! However, make sure you understand the long-term goal and what you want to achieve. Your messaging will need to be simple and clear for people to understand and take action to join your cause.

At Clear Brand Story Marketing, we use a 7-part narrative marketing framework to develop clear and compelling messaging for our clients. You don’t need all 7 parts to have a clear message. You simply need to use this easy 4-part narrative messaging framework to make your message clear and drive people to action.

  1. Problem: What is the overarching problem present in your community your organization is working to address?
  2. Solution: What solution are you presenting to help your community overcome this problem. This might be a real strategic solution or policy solution, or simply the forming of a group to address the issue.
  3. Success: When you are successful, what does success look like for members of your community? How will their lives be better in the end?
  4. Call-to-Action: What is the one thing you’re asking members of your community to do to join your cause? The simplest and most strategic call-to-action early on is probably “Subscribe to our Email.” I’ll explain why in Step 4.

When your organization has a clear talking point for each of these four parts of your message, people will begin to quickly know what you do and how it makes their life better. When they understand that quickly, they’re more likely to want to get involved.

 

Step 2: A Simple and Clear Website

I’ll be honest, when I went researching local organizations working to make Indianapolis a safer place, I was disappointed in almost every website I found. None of them present a clear message (step one) and it was almost impossible to know how they want me to get involved.

Major missed opportunities here. So, you need a simple and clear website. A simple and clear website will have a few things every time.

  1. A 4-Part Header: The header of your website actually needs to display all points in Step 1 in fewer characters than a tweet. For more guidance on how to create the header of your website, check out this article we published a while back.
  2. Stakes: Your website needs to BRIEFLY state what the consequences will be if people don’t join you and help you succeed. Don’t be heavy-handed. Bullet points will do. What are you helping them avoid?
  3. A Process Plan: If you don’t lay out the process for people participating in your mission, they will assume it’s too difficult and won’t join you. Create a simple 3-step process plan to show people how simple it can be to make a difference with you. Learn more about creating a process plan in this article.
  4. A Clear Call-To-Action: If you’ve thought about your messaging from Step One, you already know your call to action. Make it prominent on your website and repeat it on every page, multiple times per page. Don’t make people guess what you want them to do next. If they have to guess, they will do nothing.

If your website covers these four items, you will see more engagement and growth in your mission.

 

Step 3: Build an Email List

This step is really where your power comes from. This is the heart of the megaphone. The size and engagement of your email list will largely determine how effective you are in your mission.

Your email list allows you to inform people who want to know more. Provide them value through your email list by keeping them informed on the mission.

When you have an engaged email list, you have a legion of people right at your fingertips who are ready and willing to help advance your mission.

Build your email list as if someone’s life depends on it. It probably does.

There are several cheap or free email marketing platforms you can use to build your email list and send regular mass emails. Here are a few with links. Free options are available for some.

My personal favorite is Active Campaign. We use Active Campaign both for the business as well as North Shadeland Alliance. You can start with up to 500 subscribers for $9/mo and add on as you grow.

 

Our Email Strategy:

To speed up growth in our email list over the last 2 years, we often required people to subscribe to receive certain updates.

We send out a monthly newsletter that is full of important information and things people want to know. So, instead of giving it away for “free,” we forced people to subscribe to our list first.

Each month, when our newsletter went out, I would then post on Facebook and boost it to a 3-mile radius around our area. That post would tease the information in the newsletter. The more interesting the info, the more subscriptions we’d get. I never spent more than $50 on a single boost that would run for only 4 days.

This is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to expedite the growth of your email list.

Step 4: Social Media

Even if you were born yesterday, you’re probably aware that having a social media presence is crucial in 2021 for doing almost anything of value. Community activism is no different.

Everyone knows you need to build a social media audience. The larger the better, usually. But listen, I don’t want you to just build a social media following. While it is valuable and helps you get the word out, it is only a means to an end.

Build your social media following as a tool to build your email list. Constantly direct your followers back to your website so they can subscribe to your email list.

The ones who both follow you on social media AND subscribe to your email list are your warmest audience. They are the ones who are most likely to join you on the mission.

 

Be Strategic in Your Cause

I understand. Many times, folks that get involved in working for change in their community are often the dreamers and the doers. Doers don’t always take the time to step back and look at the big picture of how to strategically build a coalition of people to help with the doing and advance the cause.

I’m a doer, but also a strategic marketer. I know my own organization won’t have the impact it needs to impact the change our community deserves unless I build a megaphone for us to speak through.

Marketing is the megaphone. An engaged email list and social media audience are the megaphone. Your message and website are the foundation of it all.

Too many local organizations are relying on local newspapers, TV stations, and radio to advance their message. While those can be helpful, think of how much MORE helpful they’d be if after every interview you could say, “Head over to our website and subscribe to learn how you can help change our city.”

What if every time you found yourself in the local news there was a link to your website and a clear call to action for your community? Over time, your megaphone will grow. The bigger the megaphone, the more action you create. People can’t avoid you or deny you when you have a legion of people behind you.

I hope this is helpful to you and your organization. I want you to succeed. I want you to grow. If you have any questions, click here, and book a call on my calendar. Even if you don’t hire me, I’m happy to spend a few minutes answering questions and helping point you in the right direction to build that megaphone and change the world.

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