What can a good tagline do for your nonprofit?
Ever wondered what a good tagline can do for your organization? In this episode of the Smart Communications Podcast, Farra Trompeter, partner and chief growth officer, discusses taglines, brand strategy, engaging community in your brand, social justice, and more with Chandra M. Hayslett, communications director, from the Center for Constitutional Rights and Ambar Mentor-Truppa, vice president of communications, from the Shriver Center on Poverty Law.
Farra Trompeter: Welcome to the Smart Communications Podcast. This is Farra Trompeter, chief growth officer and partner at Big Duck. I am delighted to be joined by Chandra Hayslett and Ambar Mentor-Truppa. They are podcast favorites (they have been on the show before), and they are Big Duck fan favorites. I’m really delighted. We’re here to talk about the power of a good tagline. Before we get started, I do just want to share a little bit about Chandra and Ambar.
Farra Trompeter: So Chandra M. Hayslett is the communications director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. She is responsible for leading the overall development of communication strategy and guiding the department’s coordination with the legal and advocacy departments and case-specific communications plans. Prior to coming to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Chandra was a member of the leadership team at G&S Business Communications, led communications at Student First New York, and served as director of communications and marketing for First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens/Central New Jersey Community Development Corporation. Before transitioning to public relations. Chandra spent 11 years as a newspaper reporter covering K to 12 education court cases and politics. Chandra has a Bachelor of Arts in African-American studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She’s also really fun, but speaking of fun, let’s talk about Ambar.
Farra Trompeter: Ambar Mentor-Truppa is the vice president of communications at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. Since joining the organization in this first-ever role in 2016, she’s provided strategic direction and oversight to the Shriver Center’s public relations, brand management, and marketing activities. She brings to the Shriver Center nearly 15 years of experience in strategic communications, previously working as a consultant for several boutique public affairs agencies. She has directed communications and community outreach projects to support policy work on behalf of major public interest organizations, including foundations and government entities. An active civic volunteer. She supports causes connected to feminism education, race equity, and public media. Ambar holds a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ambar is also a delight. Welcome, Chandra and Ambar.
Chandra M. Hayslett: Thank you.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Thank you.
Farra Trompeter: You know, I’ll say, I have not personally had the chance of working directly with Chandra and Ambar at Big Duck when they have been clients of ours. And you can read all about the work that we’ve done for the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law on our website at bigduck.com/work. We will link to those case studies in the transcript for this. But during the COVID pandemic, I have had monthly calls with Chandra and Ambar. We have become fast friends beyond our colleagueship talking about the world of nonprofit communications and life in general, and I’m excited to have this conversation. We did a webinar together, all about this topic, the power of a good tagline, back in May 2021.
Farra Trompeter: We’re here to bring that conversation to life and add some more depth to it here in July 2021, when we’re recording this episode. If you’d like to watch the webinar and learn more about the work we did for The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, check that out on our website, bigduck.com/insights and go to the video section. We’ll also, again, link to that in the notes. All right, that’s all our background. We’re ready to get started, Ambar and Chandra again, welcome back to the podcast.
Chandra M. Hayslett: Thank you.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Thank you.
Farra Trompeter: All right. So let’s start with that. We’re talking about the power of a good tagline. I want to just share a definition. We at Big Duck think about a tagline as a short phrase, usually eight words or fewer that introduces your organization. Chandra. Ambar, I’d love to start with just sharing your organization’s name and tagline, and perhaps talk a little bit about how that tagline works as an introduction or an overview of your organization.
Chandra M. Hayslett: Hello everyone. This is Chandra. Thanks to Big Duck and Farra for having me. The Center for Constitutional Rights tagline is “Justice takes a fight.” So because the law supports systems of power that violate our most fundamental rights and prevents people from living with dignity, we work with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation. So we’re fighting for justice and liberation every day. Our end goal is justice for the marginalized communities we stand with. We are an organization that supports communities on the ground. And so when we say we stand with them, we’re taking a lead from those communities on the ground. But you know, we live in a world that legitimizes the systematic oppression of poor people, people of color, and other vulnerable communities through the law. We know that securing justice for the communities we’re standing for will take a fight. No one’s handing out justice, unfortunately. So we’re having to fight for this justice every day. We know that justice was never intended for all. So again, we have to fight to protect it. Hence “Justice takes a fight.” We fight in the courtroom. We fight on the streets with our movement partners and we fight the media with narrative shifting.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Great. And this is Ambar, thank you for also having me for this conversation. So the Shriver Center on Poverty Law’s tagline is “For economic and racial justice.” And, as an organization, we recognize that policies and laws that create and perpetuate poverty and racial inequity are written into the fabric of our nation. And we also believe that laws and policies and those institutions that apply them should be designed to support and help people thrive. And as an organization through litigation, policy advocacy and training and connecting lawyers and people in the advocacy community, we work towards a future where everyone can provide for themselves and their families regardless of race or where they come from. And so our tagline, “For economic and racial justice” shares our core values and helps paint a picture of the goals that we’re working toward.
Farra Trompeter: Great. So at Big Duck, we often talk about three types of taglines. In fact, listeners may recall a podcast we released last year where Sarah and Ryan, one of our senior copywriters, discussed what types of tagline works best. Just in case you haven’t listened to that episode in a while. I’m going to give you a quick review. So there is an explanatory tagline. This is one that’s often a straightforward phrase that works with a more evocative name, like Big Duck. What is Big Duck? But our tagline is “Smart communications for nonprofits,” right? We are describing who we are because we have that very evocative name. The second type is values-based. This really speaks to the why or the core beliefs that drive an organization, for example, “For economic and racial justice,” right? I would say that the Shriver Center for Poverty Law brings in to that values piece and then call-to-action, inviting folks to get involved, like “Justice takes a fight.” So reflecting back on the direction of your tagline, what do you think works about that direction and perhaps what doesn’t? Ambar, you want to start off?
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Yeah, so I would say that as an organization that’s evolved and has continued to evolve with multiple programs and different approaches to ending poverty and systemic racism, we really needed something that we could easily coalesce around as an organization, and authentically embrace. And we see ourselves as a leader in our space, and as we were affirmatively taking on a racial justice lens to our anti-poverty work, which traditionally the two spaces weren’t as integrated. It was important that externally we showed the world that we see both economic inequities and racial inequities as critical forces that we need to end, and we have to disrupt both of them so we can truly achieve justice. And so I think it’s important to think about your tagline as a space, not to describe what your organization does, but to share your values and beliefs, but your tagline can also help change the conversation and the narrative.
Chandra M. Hayslett: That’s really interesting, Ambar. The Center for Constitutional Rights, we are a litigation advocacy, a narrative-shifting organization with a big focus on litigation advocacy. So it was really important to highlight the action of litigation, but also a call-to-action with the advocacy. But like Ambar, I feel like “Justice takes a fight” is values-based, but we also sit in the call-to-action category. So we value justice. We’re fighting for justice, but the fight invites people to join us and that struggle for progress. Part of our key messaging, which was born out of the tagline, is “we are calling on you, join forces with activists, lawyers, and storytellers to fight oppression and build power. You have a role to play, act, donate, share.” So we really want to call people in to join us in this fight. And so if you’re in the process of thinking about a new tagline, I would suggest not to box yourself into one category shuttling two categories may make sense for your organization. And as long as your tagline is inspirational and makes people think and feel, then I think you may have a winner.
Farra Trompeter: So Big Duck’s had the pleasure of working with both of you and your organizations over the past few years through our brandraising process, which always starts with a discovery. Really learning what’s going on, conducting research in your space, understanding perceptions about you, and then gets into developing a brand strategy, which helps set the stage for any shifts to your brand assets, things like name, tagline, logo, messaging, et cetera. At the heart of brand strategy are the concepts of positioning, which is kind of the big idea people should have in their minds about you, and personality, the tone, and style, the adjectives you use to communicate, the emotions you want to evoke. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about your positioning and personality and how you think either or both of those elements are really reflected in your tagline.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Yeah, I can start first. This is Ambar. So the Shriver Center’s positioning is that the Shriver Center works with, and for, people living in poverty to power advocacy strategies that advance racial and economic justice. And our personality traits are unwavering, collaborative, experienced, responsive, and community-centered. But to hone in on our positioning, which literally has our tagline embedded in it, it was very important that we needed to make sure that we elevated this interconnected, systemic view of race and poverty. And the positioning, honestly, for us just ended up being very central to our messaging and our brand strategy. And I think our personality traits certainly speak to more of us as an organization and the traits that we wanted to maintain being a 50-year-old plus organization. But certainly that positioning, I think for us, has helped encapsulate who we are and what we want to say. And the tagline is, is really central to that.
Chandra M. Hayslett: Ambar, I’m jealous that you all have five personality words, and the Center for Constitutional Rights only has four.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: We squeezed one in.
Farra Trompeter: We can make up a new personality for you on this podcast if you really want a fifth one.
Chandra M. Hayslett: But we love our personality words, and I’ll get to those in a minute, but I just wanted to quickly share our positioning. Our positioning is “We dare to fight oppression regardless of the risk, standing with social justice movements and communities under threat.” And our four personality words are: unapologetic, agile, tough, and impassioned. And these four words perfectly described the Center for Constitutional Rights. And within the organization, people just kind of throw them around all the time. So they feel really natural for us internally. And so the unapologetic, we are often the first nonprofit to file lawsuits against government entities, corporations, people. For example, we were the first NGO to file a lawsuit on behalf of the men at Guantanamo Bay. We are unapologetic about the work. We knew there was a risk stepping out first, but we filed that lawsuit regardless of the risk. Agile, we’re a legal organization that takes direction from our movement partners on the ground, but we move easily between the courtroom and the streets. So we’re straddling different communities, different courtrooms. Tough, we do not back down. We don’t give up. When we hit a bump, we look for creative legal strategies to keep our cases alive. I mean, some of our lawsuits are 10 to 15 years old, so we’re always looking for ways to talk about them in a new, fresh way. So we’re tough. We’re in it for the long haul. And we’re impassioned. You have to be passionate about the work to be a part of the Center for Constitutional Rights family.
Farra Trompeter: Well, I’m just going to offer, if anyone has a fifth personality trait, as they hear Chandra speak about the Center for Constitutional Rights, you can feel free to send it in and we’ll have a contest to name the fifth personality trait. I’m sure the team will love that I’m opening this up.
Farra Trompeter: Okay, so a tagline or a slogan, obviously pairs with your name, but really comes to life in how it’s applied across your communications materials. And I’m just curious if you could talk a little bit about how you’ve used your tagline, not just in launching the rebrand, but you know, again, for both of you, it’s been a few years since that rebrand. So Chandra tell us how “Justice takes a fight” is still alive and how you’re using it in different ways?
Chandra M. Hayslett: I don’t know if you can overuse a tagline, but it’s everywhere for us. But you know, we love it because it really personifies who we are. So we have a pending capital campaign and it’s called “Justice takes a fight.” Now we’re in a world of Zoom. So we have Zoom backgrounds that are basically our step and repeat, but it’s “Justice takes a fight.” Our step and repeat is “Justice takes a fight.” We’ve used it for event titles and invites. Our advocacy department produces, pre-COVID, about 30 events a year, maybe. It often pops up for event titles and invites. It’s at the footer of our newsletter, which is a monthly newsletter. It’s all over our social media channels. We’ve put it on t-shirts and tote bags and buttons. Our Instagram name incorporates justice. It’s @CCRjustice. And most of our development emails end with “Justice takes a fight.” So we love it. And like I said, I don’t know if you can overuse it, but it’s all over our messaging.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: And it works. I was such a fan following all of your branding while we were waiting for our branding journey. And I would say that the Center for Constitutional Rights’ creative continues to inspire us. So you’re doing a great job.
Chandra M. Hayslett: Thank you.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: You are doing a great job.
Farra Trompeter: This is just one big fangirl podcast. We just all love each other. Love each other’s work.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. To build on that, we’ve also tried to incorporate at the Shriver Center, our tagline in a variety of communications and platforms. And I think it’s also been interesting to see how we’ve had some more like deeper uses to coalesce around like strategy as well. It has served as a frame for our advocacy and has allowed us to weave together our various bodies of work into a central agenda because we work on housing, healthcare, economic justice, criminal legal reform. And so “economic and racial justice” can serve as a shorthand to really talk about all of these pieces of issue areas that we work on. We also brought on a new CEO, Audra Wilson, in the last year. And as a new spokesperson, the brand has allowed her to own the organization and have just an authentic way. So the tagline is very central to her.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: And actually now in the Zoom world, she has a banner with the tagline behind hers for all of her Zoom, virtual appearances. And it’s been a rallying cry. It gives us an opportunity to bring all of our audiences together, to call for change, and call for that goal of economic and racial justice. So we’ve used it in a brand video. It’s all over our website. And it really is at the center of our brand experience from in-person events to more digital spaces now. Illustration and videos has also been an interesting way of how the brand has evolved. And in general, people are walking away with a clear sense of what we’re striving for. And then it allows us to then go into the more specifics of our programs and our impact.
Farra Trompeter: Great. So now what I’m curious about, both of you, your brands launched a few years ago, they both emphasize justice, right? The Center for Constitutional Rights rolled out its brand in 2018. The Shriver Center on Poverty Law rolled out its brand in 2019. I’m curious how the tagline came to life during the racial reckoning we saw here in the US last summer in 2020, and continue to see into today. And you know, again, we’re recording this in July 2021. So I don’t know what is to come in the next few weeks or months, but I’m curious, how has the tagline feeling now fast forward three and two years later, respectively? Chandra?
Chandra M. Hayslett: Yeah, it feels so personal and so powerful. Everything about last summer was personified and our tagline “Justice takes a fight.” With the daily global protest, the demands for reform, the momentum, and grassroots activism was a fight for justice. The demonstrations were a form of fighting for justice. The marching, the chanting, the civil disobedience, the sit-ins, the boycotts. Everything that happened last year was a form of fighting for justice. And it just made me really happy that this was our rallying cry because it felt like we were sharing a rallying cry in “Justice takes a fight,” because all of those actions were forms of fighting and the end goal is justice. So it was spot on and we didn’t even realize it.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: I would agree. And I think that it also makes us really proud because our values have been out there before this pandemic, before 2020, when we released, we let everyone know what we believed in. But I think last year and into now, it’s still signaling to audiences that are looking for organizations to engage with, to support, that we share those values, that we are a place where you can invest, who you can partner with. And then internally the tagline also became a commitment to us that not only are we pushing for racial justice in our world, but how do we commit to internally living out those values for our staff? And then lastly, I think it really reminds us that we have to continually support and be in solidarity with our Black communities and other communities of color. And so the tagline, we look to it and when we know we need to speak on an issue, we’re reminded by every day.
Farra Trompeter: Ambar, you just mentioned your staff in that. And I’m curious for both of you, how has your staff or community interacted or responded to your tagline?
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: I think really positively, which has been great. The staff during the rebrand process, we couldn’t really change our name completely, but we were ready to also elevate these values and the concept of justice, and racial justice into our brand somehow. So this has been wonderful. And I think in general, it helps new audiences understand who we are because the Shriver Center on Poverty Law slightly descriptive, but not that descriptive. And so our tagline also is just a value that then gets people in, you know, helps them recognize and understand who we are and what we stand for. And it’s a tagline that a lot of people can get behind. It’s been also great that we have swag, we’ve put it on buttons, we’ve put it on a tote bag. And it’s like I say, it’s like a badge of honor that people want to wear those values. So that’s been fun to see and to be a part of an organization that has those values that can connect with so many.
Chandra M. Hayslett: I love that badge of honor. Yeah. Our staff and community, they really love our tagline because they can identify with it. We think of our community, our donors, our partners as fighters. I mean, we’re all in this together. So if we’re fighting, they’re fighting. So I think that it’s easily identifiable for them. They are fighting with us against those systems that restrict civil and human rights. So they understand the fight. So for us, it was fully embraced by staff and community.
Farra Trompeter: You know, I usually say I’m a lover, not a fighter, but you know, when you put it this way, I am a fighter for justice. So I’m going to rethink that.
Chandra M. Hayslett: Yeah, totally.
Farra Trompeter: Before we sign off. I’d love it if you all have any tips you’d like to share regarding new ways folks can think about applying their tagline or if they should evaluate if their tagline is right for them? Or I even talked to organizations who don’t have a tagline or slogan that they use. So just any ways that folks can really apply this conversation to their situation.
Chandra M. Hayslett: Ambar and I gave a lot of ways in which we’ve incorporated our tagline,o I think any of those applications could possibly work. Some of them are hopefully low-hanging fruit from like swag to social media channels. But I think for evaluation, you should ask yourself, is your tagline memorable? Is it focused? Does it move people? Does it differentiate your organization from your peers?
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Plus one. All of what Chandra just said. And I would just ask you and your organization to kind of just take a deep look at yourselves and understand who you are, where you are in your journey as an organization. Is your tagline authentic to who you are? Can it be more aspirational? How does it help align you as an organization? And how does it keep you moving forward and looking ahead?
Farra Trompeter: Love those ideas. And I’m going to add another, which is to really remember that the tagline often comes alongside the name. So sometimes we think about the tagline of finishing the sentence your name begins. Sometimes we think about it as clarifying, if maybe your name is confusing or doesn’t say it all, or again, inviting people in to participate with you. So just if nothing else, pause for a moment at the end of this podcast, and really think about your tagline. As Chandra said, you know, look at some other organizations in your space, see what they’re doing. And just question, as Ambar said, like, is this really doing all it can for us? Is it authentic? Is it something that maybe we can elevate in a new way?
Farra Trompeter: So before we officially sign off, I do want to just offer Chandra and Ambar to invite folks to connect with you or your organizations. Ambar, can you talk a little bit about how folks can find you?
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Yes. Love making new connections. So the Shriver Center’s website is povertylaw.org, and then you can also follow the Shriver Center on Instagram and Twitter: @ShriverCenter. And then also on Facebook and LinkedIn at Shriver Center on Poverty Law. And then for me, you can follow me on Twitter @FirstLadyA, at LinkedIn: Ambar Mentor-Truppa.
Chandra M. Hayslett: And for the Center for Constitutional Rights. Our website is CCRjustice.org. And you can follow the Center for Constitutional Rights on Instagram: @CCRjustice, and Twitter: @theCCR, and Facebook and LinkedIn: Center for Constitutional Rights. And we also have a podcast called The Activist Files. And you can follow me on LinkedIn at Chandra Hayslett.
Farra Trompeter: Ambar, Chandra, thank you as always for sharing your wisdom with our listeners and our followers, and our readers and thinkers out there. Thank you for all you do in the world of nonprofit communications. Thank you for being some of my favorite people in the world. Thanks again for joining us.
Ambar Mentor-Truppa: Likewise. Thank you. Thank you to Big Duck for helping us in our branding journey.
Chandra M. Hayslett: Thank you.