Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Language and Images


Quick, go to your website homepage – can you tell me what’s in it? Does it contain your organizational mission and does it also contain language such as “development” and “capacity building”?

If it does, your website content needs lots of work, unless of course your content is geared towards people just like you: nonprofit professionals in your field. Further, if your images are generic, i.e. images of random people/things who are not actually part of your organization, you are in real trouble.

I know you’ve heard it from me before – people don’t care about who your organization IS, they care about what your organization DOES, in language and images that make sense to them.

So the first thing you should do is clean up the industry jargon words from your site and replace it with common sense words. Moreover, categorize your services so that it’s easy to know exactly what you affect in the big picture. Perhaps your services, such as after school programs, make the “community safer”, or services such as job training “grow the economy” – whatever it is, it becomes your category or theme that all your words and ideas flow from.

So, for example, it’s not “community development”, it’s “creating a safer community by [insert what your organization does in plain language]” or “growing the local economy by [organization does]”.

Once that is done it’s time to reinforce the words with the images (and vice versa) by using pictures that align with the new content. You say you are growing the local economy? Prove it by showing a picture of those you helped get jobs (or trained) with a caption that discusses it. By doing this you are also showing “proof” of your work as well as personalizing your work to something tangible.

Summing up, when we write in the language of our market we make complex ideas easier to understand; images makes it tangible; and the personalization makes it empathetic – which leads to a greater chance of a person doing the action you desire.

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