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Choosing the right messenger is a critical step in every strategic communication effort. Without the right person delivering it, your message is just a nice set of words.

Cognitive science has demonstrated time and time again that what is being said can matter far less than who is saying it. Communicating effectively thus depends on selecting the right people, and the right settings, for getting your message out.

Many foundations (and nonprofits) have learned this the hard way, through trial and error. Given the public’s relative lack of familiarity with (and in some cases outright skepticism around) the work of philanthropy, grantmakers themselves often lack the requisite credibility to move public perception on issues we care most about. But working through grantees, who are more closely connected to community, our issues can find unexpected lift and impact.

The best messenger may be a dedicated community activist who has been working on the front lines for decades. It may be a group of individuals directly impacted by the issue you are seeking to address. It may even be a celebrity. The key is to be intentional about choosing messengers who are viewed with trust, respect and the appropriate level of authority on your issue.