Audience Centered Communication
Building Deeper Understanding, Awareness and Trust: National Center for Lesbian Rights
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and their families through litigation, public policy, advocacy, and public education.
Since its founding 35 years ago, NCLR has been an active player in almost every aspect of LGBT civil and human rights. Not surprisingly, the diversity, complexity and scope of its work has expanded tremendously. NCLR’s currently works on Asylum & Immigration, Elders, Employment, Family & Relationships, Federal Legislation & Policy, State Legislation & Policy, Hate Crimes, Healthcare, Housing, Low Income & Poverty, Prisons, Rural Communities, Sports, Transgender Law, Youth and Additional Civil Rights. Within these issue areas, NCLR tackles litigation, policy, public advocacy, public education and trainings (among others).
NCLR’s target audiences have expanded as well, and now include:
- potential donors, supporters and activists
- current donors, supporters and activists
- LGBT community and allies seeking legal help and information
- media and political/social science researchers
- attorneys, service providers and legal researchers
NCLR’s successes have been significant on a national level. However, their communication hadn’t kept up with its exponential growth. The sheer scope and impact of its work were too broad and complex for target audiences to understand easily. Without being told a clear story, it was difficult for target audiences to connect with, and support, NCLR’s work. And as a non-profit organization dependent upon donations, NCLR needed this complexity to be understood.
NCLR needed to tell its story in a brand new way, one which:
- simplified the complexity of its work
- demonstrated the diversity of its work
- highlighted the impact of its work
Over the course of several years of working together, we developed new tools and strategies to solve NCLR’s communication challenges. For this specific project, we:
- reviewed NCLR’s case volume from the last 12-month period to gain a larger picture of its work
- created a visual system using icons and hierarchy for issues, strategies and geographic locations to capture the work in a new way
- presented an entire year of select NCLR milestones, using this new visual system, to fully demonstrate the volume and diversity of the work to major donors
- created print and electronic media that would best reach target audiences and provide the best format for presenting NCLR’s story
- leveraged social media to generate awareness about NCLR, inspire interest and encourage donations
Sampling of Issue Area, Strategy, and Geographic Impact Icons:
Visualizing NCLR’s scope and diversity of work
NCLR’s work covers 16 different issue areas within the LGBT community. Its efforts to improve each involve a number of strategies, such as legislation, litigation, policy advocacy and more. NCLR’s work takes place in, and impacts, individual states, the nation as a whole, and countries around the world. It is important to communicate issue areas, strategies and geographic impact to paint a clear picture of all that NCLR does for a wide range of audiences. We developed a new visual system, used in all subsequent print and electronic media, to simplify the complexity associated with NCLR’s case work and to make it more easily understood by diverse audiences.
Soliciting major donors
NCLR continually engages its major donors in its work through a range of materials and a yearly solicitation. The latter highlights a compelling aspect of its work and the major issues its addressed during the year. In the 2011 campaign, rather than focusing on a single story or component, we opted to illustrate just how much work goes on in a given year. By applying the visual system of icons for issue areas, strategies and geographic impact to a selection of milestones from 2010-2011, we were able to communicate just how varied and complex NCLR’s efforts are and how much impact it has on people’s lives in the nation and beyond. Donors could also easily see and understand the impact that their donations were having through NCLR’s work. Reframing the NCLR story in this way created greater understanding, awareness and trust among donors, which validated their investment in NCLR and encouraged greater support.
Sharing NCLR’s stories
Out for Justice—NCLR’s newsletter designed in an oversized format—is sent biannually to all donors to keep them up-to-date on NCLR’s current work. Generating this type of awareness and understanding is critical for keeping audiences engaged, connected and active. The newsletter covers the significant highlights of NCLR’s work in the LGBT community, along with stories about clients and interviews with major donors. “The Agenda” section, which features brief updates on NCLR’s litigation, legislation, policy, advocacy, public education and trainings, is organized by issue areas and labeled with strategy and geographic impact. QR codes and URLs are used throughout to link readers back to NCLR’s website for additional content and more information.
Engaging multiple audiences
This ongoing, evolving story needed to be distinctive and unique to NCLR. It needed to help target audiences recognize and understand NCLR—the volume, diversity and impact of its work—as well as provide a context for understanding what this work means for them personally. With clarity of purpose, this new story needed to re-engage the interested and convert them into avid and active NCLR donors and advocates. The goals of this new visual representation were to create:
- more donors to support NCLR work
- more engaged staff to deliver NCLR work
- more people getting help in the ways they need
- recognition for NCLR as a trusted resource for all LGBT issues
To achieve these goals, NCLR’s 800+ page website underwent a major review and overhaul in 2012-2013. The strategy for the new site centered on alignment between the very different audiences NCLR serves and the relevant content each would seek. The main navigation was structured with this challenge in mind. “Explore the Issues” and “Views & Analysis” were set-up with easily digestible stories and information allowing donors and supporters, as well as potential donors and supporters, to learn more about NCLR’s diversity of work and their views on these matters. The “Cases & Policy” section enables attorneys, researchers, and service providers to search for specific information in that arena. People seeking legal help and resources are directed to their own section.
Highlighting a year’s accomplishments
NCLR could not have achieved the impact it has had on LGBT rights without the active support of its many donors. NCLR’s Annual Report celebrates the support the organization has received throughout the year and depicts the impact of its work through stories and stats. Along with the standard financial section and donor and sponsor list, the report contains key highlights in litigation, legislation, and publications, as well as the previous year’s case load.
NCLR regularly stays in touch with its donors and supporters through email communication. Since the type of information NCLR conveys varies between “breaking news”—alerts where action is needed—and events and updates on cases and policy, we created four different types of eNews templates to distinguish among them and deliver tailored content to different audiences. In addition, each template links back to NCLR’s websit, its social media sites and the NCLR blog. Frequent communication and current content keep NCLR top of mind for donors and supporters and continually reinforces the importance of their active participation.
Connecting through social media
The use of smart social media—and connecting it to traditional marketing media—can have a significant impact in creating and reinforcing audience connection. In just one example, NCLR uses Twitter to provide real-time updates from the court room keeping its followers informed, engaged and confident that they are real participants in the change that NCLR is creating. To increase the impact of NCLR’s social media, we integrated Facebook, Twitter and YouTube into their traditional marketing channels to align and reinforce NCLR’s message across all channels in parallel. While one media channel has impact, using all of them together to highlight the same critical message is exponentially more powerful. With targeted messaging and incredible reach, NCLR is successfully leveraging all of these tools, in harmony, to educate, engage and motivate greater support, participation and donation.
Over the years, Orange Square has worked with NCLR to re-frame its story and communicate it in a way that created deeper understanding, awareness and trust of its work with its constituents. This communication effort both deepened and elevated the conversation between NCLR and its constituents to engage and connect them more effectively with NCLR’s mission. Through digestible blurbs and easy-to-skim icons, it became easy for constituents to access the information that was most relevant for them and easier still to understand, and connect to, the larger relevance of NCLR’s work across the entire LGBT community. NCLR’s re-framed story strengthened its position as a progressive leader in advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families. The impact of this collaboration has been astounding and can be seen across all platforms and collateral that Orange Square has designed, including the new print newsletter (which tripled donations), the new website and its many successful annual major donor campaigns.