Organizations are not unlike people. They are born. They grow. They find and lose their footing. They have life-giving seasons. They have devastating seasons. They enter into new relationships that change them – you get it.
Organizations live a whole life, rarely staying the same year over year. That evolution is productive, healthy, and necessary in the long-term effort toward impact. And just like people, organizations should be firm in their beliefs but flexible in their approach; steadfast in their mission but responsive to community needs; and rooted to their original purpose but open to new paths toward impact.
At Matterlab we believe voice is one of seven staples of organizational identity. Your organization’s voice is the identifiable tone and position reflected through all communications and initiatives. To establish your unique organizational voice, start with this question: Who would my organization be as a friend?
Now, I know what you’re thinking — but I want you to free yourself from the idea that the organization’s voice and the founder’s voice are the same. Spoiler alert: they generally are not. Once you’ve done that, take a moment to personify your mission. Consider how your organization – as a friend – would listen, respond, encourage, hold accountable, engage, and instill trust. Think through how this friend would handle conflict, celebrate wins, take on challenges, and even evolve over time. At the end of the exercise, gut check it – Are you elevating the right voice? Is this a person you would trust to put your organization’s mission into action?
Authentic voice starts from the inside of an organization and from proximity to the community you support. Ideally, this personification exercise would be completed with the full team and could include key community stakeholders. When voice is known, understood, and adopted internally, it comes to life externally.
Consistent voice should be as anchoring as your logo, your mission, and your purpose. It enables all team members to talk to any audience with comfortable continuity. Remember: your voice is not the organizational story but rather the personality traits that determine how the story is told – through email, collateral, website, events, and more. Everything, and I mean everything, should be a reflection of the friend your organization would personify.