Why Public Image Works: Part 2

July 31, 2012

(Part 2 of a two-part series)

Yesterday, we introduced a discussion of a common problem in the nonprofit sector: how do you make the time to communicate about your work in a meaningful way? How do you promote your organization and engage your audiences, particularly as it seems harder and harder to get their attention? Ennis Carter, the founder of Social Impact Studios, offers a Communications series to Dodge grantees called “Public Image Works” as a part of our Technical Assistance initiative – you can read more about the series on the Dodge website. There are four key areas to Public Image Works planning; we already got an overview of the Action Plan, and building your Brand Identity. Today, read about the other two key areas: Vibrant Promotions (including Social Media), and Relationship Power Mapping:


The way you tell your story is just as much a reflection of your Public Image as your Identity – and maybe more important in this era of fast-paced, ever-changing communication. For many, this landscape has created a sense of dread and lack of control – and one of the most common pitfalls is the lack of coordinated Promotional planning.

It’s important to remember that the tools will probably keep changing. Your job isn’t to help convince people to use new and different communication tools – your job is to make sure that you tell your story as widely and as effectively as possible. Take some pressure off of yourself to crack every outlet and just make sure you have a solid plan to start. Here are some tried and true communications basics that haven’t changed even in our new-fangled era of communication:

Tips for getting attention in today’s world:

  • Promotion has moved beyond one-way delivery to predominantly interactive delivery
  • People expect to interact with Identity & Promotion on different levels and on their own terms
  • People decide to listen based on a perceived value to them
  • People value being valued
  • People like to be “in on” information
  • Word of mouth is still the best form of promotion, especially in social marketing where resources are limited and networking possibilities are many. Today, word of mouth isn’t strictly verbal. It comes in many forms.

Storytelling basics:

  • Use consistent Message Identity language in Promotional efforts
  • Identify your main Audience and develop stories that will catch their attention first
  • Be direct and straightforward with language
  • Find “universal themes” to help develop stories
  • Remember: Who, What, Where, When, Why & How


Relationships are the life-blood of any effective effort. How you activate those relationships can be a critical factor of your success. Power Mapping helps you identify the people who can help you achieve your goals – and helps you connect them to what’s most important. And that’s the most important element of communication – talking to the people who need to hear your story.

Many individual leaders are good at making and maintaining powerful relationships, but few organizations utilize the interconnected nature of them for even more effective and meaningful encounters. A Power Map can be the basis of a database – but its real purpose is to assure that important people are being reached in a strategy that fits with immediate needs and long-term goals. So, don’t worry about that dream-goal of completely “overhauling” your database to get started on your Power Map. Here are some ways to get started:

  • MAP relationships based on goals & priorities. Not all of your relationships connect directly to your most current action items. It’s better to make good connections with fewer people, then to have a list that’s too big to manage.
  • CENTRALIZE information about relationships. Use a MANAGEMENT TOOL to track action & tasks so you can follow up. For a Power Map to be really effective, multiple people need to be aware of the priorities and outreach status.
  • Be STRATEGIC about your outreach. Connect to people through the issue they care about most. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to relationships. Be intentional about what you hope to achieve and don’t forget to think about what you bring to the table too. The best relationships become collaborations of mutual benefit.
  • INTERACT with your Power Map regularly. Can you work the idea of Power Mapping into your weekly staff meeting?
  • Keep it SIMPLE until it becomes part of your culture.

These “basics” are just the tip of the iceberg of a strong Public Image, but are a good start. The most important thing to remember is that there are many facets to the way people interact with your organization, your issues and your unique approach to fulfilling your mission. Rather than wait, or get overwhelmed, just jump in and start connecting those elements together. Before long, you’ll soon see how much it helps you achieve your goals and takes pressure off as the word starts to carry itself through existing circles and new ones too.

With so many options, it’s a great time to make your own Public Image Work!

For more information about Public Image Works and the Dodge-sponsored series, contact: Elaine Rastocky at the Dodge Foundation.

About Social Impact Studios (formerly Design for Social Impact)
Since 1996, Social Impact Studios has combined artistry & activism to call attention to important social issues. By collaborating with others who serve the public good, we build creative awareness efforts that get noticed and achieve idealistic goals. We believe that thoughtful, beautiful and meaningful communication is the most beneficial way to engage and motivate people. From concept to creation, we design action plans, visuals, messaging and moving grassroots experiences that do just that!