Identifying value proposition and target audience for nonprofits

 

A conversation with Miller Ink’s Jennifer Dekel on how to identify value propositions and target nonprofit based audiences

 

Every nonprofit plays a unique value role in enriching its community. Communicating that role to the public is no simple feat. As Account Supervisor for Miller Ink’s nonprofit division, Jennifer Dekel’s mission is to help organizations distill their value and determine how to best talk about it, both internally and externally. We recently sat down with Jennifer to discuss how she helps nonprofit clients define their goals, communicate their value, and reach their target audiences..

How long have you been at Miller Ink?

I’ve been at Miller Ink for approximately two and a half years.

What is your professional background?

I’ve worked in the nonprofit world for many years. I originally served as a research analyst at a national security think tank. After that, I was the director of research and communications at a pro-Israel advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. In that role, I briefed members of Congress and their staffs about Israeli and American national security issues. I also worked extensively to advance federal legislation to help combat antisemitism on college campuses.

How did your experience help prepare you for your current role and clients?

In terms of actual on-the-ground work, I gained extensive experience in writing, editing, and event planning. I worked with everyone from elected officials to nonprofit representatives, which helped me transition to an agency, where you’re working with many different clients who each have a wide range of personalities and needs.

 I also gained knowledge about the nonprofit world and how it operates. I learned about the challenges that nonprofits face and ways they can excel. Additionally, I have a deep understanding of the work of many of our nonprofit clients, given my background in the Jewish and pro-Israel space. My extensive background in pro-Israel advocacy has been an asset for me when creating communications plans and assisting our clients.

What is your current role within Miller Ink?

I’m an Account Supervisor for our nonprofit division, which essentially means I’m the lead for all strategic questions relating to our nonprofit accounts. I work with account executives and associates to develop and coordinate communications plans, create media strategies, anticipate clients’ needs, and provide overall guidance along with day-to-day tactical work that moves projects forward.

What is your specialty at Miller Ink?

I have two main specialties. The first is my background, experience, and knowledge of the pro-Israel world and Jewish space. I am passionate about helping nonprofits with missions I believe in, and I have collaborated with many of our nonprofit clients in the past. My past experiences with these organizations help me relate better to our clients’ work, needs, and goals.

I’m also one of our go-to op-ed pitchers. On a previous account I managed, I pitched about four op-eds per day—it’s a skill that I have gained on the job and that I enjoy doing.

How do you think about communicating a given nonprofit’s brand values and message to the public?

Each nonprofit has unique value propositions. When I see the name of a nonprofit and read its website, my first question often is, “how does this organization differ from another with a similar name and similar mission?” Part of our job is to find what makes a nonprofit unique and what differentiates it from all others within that space.

When we onboard a new client, we start by asking them critical questions to determine what their value propositions are. Once we’ve captured those ideas, we’re able to craft a message that will appeal to the target audience. Of course, this depends on who exactly the audience is. The overarching message differs depending on if you’re talking to a funder, a consumer, or someone on social media who’s never heard of your nonprofit before.

What is the best way to manage disappointment when it comes to a nonprofit’s goals?

It’s important to recognize that all organizations, whether for-profit or nonprofit, will experience disappointment and challenges at some point. Disappointment and challenges are learning experiences, and I believe in welcoming the opportunity to grow and improve. Nonprofits should approach challenging situations as learning experiences and consider ways to build resilience within their organizations to be better prepared to confront future challenges.

When the pandemic hit, nearly every nonprofit faced immense obstacles. We helped our clients navigate through the unknown during those trying times. Our clients were able to use their disappointments as opportunities for growth, and embrace change in ways they had never really explored before.

Before addressing failure, however, it’s important to set and manage expectations with clients ahead of time. This helps to prevent future disappointment. It’s our job at Miller Ink to manage those expectations and let clients know in advance what to expect and what not to expect.

Are there any trends you’ve noticed in the nonprofit space as far as where communications and marketing are headed?

During the pandemic, a number of nonprofits realized that they need to be more agile in their approach to communications. We helped many organizations pivot rapidly to communicate with their audiences, much of which involved moving from in-person events, meetings, and communications to exclusively online work.

What we’re seeing now is that a number of clients are still using that online model. Though some are using a hybrid model, the pandemic emphasized the importance of online communications. Of course, face-to-face interactions will always be important, as well as some of the more traditional methods of communicating. However, in the world that we’re living in today, online communication is necessary.

In terms of marketing, we’ve seen a lot of success planning digital marketing campaigns for our nonprofit clients. When developing a new marketing plan, incorporating a digital component is essential.

How do you help nonprofit clients define their goals and reach their target audience?

Oftentimes at nonprofits, employees or stakeholders have different ideas about the organization’s goals. I think it’s important to first sit down with each stakeholder—as we do at Miller Ink when we create a messaging architecture and conduct visioning calls—and ask what they perceive to be the goals of the nonprofit. A nonprofit cannot truly define its goals unless everybody gets on the same page, understands what the goals are, and has buy-in and clarity.

The next important step is for nonprofits to think about their long-term goals. Where do they see their organization in six months, a year, five years, and even 10 years? In order to implement a successful communications program, nonprofits need to be forward-thinking about what they want to achieve.

To reach their target audience, organizations first need to identify who their target audience is. Sometimes nonprofits have a variety of audiences, from the general public to stakeholders to funders. We consider all audiences and then draft unique messages for each one.

Once you help an organization define its goals, how do you communicate these goals to the public?

This really depends on the goals and means of the nonprofit. In general, we use a blend of traditional and new media tools, which can include earned media, press releases, op-eds, paid media, digital advertising, and social media. Oftentimes, we use all the available tools to ensure we get maximum coverage of the audience.

What is your favorite thing about working at Miller Ink?

The ability to work with clients whose missions I’m interested in and often passionate about. In these cases, I feel personally invested in my clients and care deeply about their success. I also strongly value working with a team that is positive, strives for excellence, and has an extremely strong work ethic. At Miller Ink, everyone strives to be the best version of themselves in the workplace, and it’s really a special experience to be a part of.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

I enjoy being outdoors, going to the beach, doing yoga, and spending quality time with friends and family.

If you were a punctuation mark, which one would you be and why?

I would be an em dash. For one, I use it often in my writing. Secondly, when I want to qualify or emphasize specific thoughts and ideas, the em dash is the perfect solution.

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