Table of Contents
Introduction into Elastic Messaging ..................................................................................................... 3
Elastic Messaging Platform ................................................................................................................... 4
Theory of Change .................................................................................................................................. 5
An Interactive Guide for Elastic Messaging ....................................................................................... 8
Conducting an effective workshop ............................................................................................... 8
Facilitation Minutes...................................................................................................................... 9
Introduction into Elastic Messaging
What is a message?
o Messages are a set of statements that prompt targeted audiences to take a desired action.
o Messages are ‘other’ focused. They are simple and break through clutter.
o They find the mutuality between the audience and the organization.
What is an elastic message?
o The elastic main message articulates the organization and its ultimate purpose – who,
what and why of the organization – to all audiences.
o Elastic supporting message themes are unifying buckets that answer how the
organization brings to life its main message.
o Each theme is further supported by compelling proof-points.
What is the challenge of elastic messaging?
o The elastic message needs to convey a broad range of work without losing the
organization’s unique identity.
Why bother with messaging that addresses all audiences? Shouldn’t messaging always be
tailored to a single audience?
o The elastic message serves as the “North Star” of messaging for all audiences. Think of
it as the logical starting point for all communications – especially those that are
distributed through channels consumed by multiple audiences.
o Even in audience-specific messaging, the elastic messaging platform sets the tone and
broad direction before customization to a particular audience.
• Brings main
Elastic Messaging Platform
Elastic Main Message: Byte Back’s mission is to improve economic opportunity for low-income
Washington, D.C. residents by providing digital instruction, access to technology and employment
readiness skills. Our goal is to alleviate poverty and pursue social justice through digital inclusion and
workforce development. Byte Back plays a vital role in helping those most vulnerable attain economic
independence and stability.
Digital Inclusion Workforce Development Economic Opportunity
Digital inclusion: Byte Back provides digital literacy instruction and technology
certification that qualifies students for jobs which pay a living wage.
•Our programming includes digital literacy classes, industry-recognized certification, and job
•By combining free classes with personalized attention, Byte Back ensures graduates gain professional
skills, experience greater self-confidence and launch new careers.
•Each year we prepare 160 students for jobs requiring technology certification and provide Microsoft
Office Track classes to another 275 students.
•Graduates of our certification programs now work for employers such as the US Departments of
Labor, Defense and Homeland Security as well as leading private sector organizations such as Booz
Allen Hamilton, earning $30,000-80,000 per annum with benefits.
Removing barriers: Byte Back helps vulnerable populations overcome barriers to success.
•Our students face multiple barriers to employment. They identified themselves with the following
groups: single parent (33%), disabled (27%), veteran (6%) and returning citizen (11%).
•We use a hands-on and project based empowerment model of training. Students experience success
early and often during learning.
•Byte Back's office track and certification courses include training for workforce preparedness.
•In FY 15, by the time of our 6 and 12 month follow-up, 72% of Certification students, 71% of OT
students, and 58% of PCB students were employed.
Community access: Byte Back works to increase access to technology within local
•Our First Time Technology Program repurposes used technology as valuable resources for our
•In FY15 student interns from Byte Back's A+ certification program refurbished 576 computers.
•The interns learned new skills in refurbishing, troubleshooting, repairing and networking. This
enabled them to pass industry recognized certification exams, to excel in interviews and to begin
successful careers in Information Technology.
•126 computers were given free of charge to low-income graduates of Byte Back courses. The rest
were sold below cost to low-income families and to nonprofit organizations that serve them.
Theory of Change
Two of the root causes of poverty are inequitable access to employment and education. Most residents
of underserved areas, such as Wards Five, Seven and Eight of Washington, D.C., possess a high school
diploma or a lower level of educational accomplishment. Compounding this gap in education is a
corresponding gap in digital inclusion. Only 74% of those earning less than $30,000 per annum use the
Internet. Black and Hispanic adults make up the biggest groups of Americans who do not use the
Our computer and digital skills training, combined with providing access to technology and an
emphasis on job readiness, opens employment options to earn a living wage without requiring a
college degree. This eliminates the twin obstacles of lack of education and lack of digital literacy that
economically vulnerable populations face.
• Digital literacy
• Advanced certification
• Industry recognition
• Application portfolio
• Interview prep
• Job-search techniques
• Hard and soft skills
• Technology (PCs)
• Living wage jobs
Workforce development is not a linear process. Byte Back’s students often face significant barriers to
learning and employment, including homelessness, single parenthood, disabilities and returning citizen
status. Specialized skill in providing safe spaces to learn, support and positive reinforcement is
required. Our methodology encourages students to share newly acquired digital skills and knowledge
with others in their poverty-stricken communities. We have observed that success in the Byte Back
curriculum fosters a life-long love of learning, and students who complete a course often go on to
pursue additional educational opportunities.
Over the past six years, Byte Back's success has led to a tenfold increase in our income and a
corresponding expansion of our programs.
In FY15, we enrolled 184 students in certification courses.
To date, outcome results are trending toward 75% completion and 75% pass rate.
A+ graduates have found federal jobs as IT Specialists and Help Desk staff.
Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) graduates have found jobs as administrative and
technical support at local companies.
We are a two-time finalist for the Washington Post Award for Excellence in Non-profit
Management (2010 & 2012).
We were selected by the Catalogue for Philanthropy in 2010 and 2015 as one of the District’s
An Interactive Guide for Elastic Messaging
Conducting an Effective Workshop
Having an effective messaging platform is an essential first step, but the second is to consider how to
use messaging effectively in current operational contexts. We recommend conducting one-hour
internal messaging workshops at a quarterly frequency to brainstorm and discuss solutions to current
The following questions have been framed to capture important considerations in the use of messaging.
1. How can messaging be used consistently across the organization and all channels through
which it communicates? What processes ensure consistency both internally and externally?
2. Is there a key consideration that affects messaging across all audiences? What is it?
3. Are the messages current? What processes exist to ensure alignment with key audiences?
4. How will messaging be used as a content creation prompt?
5. How can messaging be used to engage audiences on social media?
6. How will marketing materials distributed to multiple audiences maintain message consistency?
7. How can supporting themes and proof points of elastic messaging be placed in stories (for
media placement or other use)?
8. How is messaging currently customized to each key audience? Does that need to change?
9. Student word-of-mouth is among Byte Back’s most important channels of communication.
Through what means can Byte Back control the message propagated by word of mouth?
10. Bottom-line: Is our communication simple, clear and easy to understand? Are we placing
messages in the right channels to reach our key audiences?
It is neither time-efficient nor necessary to go through every question during a single workshop. We
suggest prioritization of questions before commencing facilitation.
Some other guidelines for an effective workshop are:
Involve everybody who communicates Byte Back’s message. The workshop should invite
anybody who contacts key audiences in any capacity. For example, a program administrator
interacts with students and is thus a vital participant in messaging. The Executive Director
determines whether Byte Back ‘walks the talk.’ Messaging should not be seen as a
communications or marketing concern. It is an organization-wide imperative
Distribute an agenda. A simple agenda for facilitation is:
o Introduce messaging and its aims.
o Briefly communicate the elastic message and its themes.
o Invite participants to share concerns, problems and pain-points with messaging.
o Guide the collaboration, using prioritized questions as a guide.
o Close by thanking participants. Tell them how the output of the workshop will be used.
Appoint a facilitator. This can be an external consultant, if one is currently engaged, or a
facilitator chosen from your personnel.
Appoint a note-taker. We recommend against recording the session so participants can ideate
Document the output, capturing ideas, suggestions and best practices. Circulate the output
organization-wide to generate buy-in for the action items generated.
Consider maintaining and circulating a list of ‘don’t dos’ i.e. ideas that have been
previously rejected as ineffective uses of messaging.
Have the previous workshop’s output in hand. Ask whether the previous workshop’s output
was implemented. If so, to what gain? If not, why not?
Facilitation Minutes – November 6, 2015
We included the minutes of our facilitation on November 6, 2015 at Byte Back headquarters. The
active involvement of participants ensured the conversation was fluid and free-flowing, touching on
A Q&A format is used here to organize the output. For certain questions, we have included ideas
generated by the Trifecta team, even if due to time constraints they were not discussed in the
How can the messaging be used consistently?
Marianne, Yvette, and others involved in messaging will ensure there is a shared set of materials that
drive the use of one language by the team. They will keep the shared set of materials updated.
What is one key point for implementation in messaging across audiences?
Use simple language that makes sense and resonates with each audience. It makes a difference to talk
about digital inclusion in terms that the audience can relate to. For example, “Imagine living a day
without your computer, or your smartphone. Imagine a life without Internet. Without Word and Google
How can you ensure the messages stay current and consistent?
The messaging platform should be used as a guide to create consistency across all channels and should
be shared with all Byte Back staff. Conducting messaging training and creating phone scripts or
‘elevator pitch’ scripts can help staff communicate consistently.
Getting feedback from target audiences could also help Byte Back validate whether the messages are
current and are being received as intended.
What are some current challenges you are experiencing in messaging?
People do not understand why Byte Back’s role is important to the community, which might be due to
a lack of understanding of digital inclusion. We need to emphasize that our goal is to address poverty
alleviation and social injustice through digital inclusion.
Another challenge is talking to multiple audiences through the same channel. For example, should the
phrase ‘low-income’ be used while talking to a former student who is currently a volunteer? The
challenge is to be consistent with messaging while ensuring that key audiences do not experience
negative feelings or memories.
How will you ensure messaging content will be included in grant applications and thought
leadership talking points, etc.?
Make sure that the individual preparing the document always has access to a current and shared
version of the messaging platform. If it is on a shared drive the team can keep it updated and ensure
each person has the same copy. This can be used to guide creation of fact sheets and talking points
Digital Content: Social media / e-newsletter/ website
How can messaging be used to engage audiences on social media?
Byte Back should create a Question & Answer document with the most common questions and most
common answers. This aids consistency in the messaging no matter who is posting or tweeting on
behalf of the organization.
In addition, messaging acts as a content creation prompt. Each content creator should ask "What has
Byte Back done in the last two weeks that conveys this message to our audience?"
Hardcopy Marketing Materials
How will you ensure documents such as the brochure apply to all audiences while communicating a
Byte Back should refer to the messaging platform and use the main message and its supporting themes.
Ask, "How does each theme answer the needs of key stakeholders?" If the messages do not answer the
needs of a key stakeholder, Byte Back will know it is time to update the platform so it retains mutuality
between the organization and its stakeholders.
How can you use the main message and its themes to pitch stories and create angles?
It is easiest to show this with an example. “Workforce development is not a linear process.” This
excerpt from the Theory of Change provides a range of compelling and unique feature story hooks.
Byte Back could use each of the barriers its students face, whether they are veterans, single parents or
homeless, as stories of achievement against the odds.
These stories could be placed in a local media outlet. Example: When a homeless, or previously
homeless, individual is hired after graduating from a Byte Back class, Byte Back can pitch the story to
a local news outlet with circulation in areas with high homelessness rates.
How can you tailor each message to resonate with the audience you are addressing?
The elastic main message, if current and updated, usually does not require further customization.
However, parts of it could be emphasized based on what resonates with key audiences. For example,
poverty alleviation is a priority for the CSR programs of the aspirational audience of technology and IT
companies. Stressing poverty alleviation is Byte Back’s goal would be a strategic use of messaging.
Similarly, the elastic messaging themes should be prioritized based on the audience being addressed.
For example, local government might be most interested in addressing barriers to employment, since
these barriers often lead to welfare claims.
Word of Mouth
Most Byte Back students are persuaded to join through word of mouth. How do you spread positive
word of mouth given how diverse your audience is? How do you control the word of mouth
Use messaging to develop a creed that students agree to when they sign up. From the point of joining
the Byte Back community, students are influenced by a core message, which may in turn inspire them
to achieve their aspirations.
One key question to ask is, ‘When do students need to discuss the Byte Back story coherently?’ The
answer is, during job interviews. To help students tell their story in the most compelling manner
possible, Byte Back can create pocket interview guides designed for students preparing for job
interviews. Students can use the guide as a starting point to expand on their personal experience with
Byte Back. This accomplishes twin objectives: it helps Byte Back control word of mouth messaging
and also helps its students prepare for job interviews.