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What Is Values-Driven Communication?

12 Sep What Is Values-Driven Communication?

Several years ago we began using the term values-driven strategic communication to describe what we do at M Creative. We put it on our business cards, etched it on the glass that fronts our Trade Street office in downtown Winston-Salem, and incorporated it into presentations to prospective clients. It was language that just felt right to our clients in describing both themselves and us. What does values-driven mean, though?

What we do best is help clients clarify how their values and beliefs shape who they are, what they do and why they matter. The result is a unique and compelling story that no one else can tell.

In 2004, we had the privilege to design The Winston-Salem Foundation community report showcasing the Foundation’s community-changing work as one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the United States, and the first foundation in North Carolina. The report became an early opportunity—now a decade ago—to think about how values shape identity and strengthen clarity of mission. In previous reports, the primary messaging and look changed annually which did little to differentiate the Foundation or further the integrity of its brand.

WSF cover 2For the last decade, we’ve made sure that the Foundation’s stories are driven by its core values of generosity, integrity, excellence and inclusion. Consistency has helped the Foundation align its mission, values and identity, which over time has built cohesion internally and cultivated trust among donors, beneficiaries, partners and participants.

We recently helped another longstanding client, Arbor Acres, develop a capital campaign identity and communication for Fitzgerald—an on-campus, skilled nursing facility that houses their most frail and vulnerable residents.

During initial meetings and after reviewing working campaign documents, it was clear that the renovation of Fitzgerald was driven not only by Arbor Acres’ core values of excellence, innovation, caring and beauty, but also by the greater promise to all residents—especially those at Fitzgerald—of retirement in a place where every moment is connected to the fullness of life. These core values and beliefs became The Essential Promise—a campaign theme fully embraced as the primary message to donors.

So what is values-driven strategic communication?

We would say it is:

– understanding and clearly articulating what truly makes your organization different

– assessing the degree to which your values contribute to that difference

– aligning the values of your organization with the values of your key constituents

– synthesizing and translating that information into persuasive narratives and creative design that gives internal constituents the tools they need to talk confidently about the organization (key messaging, brand guidelines, goals and strategies, template sheets, roadshow presentations); and external stakeholders the emotional connection they need to wholeheartedly engage.

We believe this a critical difference worth understanding when you’re looking for a nonprofit communication partner.


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