2 min Read
June 8, 2011

Avoid the Daunting Blank Page.

If you’ve arrived here thanks to this month’s Duck Pond, you already know that this blog post offers a tip to help you write less. It also helps you do so more quickly.

This suggestion requires that you take a step back. It also requires an investment in time and resources up front. But it pays off in the long run.

Let’s assume you have clarity about your positioning and personality. (If you struggle with those things, you’ll need to take another step back. And if you’re not sure what they are, Sarah’s book Brandraising can help.)

What if you have clarity about those things, but it’s still difficult to talk about your work because your programs are varied or your issue is complicated?

You probably need to formally define some key messages for your organization, which, frankly, can require a lot of work. But it’s doable.

More than anything this is an organizing effort. You’re figuring out how to reframe the discussion in the terms most beneficial to your organization (and in terms your audiences understand).

Start by writing down the primary points about the issue you’re addressing and then also about the work you do to tackle the issue. You’ll want to jot things down about your outcomes and perhaps your history, and anything else that seems relevant.

Next, take a look at everything you’ve written down from a “big picture” point-of-view. And then create an outline of the big ideas around your work. Think of the outline as a “highlights reel” for your organization, written with sentences that can be used verbatim or as a jumping off point for a more in-depth discussion.

The organized outline that frames your issue and your work can serve as your key messages.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even add your key messages to a “master messaging document.” It’s like a style guide for your whole messaging platform. Your messaging document will include your positioning, personality, vision statement, mission statement, values statement, and key messages in a document you can share with everyone in your organization.

An outside consultant, agency, strategist, or copywriter can be immensely helpful for this process. (It is–ahem–something we do here at Big Duck.) It’s difficult writing about something you’re too close to, especially when you’re trying to get a fresh, broad perspective on everything.

This process isn’t easy. But once it’s done, you’ll have all of the big ideas behind your nonprofit in one handy document.

Magic! No more daunting blank page. You always have a place to start, no matter what you’re writing. You’ll be amazed not only at how much more easily you can write about your work with fewer words, but also at how much more quickly the writing process goes.

Dan Gunderman

Dan Gunderman is the Former Creative Director at Big Duck

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