If you checked the dictionary to find the textbook definition of “work that matters”, you’d surely find Signal Hill. They are building up young people and tackling relevant cultural issues such as the true meaning of beauty and sexuality as well as the the impact of marketing and social media, all with the desire to make sure that every person is seen as equally valuable and important.
Needless to say, Signal Hill is already making an impact. But helping to shape culture in a constantly-changing environment is no easy feat. How do you tell the world that you are doing amazing life-affirming work without them either writing you off, feeling like you have a hidden agenda, or putting up walls before they even know you? The team had a desire to communicate their brand more effectively, so we knew that what Signal Hill needed most was the marriage of organizational clarity and creative tools to express who they are without forming barriers.
Start With Why
We maintain that doing “work that matters” goes beyond the creative websites and the pretty posters (though they certainly have a role). The good news is that Signal Hill is already doing amazing things; so what we needed to do is to help the team discover and explore that (not-so-secret) ingredient that makes them great. We started with lots of listening, talking, soul-searching and whiteboarding -- whatever it took to clearly articulate their ‘Why’. To create a movement that shifts culture, we needed to describe the very core of who Signal Hill is. Through this process, we helped create the necessary framework to shape the intentionality behind everything Signal Hill does -- from decisions about projects and priorities to the way they relate with their donors and their clients.
Form the Right Words to Say
We have a North American audience, so it’s safe to say that as long as the content is in English (with a few hashtags thrown in), the audience will get it. Right? Well, not really. In order to effectively communicate an important message, you need to use language that’s clear, approachable, and repeatable. More importantly, your organization as a whole needs to speak that same cohesive language. In the case of Signal Hill, we needed to go beyond telling them what to say; rather, we needed to create a Language Toolkit that teaches them how to say it.
Gaining organizational clarity and finding the right words to express it lays the groundwork to effectively execute creative elements that get noticed. Because Signal Hill already had the “secret” ingredient, our job included helping them bring out the flavour before presenting their masterpiece to the world. We needed to create tools and marketing materials that best communicates their updated brand. We needed to utilize various forms of media from thought-provoking videos to engaging print materials to best showcase what Signal Hill is all about.
We came across some very important questions as we were developing Signal Hill’s Language Toolkit, the most important of which is: how do you do connect with a culture that tends to have aversion to words like “abortion” and “Pro-Life”? We needed a clever way to intertwine language and visual media to intentionally convey a life-affirming message without using conventional language associated with the cause. The result is a poignant video that clearly communicates Signal Hill’s vision and mission without creating barriers that prevent certain audiences from embracing the message.
The process of establishing organizational clarity isn’t always easy, but it sure is satisfying. Through the process, we were able to take the amazing qualities that make up Signal Hill and come up with a concise summary that clearly outlines Signal Hill’s credo. We helped the team come up with four core values by which to shape Signal Hill’s current and future programs. These four core values, each strategically making up one side of a diamond, describes how the organization will operate in all that it does. One of the highlights is promoting the idea of targeting the root of the problem first. We developed language that encouraged a line of thinking that “feeds the roots rather than watering the leaves”.
The four core values were thoughtfully set on each side of a diamond because diamonds are beautiful and strong. We believe that it is just as important to strengthen the internal communication of an organization as it is to strengthen its external message. We challenged each team member to take the time to understand the mission and embrace their four core values. By doing so, the team can engage in deeper and more strategic conversations to make a maximum impact on young people.
The result of organizational clarity is a healthy team that moves forward in the same direction, equipped with the appropriate language toolkit to effectively communicate that vision to others. Whether they’re connecting with a donor or a prospective staff member, our friends at Signal Hill are now able to share their vision with confidence without struggling to find the right words to say.