Your organization needs a communications strategy. Why? For a lot of the same reasons why Kivi Leroux Miller recommends having a content strategy:
- To focus on your supporters’ goals.
- To make your readers think of you as a welcome guest who shares expertise.
- To take your random content and turn it into a larger story.
- To make your communications boost your programs and your fundraising.
- To get results.
Developing a communications strategy takes time and patience. But who has time these days? And patience, too, is rare. So, here are seven statements that make up a communications strategy. Read them. It will take one minute.
- A key audience we’re trying to reach is ___________.
- If we engage with that audience successfully, they will do ___________.
- A typical member of that audience has these characteristics __________, and cares about __________, and their favorite way to get information is _____________.
4. Our key message to this audience is __________.
5. We will communicate with this audience primarily through __________ and secondarily through __________.
6. The resources we will use to put this strategy into action are __________.
7. We will measure our progress by __________.
Are you aiming at more than one key audience? Rinse and repeat.
What It Takes to Fill In the Blanks
Seems simple, right? And it is. But surprise, it will still take time and patience! Chances are, people inside your organization have different ideas who the key audiences are. You’ll have to list your audiences (current and desired), then discuss them, in order to make one or two your priorities.
What do you really want from the key audience you have in mind? Do you want them to be your brand ambassadors and spread the word about your good work? Are they potential volunteers? Are you looking for major donors among this audience? “All of the above” will not do. What’s the first step you want them to take?
And so on. To fill in the blanks, you may need to do research. (Who are these people, anyway?) You may need to shift time and money away from some other project to make your communications strategy feasible. It’s a big undertaking. But when you can write a strategy statement like this one you will have taken the crucial first step:
Example: A key audience we want to reach is grandparents of children in our school. If we engage them successfully, they will make annual donations and meet with us about including the school in their wills. A typical grandparent is Janice, 68, a widow and recent retiree who’s active in her church, rides a bicycle everywhere she goes, and cares about leaving a healthy planet to the next generation. She keeps in touch with her family via Facebook but hasn’t followed any organizations on Facebook yet.
Our key message to Janice is that she can involve her grandchildren and their friends in learning about the environment through our school. We will post photos of children engaged in learning, recycling, and gardening on Facebook, along with links to relevant policies, curriculum, and publications. We will also include these themes on our website and regularly scheduled emails. We will need teachers and aides to take photos, and the development director will work with the PTA president to produce other content.
We will measure our results this year by how many grandparents follow the Facebook page and comment on or share posts. By next year, we will measure the number and amount of this audience’s donations to the annual appeal and the number of in-person meetings to discuss planned giving.
Does your organization need help to fill in the blanks in its strategy? Please pose your questions in the comments section, and let’s see how we can help each other.