We stink at telling our own story. I don’t think we are alone, especially in the nonprofit world.
The other day, I walked into a media outlet prepared to do an interview. Another guest on the show struck up a conversation: “Better Business Bureau… So what do I call you? ‘The Bureau?’ ”
I cringed a little inside. I told him no, and in fact, we aren’t big fans of that word. When people hear “bureau,” understandably, they assume government. BBB is a nonprofit, not a governmental department.
“Oh. But aren’t you funded by a grant or something from the Department of Commerce?” he asked.
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Cringing worse, now, still inside. His questions are legitimate, and ones I field regularly. I explained that no, BBB is fully funded by companies that believe in doing right and support our mission to help business and buyer win in the marketplace through ethics and trust.
Every week, I write a column for the Idaho Statesman, and it’s easy for me to think people will know what BBB is when they see the name. Maybe some people will recognize the name but not know, really, what we do.
So how do we, each of us representing a nonprofit, tell our own story better?
First, we have to stop assuming people already know what we’re all about. It’s like that game of telephone where Person 1 says a phrase to Person 2, Person 2 says it to Person 3 and so on. By the time an idea gets past the first few people, it doesn’t quite match how it started. Sometimes, even the meaning cannot be preserved.
BBB is a more than 100 years old with an international presence. The organization has heard its share of inaccuracies, like being government funded. When you tell your story, or hear someone else tell your story, look for opportunities to correct myths and guide to facts. In doing so, find a short, repeatable phrase to explain what you’re about.
It’s an ongoing process. But if you can tell your story well even just a few times, Person 5 or 6 in your telephone game becomes Person 1, and that’s a start.
Dale Dixon is president and CEO of Better Business Bureau service the Snake River Region. firstname.lastname@example.org