What’s Behind the New Communications Strategy?
An Interview with NCIV President Jennifer Clinton
On January 22, 2014, NCIV will officially launch its new communications strategy that includes a new name, visual identity, and a set of key messages. The strategy seeks to build on our incredible 50-year legacy while updating and identifying new ways for audiences to connect and engage with our mission. NCIV President Jennifer Clinton answered questions about the new the strategy and what the changes mean for the network.
Q: What was the impetus for the change?
In my first months on the job, I spoke to the leadership of all our member organizations across the country about the opportunities and challenges they face. One consistent theme that emerged was that they were struggling to articulate the importance and value of the work they do and the impact they make locally and globally. Our members rely heavily on local partnerships and resources to provide high-quality programs. It is critical to have a strong and persuasive case that speaks to overall outcomes in order to attract partners, volunteers, and even staff members.
In addition, because NCIV is a partner to the U.S. Department of State's public diplomacy efforts, we need to be a leader in effective communication. To quote Rick Ruth, a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of State, "exchange programs are about moving people and ideas." To accomplish this, we need to have a communications platform that is powerful, inspirational, relevant, and modern. Americans in particular are bombarded with requests to give and volunteer. We need to make it easy for various audiences to understand and see the inherent value of what we do.
Q: What was your process for making this change?
It started when I began looking at ways to improve NCIV's social media and web strategy. I quickly realized before we updated any specific platform, we needed to clarify some of the foundational elements of our strategy, like the vision, mission, positioning, and personality. We were not looking to change the heart and soul of who we are, but to look at them in the context of the rapidly evolving external environment as well as our new strategic plan. This led us to a comprehensive research phase. We interviewed a wide range of current stakeholders and those not familiar our organization to understand our strengths and weaknesses.
One of the recommendations that emerged was to consider a name change. Given the pressures on nonprofits to communicate the outcomes of their work, our board believed that our comprehensive communications strategy would be more effective if we changed our name. We recognize that a name cannot and does not do everything for an organization, but it is a conversation starter. We wanted a name that would inspire more conversations to begin. The NCIV board considered a number of options and ultimately settled on the final version that will be revealed in January.
Q: How does this change affect NCIV member organizations?
We will still offer members all the valuable services and opportunities that position them to be strong and effective implementers of international exchange programs. We have developed a set of tools around key messaging and social media that members can take and adapt to their local audiences. It is our hope that with a more consistent messaging platform, we will amplify our voice and the voice of the international exchange community locally, nationally, and globally.
We will need the help of all of our members. When the date arrives, start calling us by our new name, and use the language and content we have developed to help us speak with a unified voice for international exchange. While your organization does not have to change its name, if you are thinking about it, we would love to hear from you. We are developing a strategy whereby member organizations can work closely with us to adapt our new name.
Q: What do you see as some of the challenges going forward?
Change is difficult. With change, there is always the danger that some will feel like the past and their contributions are not being recognized or honored. It will take time for all of us to get used to this change and fully build up a strong communications platform. We need to develop champions at all levels to encourage and help others through the process. We also need to continue to honor the past and the amazing and dedicated people who have brought us to this point, and remind ourselves and others that we are not replacing the past, but building on it in a way that will inspire others to join us.
Q: So what is the new name and when does it take effect?
All of our members are invited to a special webinar on December 19 for a preview of the new name and communications strategy. We are asking that everyone keep it under wraps until January 22, when we will be making the public announcement! ✯