Be Careful What You Ask For – or Be Fearless!

Fearless Blog E1345031093141

There’s probably not many other foundations that can make the claim that a major program initiative grew out of the need to update its messaging plan.

Yet, it was just such a request from CEO and co-founder Jean Case for a short, sweet and simple way to tell the story of the Case Foundation’s first 15 years that gave rise to the Be Fearless Campaign, a program that launched earlier this year that encourages all organizations trying to improve people’s lives “to take risks” in how they approach their work.

According to Allyson Burns, vice president for communications, the story of Be Fearless began when Jean Case asked her senior leaders to develop a new messaging strategy that reflected how the foundation’s work has evolved since its inception.  The consensus was the foundation didn’t have a consistent “elevator pitch” for what Case does. Because the foundation’s work is so varied — from  America’s Giving Challenges to the Startup America Partnership to partnering with the government on prizes and challenges, it needed something that would quickly express the pitch – the heart of its mission – and show the connections among these different endeavors.

As a first step, Case engaged BBMG, a branding studio based out of New York, to lead a discovery process. “We realized that to have a strong elevator pitch we had to have a strong sense of who we were,” says Burns, “we needed help with the exploratory process.” What they discovered was that their work organized itself strongly around two themes. The first was experimentation:  “We believe in trying new ways to approach problems, to create new models that can be replicated, or that don’t work so that nobody else has to try them and fail.”  The second was partnership: the staff realized they can’t do the work they do without partnering – not just in their sector – but with corporations, nonprofits and government.  “We are most successful with good partners.”

At the heart of these themes is the impetus to push boundaries.  “Every time we sit in a meeting Jean pushes us to think bigger about our goals – whether it’s for social media, measurement, messaging campaigns – whatever we’re working on,” says Burns, “this is just as true in communications as in the rest of the organization.”

Presented with these themes, BBMG, came back with two words: Be Fearless. It was a message that not only captured the foundation’s sense of itself, but was also an ideal it could share with the world.

And in this way a branding exercise launched a major program, the bedrock of which is its communications strategy. “It doesn’t mean we’re always fearless,” says Burns, “but I’m trying to do better every day.”

Experience the Be Fearless campaign.

Also, please use the comments section to share your own experiences with trying to be fearless in your communications work?

For more on Be Fearless, watch the video below with Allyson Burns.

Video: Susan Herr, PhilanthroMedia

1 Comment

  1. Prentice ZinnPrentice Zinn09-14-2012

    We loved this campaign because it was so multi-faceted – the media, the conversations, the tools and the provocative and enthusiastic content.

    We’ve even used the framing in our work. The themes are not necessarily new — they are just done better in this particular campaign.

    It is also one of the best examples to date about how program strategy and communications and messaging strategy can work so well together.

    Let’s hope that the great work of the Case team can be the norm not an exception.

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