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  • Carol Reeve

Dark Side of the Lorax

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

strategic messaging for nonprofits

A new semester began this week at Johnson University, where I resumed my role as the professor for a Marketing and PR class. I went into the class fully prepared, syllabus in hand, ready to bestow great knowledge and insight. But it was I who left changed last night by a simple truth spoken by a guest speaker, Stanley Taylor, a beloved friend of mine from Knoxville Leadership Foundation. It is a truth that I know, a truth that I hold dear, a truth that I have taught. But when he spoke it last night, it was as if the voice of God were speaking it directly to me.

“The message you craft and promote for an organization must be consistent with what they can actually do. Or you’re setting them and yourself up for failure.”

I realized in that moment that my passion for excellence, my propensity for leadership and my disdain for mediocrity… come with a dark side. I work tirelessly (literally over holidays and through the night) to position my clients as leaders, to push them to fulfill what I perceive as their calling. But Stanley’s truth is real. Some organizations simply… aren’t… there. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be. It doesn’t mean that they won’t be. It simply means that, for now, they may just not be ready.

Those who know me well often refer to me as The Lorax, because I help give a voice to individuals and organizations who do not have one. (“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees…”) The name Girl on the Roof stems from this principle. I can craft a message worth shouting; I can call the press, cue the lights, sound check the microphone and thrust it in my client’s face. But what if they choose to remain silent?

“The message… must be consistent with what the organization can actually do.”

My desire for an organization to lead will not propel them into leadership. Preparing the message will not necessarily give them a voice. And as a marketer and a roof-shouter, that’s a hard truth for me. But as a counsel and confidante to those I aim to serve, I must buck up, build up, and wait for their real moment to come.

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