‘Signposts on the Roadmap’ – creating a shared platform for communicating the Blueprint strategy

Over the past year the ICA has been focused on internal positioning of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade with members and friends. The adoption and endorsement of...

By Melina Morrison and Kate Askew, Sommerson Communications

Over the past year the ICA has been focused on internal positioning of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade with members and friends. The adoption and endorsement of the Blueprint has been tremendous. The ICA recognised that the next step was to take the Blueprint strategy outside to the public, media and policymakers.  

To ensure that there was a set of messages based on the themes of the Blueprint and supporting its objectives, the ICA asked Sommerson Communications to help identify the key messages that should drive its external communications strategies in the coming years. The result is the ICA Blueprint Message Platform and Storybook.

When Charles Gould, ICA Director General, approached us to develop a set of messages to support the Blueprint, we were very excited about the opportunity. Chuck was very passionate about the Blueprint, but the first challenge was to help everyone else, all of the constituents in the Co-operative Movement, to be passionate about the Blueprint as well. To that end we have been working closely with Chuck and the Regional and Sectoral heads of the ICA to develop the core messages, which communicate the Blueprint.

Before we talk about the messages it’s important to remember why we work in this way; why we develop messages.

The world is a noisy place, fractured by multiple channels through which anyone can communicate. By channels we mean social media, traditional media and what we call “owned” media, and by that we mean your own website. Media, once the key vehicle for messages to be communicated to the public, has suffered as consumption habits of media change. This move into a new digitally driven communications sphere is making it ever more important to be clear and concise, but also engaging, in the way in which you communicate.

This is why we have messages. It helps keep us consistent, it helps to build an audience and it helps to establish a brand identity.

The first thing to say is that it is important to have a roadmap for the future because if we all know where we are going, we can plan ahead, and we can all work together to get there.

Now that we have this roadmap – the Blueprint –  we need to communicate about this plan and engage the co-operative moment around a common set of objectives.

There are strong reasons to work together:

1. Co-operation – by working together we utilise the same principle we use in running our businesses – co-operation.

2. Economy of scale – quite simply by working together we will get more “bang for our buck”.

3. Resources – we can unlock the potential of our greatest asset; one billion co-operators.

As Dame Pauline Green, our President says, “We are a global network of independent, autonomous, democratically governed businesses”, and we have one billion agents of change.

Therefore we have built what we like to call a message house.

This house, like any house, has a roof on top – in this case we like to think of this as a message, which encapsulates the whole Blueprint.

But a roof needs walls, or rather structure. So we created a series of twelve messages, which feed into the one overlying message.

Does everyone understand what a message is? A message is a sentence or two which captures the essence of the subject matter, in this case the ICA’s Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade.

Again, if we’re all working from the same messages, it helps to focus and empower our communication strategy and it helps to get voices behind the co-operative movement and its Blueprint.

Of course messages don’t fly just on their own. Messages need proof points and stories to help an audience understand, but also to believe. We know that the stories, which engage on an emotional level, are a very successful form of communications and applaud the use of storytelling.

So, here is the core message of the Blueprint, that “Cooperatives are a growing and sustainable form of enterprise serving the needs of people”.

This message touches on all five areas of the Blueprint: Participation, identity, sustainability, legal framework and capital.

There are three things to remember about messages.

1. Messages are ideas not slogans – as ideas you will use your creativity to find the ways of expressing them for your various audiences.

2. They belong to you – the movement  – and you will develop them to suit your needs.

3. They only work through transformation, through your stories.

When people hear stories that reach them on an emotional level their brains do something special, the neurons are sparked and the story is remember.

This is why you are seeing such a change in the way big brands communicate with their customers and potential customers – they try to reach them emotionally in order to get them to act – to buy something for example.

When you communicate something simply with authenticity, it can be very powerful. The messages are the ideas that are expressed powerfully in our own words or through our own stories.

What we really want you to remember is that for this Blueprint to truly hit the mark we must really consider that we become advocates and champions for the Blueprint.

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