People are overwhelmed today. The average person may see over 30,000 different messages every day. So, how can your nonprofit get your best stakeholders’ attention and hold it? My recommendation is begin creating and sharing bolder messages. I recently saw an interview with Michael Reagan talking about how his father, President Reagan would deal with all the changes in communications of the past five years. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the right or the left, we all agree that President Reagan was able to get many things done because of his communications and interpersonal skills. As I watched the son try to capture his father’s magic in this interview, I started thinking what was Michael saying that we could all learn from.
The first key is President Reagan communicated in bold colors. He was not shy about letting others know where he stood on issues and challenges. I know what you might be thinking, that today Ronald Reagan would be less popular because of his stands on key issues. I believe people who take a stand will always endure. Talk to any person who truly believes what they say and you will discover they naturally move to bold. Take President Obama, for example, when he speaks from the heart and talks about what he believes. His power comes through. Have him read a something he really doesn’t care about and he becomes stiff and unanimated.
The second key is President Reagan created a bold vision. Organizations that stand out from the pack do so because they have a bold vision. This vision must be clearly definable and have an emotional appeal to your natural stakeholders. This vision may galvanize your opposition against your vision of the world. Many visionary leaders I’ve known realize that without the power of vision their power vanishes. Many people comment that Steve Jobs was able to accomplish so much because he created an “us against them” mentality in his teams. This “us against the world” belief helped people rise to new challenges to prove their cause. We must strive to share our vision to attract the best stakeholders while at the same time repelling people who have no interest in our causes. It’s okay not to be all things to all people. Your vision must help create connections with people who will share your vision. Today, to be effective, you must create sharable messages. Social media demands it, but just as importantly, your vision will allow others to connect to your view of the world in their own ways.
The third key is President Reagan had a bolder communication style. I know you might be asking, “What is bolder communication style?” “How do you create a bolder style?” President Reagan would always look for opportunities by using powerful quotes and ideas from leaders of the past to create connections to others. He used these simple ideas to move people emotionally. He was able to use shorter words and powerful phases to move people and so can you. An essential element of bolder communications is to learn to use pauses more. Stop! Pause, let your words sit with your listener. So many people are taught that you only have so much time to connect to your audience. At the beginning of the message, this may be true but as you continue sharing your story, your listeners will be pulled in not by your words but by your ability to get them involved emotionally. Pauses will have more impact in the era of shorter communications media.
And finally, President Reagan understood that people are moved by optimism. He understood people want to feel good when they receiving a message. Times may be challenging, but things are going to get better. Because people felt Reagan believed in them, they believed in him. By including a more optimistic message, you’re going to stand out from the crowd. Because negative emotions move us so powerfully, many speakers today have forgotten how much it costs to be perceived as a doubting Thomas. I believe this is what made President Obama so powerful in his first White House run, he talked about our fears, but then provided the optimism for the future. People are attracted to people who see an optimistic future. People are willing to pay the price to create a better future if they believe in your optimism.
So, how do you stand out from the hundreds of messages that bombard people in their day-to-day lives? How do you break through the clutter and appeal to the people that want to hear from you? Take a lesson from Ronald Reagan and remember to things, be bold and be optimistic. Don’t be afraid to turn some people off to your message, they weren’t really interested in the first place. You will attract the people that want to be involved.