Strategy & Marketing

A Template for Launching Your Mission and Message

Our team at Cooke Media Group does an enormous amount of coaching and advising leaders on expanding their mission and message. Our motto is “Our Mission is to Accelerate Yours” and that’s a significant part of what we do as a team. Many of those leaders are understandably curious about how to launch a new nonprofit, book, ministry, church campus, rebrand, or other initiative, so in my study of how others get their message out there, today’s post is an one example that worked very well:

Angela Lee Duckworth has that kind of vision and message. A professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, she had a passion for helping people “pursue long term goals with passion and persistence.” In other words, to help people persevere. The timeline of how she did it is worth examining:

The Preparation Stage:
The preparation stage is the place where you build your background credentials and for most, it’s life in the trenches. Today, far too many people with good ideas bypass this stage and it haunts them for the rest of their lives. Simply put, it’s the place that builds your knowledge base, and it could be a university degree, an apprenticeship, tinkering in the garage, an internship, foreign travel – whatever is best for your career or calling.

In Angela’s case, she founded a summer school for low-income children that was profiled as a Harvard Kennedy School case study and, in 2012, celebrated its twentieth anniversary (so it’s not overnight!) She has also been a McKinsey management consultant and a math and science teacher in the public schools of New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. Angela completed her undergraduate degree in Advanced Studies Neurobiology at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude. With the support of a Marshall Scholarship, she completed an MSc with Distinction in Neuroscience from Oxford University. She completed her PhD in Psychology as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Pretty hefty credentials, and the kind that generates respect from donors, investors, and others who can help you realize your vision.

The Provability Stage:
The provability stage is the place where credibility is earned. All the schooling, apprenticing, or years tinkering in the garage won’t matter if your ideas don’t work. To accomplish that, Angela founded Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development. She and a team of 12 studied grit and self-control, two attributes that are distinct from IQ and yet powerfully predict success and well-being. This stage proves your ideas work. For you, it may be building an effective church or nonprofit organization, launching a company, or building a team.

The Impact Stage:
The impact stage is Act 3 of your career or calling and allows you to share your message with the world. You’ve spent time in preparation so your knowledge base is solid, you’ve put your ideas to work so you know you’re onto something, and now it’s time to share those ideas with the world. In Angela’s case, after winning a 2013 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, she advised the White House, the World Bank, NBA and NFL teams, and Fortune 500 CEOs. Because of those results she was invited to do a TED Talk on the subject of “grit.” So far, that video has been seen by more than eight million viewers.  Then, in 2016 she released her bestselling book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” to great acclaim and became an immediate New York Times bestseller.

Three distinct stages:

Each stage feeds on the other, and that’s why momentum can build so quickly. Granted, there are other issues at play as well, such as the cultural timing, the political situation, and popularity of issues. But in most cases, we can’t control those things. However, we can control our preparation and provability, which leads to eventual impact.

Not every mission or idea launch is identical to Angela Lee Duckworth’s, but her path is worth a close look. Cut one stage out, and it undercuts the others. Get stuck in a stage and it delays your growth. Skip a stage and you lose respect and/or credibility.

Study Angela’s journey and think about how that path could impact the success of your own mission, message, or idea.

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  1. Couldn’t agree more. So many visionary leaders jump in to the Impact stage without Preparation or Provability. Planning takes time (can feel like progress is stalling because it’s not tangible) but is a critical component to ensure the idea has the best chances of success

  2. This is a good example to a successful launch. We’re in the trenches now where I work- all preparing at different levels that are specific to our roles. At the same time, we’ve also crossed into the Provability Stage and we’re finding that our ideas are working, and a few that need tweaking. It’s definitely a process, but vital to our foundation…. and it’s not easy!

  3. Great framework for communicators! I think the reason people don’t “connect” with the person on stage is possibly due to the lack of expierience in each of these stages. Everyone wants a microphone before they prepared with their megaphone. I believe true communication is like a quarter with two sides. One side is called “calling” and the other side is called “craft”. You need both to bring great value from a platform.

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