Texts, Lies and Videotape: Non-profits in a volatile media landscape

At first, Anne and I were stumped. And that doesn’t happen often.

While addressing a group of communications experts and executive directors of non-profit organizations at ComNet18 in San Francisco recently, the timely question was raised: how does the divisive tone and negative energy found in so many media interviews now affect a group’s ability to share its mission?

True, we can avoid the topic in mixed company, but we cannot pretend that U.S. politics — and the way we are increasingly being forced to react in small ways or big — is not having an effect on our communication. A media interview can be a minefield.

The non-profit sector is used to standing up for deep values by speaking its purpose and speaking its position. But now, communicators see unprecedented push-back as more and more Americans question basic tenets of communication including journalism and recounting personal experiences.

For some, their mission has been labeled as off-limits because it’s partisan. But silence is not an option. We must discuss issues when they are most relevant — not after the dust settles.

Here’s the good news: getting pushback can make help you clarify your position. Having your mission-based messaging rattled can actually strengthen conviction and force even better-targeted tone.

Afraid of misinformation? Don’t shy away from journalists, embrace the opportunity to talk to them. It’s urgent that communicators hone their message with increased attention and care to defend their values, keeping in mind their moral authority on the topic.

So yes, the divisive tone in today’s media must push you to focus on your purpose further than you have in the past. Here are some ways to step up your game:

— Think about those who look to you and be a source of strength and knowledge

— Strengthen your mission-focused mindset

— Share your message in defense of your values with renewed vigor so that people can discover your work

— See the possibility of opposition as an opportunity

— Trust in your ability to express your convictions

— Allow listeners to freely decide whether to support your ideas, and forge ahead when they don’t