Organizations are most successful when they empower their internal community – especially their leadership – to advocate on their behalf. We work with a variety of organizations who are interested in social change, including healthcare, education, affordable housing, and environmental protection. We have seen that almost every person who wants to be an ambassador for their cause has the innate internal skills and capacity to help others understand why their issue matters.
Protesting social service budget cuts in Sacramento.
Recently, we worked with a small group of young men and women in Coachella Valley and asked them to elaborate on what they thought made a good and effective ambassador. These individuals were scheduled to testify before a legislative committee on the status of boys and men of color in California.
The goal of the training was to help them identify how they could best communicate their personal experiences and connect it with the reforms they believe are necessary for boys and men of color to be able to succeed in the state.
Believe it or not, they echoed themes we’d heard in trainings as far away as Toronto, Sacramento, Hawaii, and even in online webinars.
From conversations with people like these, we have identified seven simple strategies for helping those closest to your cause serve as an effective ambassador. Your job is to empower your boards, your staff, and your donors to be your best ambassadors.
Before beginning outreach in the community, we encourage organizations to take some time to discuss who you want to engage, what your goals are in engaging the community, and what the 2-3 most important messages are when talking about your cause. With this foundation, your ambassadors can internalize your priorities and be ready to begin their communication efforts.
1. Be specific about your 2-3 most important points
As with elevator pitches, “advocacy conversations” are most effective when they are short, consistent and highlight the crucial 2-3 messages that you want to share with your audience – and more importantly, that you believe will resonate with them. Advocacy conversations are those where you are attempting to influence someone by asking him/her to actively engage with and support your cause. As you think about your role as an ambassador, be sure to map out the essential information you want to share and don’t forget to include the 2-3 most important points each and every time you talk about your issue.
2. Honor that you have something to teach your audience
You most likely are an expert in the eyes of the person with whom you are speaking. Always think about what you can uniquely contribute to a conversation and what you can offer to others. What is it that only you can speak to on this issue? Is it familiarity with a region or community? Take time to reflect on your strengths, and then take the time to teach others about what you uniquely know.
3. Tell your story – help others connect
Why are you passionate about this issue? Was there a moment when you committed yourself to your cause? These stories are often what resonate most with others. Don’t be afraid to integrate your personal story with your 2-3 key messages, and be sure to include small details that will help your audience visualize the story.
4. Think about your audience’s background
Being a good ambassador goes beyond reflecting on your own personal story; you should also think about the person with whom you are speaking. Be thoughtful about what might interest your audience. Are they young? Involved in environmental issues? From a rural area? All of these personal details will help you identify which of your personal stories might resonate most. They will also help you understand how you can build a broad, diverse coalition of supporters.
5. Be engaged and in the moment
We’ve all experienced it. There’s nothing worse than talking with someone who can’t stop looking at their phone. While this may be an extreme example of someone who is disengaged, it does show how much we all value having someone’s undivided attention. When you are talking to someone about your cause, be sure to be in the moment and show that you are engaged. All the work in the office will still be waiting for you when you get there.
6. Provide a “Call to Action”
Being an ambassador for your cause is about more than getting your audience’s attention; it’s about getting your audience to do be inspired enough to work in support of your effort. As you speak to individuals about your cause, consider what it is you want them to do and don’t be afraid to include your ask in a conversation.
7. Exemplify Bravery by Having the Courage to Speak Up
Regardless of your approach and how you choose to speak about your cause, remember that what most moves people and gets them inspired is talking with someone is brave enough to take a stand. So as you begin your role as a communicator and ambassador, don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. Your advocacy work will be stronger as a result.
About the Authors
Dan is the Founder and Edit is a Communications Counselor at Full Court Press Communications (FCP). FCP is a full-service public relations, public affairs and crisis communications agency that helps companies, foundations and non-profit organizations who wish to use strategic communications to make social change.