An ambitious vision for the future of your hub is not enough – how do you communicate this vision to your community and stakeholders? Traditional models of communication and persuasion often fail to capture the complex nature of leveraging and communicating your impact – the meaningful change that your activities create for the people in your programmes.
The UK-South Africa Tech Hub Launch League has started running virtual coffee meet-ups for South African hubs and entrepreneur support organisations (ESOs) with the aim to get hub leaders, entrepreneur trainers and programme managers together to learn and connect as a community of practice.
In the April 2021 Hub Meet-up, the first of the series, we invited Caitlin Nash – managing partner at The Loudhailer – to share her thoughts and insights on how to apply a range of different strategies to build a powerful impact message that will strengthen your organisation’s brand and reputation for delivery, and attract partners, entrepreneurs and funders.
6 things we learned about Communicating our Impact Message
Hubs all gather data and write reports for funders or partners. It is part of the job, and a big box to tick in order to keep your funders happy, and secure new funding. But, over and above the data your funder needs, you need to decide what data you will collect that measures what matters to you as a hub and team. How to present that data as evidence of your impact is the big differentiator in an environment where most organisations talk about what they’re doing, not why they’re doing it.
Below we list the six key things we learned from our first meet up led by Caitlin Nash on what an impact message is and why it is so important that it is part of your communication portfolio.
- Impact is currency
It is crucial to understand that if you are in an innovation, tech or economic development hub, you are selling impact, or to put it simply – positive change. You need to look at your programmes and activities as impact products, and design and market them accordingly.
- Evidence and measurement also belong in your communications. The way you look at your marketing portfolio dramatically changes when you realise that impact is, essentially, your currency.
- Make funders and big-picture decision makers understand your impact.
- Impact messaging is ideal when speaking to “big picture” decision makers (funders, philanthropists, programme managers) and “big leap” consumers (entrepreneurs and innovators).
- Communicating your impact is a vital step in securing confidence, reputation and credibility with your stakeholders.
“Impact cannot just be thrown as an additional verb or descriptor in your communications when you want to go out into the market. You need to understand that impact is what you are selling.” – Caitlin Nash
2. Your impact message needs to be clear and consistent
All your communications, marketing, fundraising, and partnership activity should have a clearly aligned and consistent message about your impact, or what your organisation is striving to achieve.
- Be clear about the positive change you are working towards.
- Deeply understanding and consistently communicating your positive change gives people confidence that you have the focus and abilities to meet their objectives.
- Understand what desired “action” you want from your targeted audience with each communication activity. Whether you want to shift their perception of you or sign up to your newsletter, there should be a return for every effort you put in. Persevere and be consistent with your measurement and your messaging, allowing the growth of your impact to become evident.
“It takes time and effort. Be sure to measure your activity so over time with perseverance you can create a level of consistency, build on successes, and curb activity that is not serving the organisation.” – Caitlin Nash
3. Ensure your communication centres on impact, and promotes data sharing
Link any communication about your people, resources and services back to your aspirational target – your impact message. This communicates that impact is embedded in what you do and sends a signal to your partners and funders as to how they can align with your work.
- Share your impact. Share your success.
- Success is important in attracting the right partners.
- It is important to share your data and milestones as it allows people to follow your journey.
“An impact message should be a condensed version of your elevator pitch (you do not have two minutes – maybe you have two sentences). It should answer what your big goal, that has a metric or target attached to it, is and how it is solving a local or global problem. And your goal must result in positive change.” – Caitlin Nash
4. Provide context and be specific
You want to embed your impact message in a broader context that stakeholders can easily relate to, and that amplifies your impact message. If you are not positioning your impact work within the broader context of your global and local society, it is not clear where and how partnerships can take place.
- Look at documents such as annual reports that will guide to you speak in the ‘language’ of your funders and partners.
- Align with an even bigger goal that multiple stakeholders are contributing to, explore and read documents that can guide you in providing context.
- Ensure your impact message is reaching the groups you support such as women, tech verticals, or youth, so that they are aware of you and your focus
“Do not be so vague that you could be anything to anybody, because that way you will not be sending out the right signals for people to join you on your mission. At the end of the day you are doing all of this to attract partnerships and mobilise resources.” – Caitlin Nash
5. Find and communicate your edge
Hubs often try to be all things to all people, yet we teach our entrepreneurs to define their unique value proposition, their “edge”. It may be challenging, but hubs should discover and define what sets the organisation apart from other hubs. Find your edge.
- To find your edge ask yourself what makes your organisation special; perhaps you are the first local hub of its kind, your team has specific talents or influential leaders, you are trusted by the community or you have a special personal story.
- If you are not sure what your edge is, ask the community you serve why they keep returning to your hub or product.
- Once you understand your edge, you should also understand what complementary “edges” other hubs in the ecosystem have, and be in a better position to develop partnerships.
“Do not be so generic that you forget your own specific edge. Do a market comparison to see how other hubs are talking about themselves, and position yourself within that context.” – Caitlin Nash
6. Evidence of your impact
Once you have added your edge the next step is to evidence your impact message. Use quantitative and qualitative data to support your message. You cannot say we create positive change without proving it. Look at KPIs, reports, and statistics from digital activity.
- Having data is important, but knowing how to frame and share it is your ultimate weapon. To start, find data that exists in your organisation already from the activities that you’re doing.
- Prioritise what you track, keep it simple, do not overcomplicate it.
- Harness the power of storytelling. Tell the story behind the numbers. Back this up with content that shows other people believe in you.
“You need to have content that indicates who else believes in you, as this builds credibility. Gather endorsements, partnerships, testimonials and case studies.” – Caitlin Nash
A big thanks to Caitlin and The Loudhailer team for an excellent meet-up contribution, which sparked interesting conversations!
In the the May meet up we explored business models, sustainability, partnerships and lots more with Dirk Bischoff, founder & CEO, Hatch Enterprise UK; David Ogiga, co-founder, Sote Hub Kenya; and Nicki Koorbanally, CEO, mLab South Africa, with Michelle Matthews, our programme director, hosting the panel discussion. This write-up will be available soon.