Browse Articles

Don't underestimate the importance of environmental messaging

January 2020
By: Andrew Mollison

Your pregnancy care center is speaking all the time, and not just through the voices of the people. The physical objects that surround the users are sending messages of their own. The environment in which you work can either support your mission or it can hinder it. But either way, it’s communicating all the time. What messages is yours delivering? Or more to the point, what message is being received by your clients?

In 2019, I conducted at workshop at the Life Matters Worldwide Summit entitled, “Designing Spaces That Celebrate Your Mission” where we dug deep into the concept of environmental branding and messaging, how you can better use your facility to elevate your mission. You can see an edited version of that workshop here in a webinar-style format:

(Also available on YouTube.)

This was intended to be a primer, but it also included a worksheet that could be used by the participants to perform their own “Environmental Messaging Audit” of their current facilities. The goal was to identify some of the simple things that can easily be implemented to either correct bad messaging, or even enhance good messaging. 

To be most effective, I recommend employing the help of trained professionals. These could be interior designers, graphic designers, marketing consultants, and architects. You probably have some of these individuals in your network of supporters already. But it is crucial to include the staff in this type of exercise. Guidelines for how to conduct such an audit are explained in detail in the webinar.

With all the things you have to do already, why take on another project like this?

Have you ever walked through your space and tried to look at it through the eyes of a new client? Think of all the thresholds they have to cross before they get into one of your counseling rooms, each one with an opportunity to turn back: 

  • Where is the facility? Can they find it easily? How’s the signage? Is the address on Google Maps accurate?
  • Where do they park? Is it obvious? 
  • Is the front entry welcoming? Protected from the weather? Confusing?
  • What is the first thing they see when they open the door? Clutter? Confusion? A smiling face? Busy people who don’t even notice them?

The list goes on. Until they interact with one of your gracious staff members or counselors, anxiety and the flight response could be building up.

You probably already know about some liabilities you’d like to correct, if only you had the time, resources, or labor.  The only thing stopping you is probably the lack of these three things, so let’s overcome each one of them now:

Time

I’ve never met a director who lacked for things to keep herself busy during the workday, so delegate this exercise to others. It will probably result in a better analysis anyway. You already know what you know. Let fresh eyes tackle this project. Let them present their findings to you after a couple of weeks so you can then merge your experiences in with their work, but without having to carve out another 20 hours somewhere.

And if your staff is too busy, recruit your volunteers to do it. The less institutional knowledge a person has the fresher their perspective is going to be. They should still have some familiarity with your mission and process. So perhaps a mixture of staff, volunteers, and maybe a former client would be best. I recommend a team of 3 to 5 people to conduct this audit. 

Resources

In the video I provide a plethora of examples of internal branding solutions. You might be surprised at how easy some of them are to implement. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of decluttering spaces, rearranging furnishings, moving a sign to a more prominent or appropriate location. This doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You’ll also be inspired by some projects which do cost a bit of money, but those can be put on a master plan, or future capital campaign. The process will help identify these opportunities. And like all expenditures, if there is an appropriate return of benefit then the cost isn’t so much of an expense as it is an investment.

Labor 

As mentioned under “Time” you can always look to your support-group for volunteers. In non-profit work, there is usually not enough funding to pay all the people needed to make the mission successful. But on the flip side, there are usually a lot more potential volunteers than you would find in a for profit business. 

The biggest barrier to leveraging this labor force is often defining the tasks that need to be done. Volunteers need to be directed. They get bored and wander away if they aren’t given a useful task to take ownership of. Granted, much of the work of a PCC is highly specialized and requires great delicacy. But pruning plants at the front door doesn’t fall in that category. And that still helps improve the welcoming experience for your clients. You may find that Mary, who shows up to all the fundraisers, has a green thumb and would love to stop by once a week to care for your plants.

Consider also those high paid professionals mentioned earlier. They may or may not be contributing dollars to your operations, but the Lord also asks us to offer our time and talents. You could recruit a local architect to just draw up the existing floor plan of your facility to help with the audit. Or an interior designer to participate in the audit. For their sake, I must caution against asking for a great deal of pro-bono services, there’s no shortage of people asking for that. But a few hours to help conduct the audit is a great way for Christian business professionals to donate to the cause.

You also may find that these working professionals have employers that don’t necessarily share their same passion for supporting family stability in our society. This could be a great outlet for that person to do some moonlighting to both fulfill their desire to serve your mission but also to serve as an outlet for their creative genius.

Conclusion

So now that the obstacles are removed, what are you waiting for? View the webinar, then gather your team and have them view it with you. Then launch the initiative. It will be a fun experience. I can almost guaranty there will be more than one forehead slapping moment where you think, “Of course! We should change that immediately and things will get better.” So give the process a try, and good luck!


Andrew Mollison is a licensed architect who has been practicing in the Midwest for the past 20 years. He obtained his degree from the University of Detroit Mercy. He has a passion for serving organizations with a faith-based mission. As a member of the Knights of Columbus, he's a staunch supporter of pro-life ministries and has helped raise money for life-saving 4D ultrasound machines for multiple PCCs. 



All text and images in this web site Copyright © 2000-2020 by Life Matters Worldwide.
Your comments on this publication are always welcome and can help us make future issues even better.
PO Box 3158, Grand Rapids, MI 49501
Contact Us
Phone: 1-800-968-6086
Login