First, know thyself. The ancient Greek maxim is good advice for organizations embarking on a marketing plan. All the fancy online communication tools don’t mean a thing unless you have a compelling and authentic message. And that’s virtually impossible to create without a clear understanding of what the organization is all about.

Keep in mind that your audience is more savvy and skeptical than ever before. They’re bombarded with sales pitches all day long. They can smell spin a mile away. And few things will undermine your message faster than the whiff of inauthenticity.

I’m not talking about intentional deception. That’s clearly out of bounds. What I’m getting at is a sense of uncertainty or outright confusion about the organization’s mission. Maybe the group has evolved over the years, adapted to changing circumstances, drifted in the direction of a successful program, experienced changes in leadership. Whatever the cause, uncertainty about the organization’s mission leads inevitably to fuzzy and ineffectual messaging.

The remedy? Look upon every major communications initiative as an opportunity to assess and affirm the organization’s mission. Often, it’s not until you sit down to write about the organization that you detect slippage between the organization’s declared mission and what it actually does.

Check in with your board, staff, and key supporters. Be sure everyone is more or less on the same page. If not, you may find your communications efforts are more confusing than clarifying.