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  • Carol Reeve

First Things First

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

We have long shouted from the rooftops about the importance of positioning statements as the foundation for all marketing initiatives. (After all, a message worth shouting is a lot more effective.) Girl on the Roof is routinely asked to assist with projects that are further down the pipeline, like a website or a brochure. When planning these projects, we start with some standard questions: Why does your organization exist? What problem are you solving? Who is your audience? What is your call to action for them? If those answers flow freely, we’re off to the races; we can create something that really works.

But many organizations cannot answer these questions. They just hang awkwardly in the air until someone says, “Um, maybe we need to step back.” (Of course, that’s better than the scarier answer, “Our audience is the general public, and we want them to give us money.” Newsflash: There is no such thing as the “general public,” therefore it is impossible to reach them or motivate them to do anything.)

Whether small or large budgets, for profit or nonprofit, the order of marketing matters, just as the order of home construction matters. A proper foundation (a solid positioning statement) ensures that what you build upon it (a website, print materials, a social media strategy) will stand. You can’t just stick studs in the ground and expect a house to support a roof and weather a storm.

At Girl on the Roof, we use a standard process for crafting a positioning statement. It starts with The Golden Circle (A TED Talk by Simon Sinek), which introduces the concept of the WHY, HOW and WHAT of an organization. Why does the organization exist? How do you accomplish that? What programs/services do you offer in support of that? Thinking from the “inside-out” (starting with the WHY) is counter to how most organizations think, but the distinction is powerful.

Once we draft the WHY, HOW and WHAT, we can move on to the positioning statement which encapsulates this information using language that expresses the personality and passion of the organization. Sometimes the positioning statement also has to educate the audience about the problem before presenting the organization as a solution. That was the case with Centerstone Research Institute (CRI). Most people are not aware of the significant delay between treatment breakthroughs and the adoption of those breakthroughs into standard care; so we had to educate first in order provide a context for CRI’s work.

strategic nonprofit positioning

Because CRI had multiple inter-related service areas, Girl on the Roof developed a graphic representation of their positioning that could simplify the explanation of the organization’s mission and services.

CRI had tried for years to explain what they did, but their efforts had largely been ineffective because they had not started with WHY they did it, and they had not been consistent with their language. Each member of their executive team described the organization differently. Once the positioning statement and graphic model were released, even members of the Board of Directors experienced a newfound clarity about the organization.

Girl on the Roof has helped countless organizations develop positioning statements that have helped strengthen the effectiveness of all of their subsequent marketing efforts. As it turns out, if a message is worth shouting, it is also worth printing, projecting, emailing and tweeting.

If you need help making your message shoutworthy, step up on to the Roof. We can help.

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