Best Practices in Communications: Ten Tips for Improving Communications and Setting the Stage for Your Success; with Competing Priorities and Busy Schedules, Agencies and Nonprofit Organizations Alike Are Discovering That Strategic and Effective Communications Are Essential to Setting Their Organizations Apart. Acquire Some Simple Tips for Improving Your Organization's Communications
Kenny, Brooks B., Rasmussen, Jill C., The Public Manager
With competing priorities and busy schedules, agencies and nonprofit organizations alike are discovering that strategic and effective communications are essential to setting their organizations apart. While it is not uncommon for organizations to be focused on strengthening programs and developing services for constituents, many increasingly find themselves looking "behind the scenes" at their communications to ensure their success. As most of us know, our organization is not the only show in town.
Here are some practical communications tips for making sure you get the rave reviews you deserve:
* Determine your story line. Start by identifying words and phrases that characterize your organization. What does your current brand identity say about you? Remember that your brand is more than just a logo. It is the relationship that you have with your key audiences and includes all of the attributes--good and bad--that tell your organization's story.
* Identify your audience. Ask yourself who you need to invite to the show. Audiences may include donors, companies, community or political leaders, media, volunteers, staff, or others.
* Know who is sitting in the front row. Sometimes organizations want to please everyone who interacts with them, but in times of constrained resources, prioritizing is critical. Determine your top three audiences, and write down all you can about them. What are their demographics? What motivates them?
* Write a script. The words and phrases that you use to talk about your organization are as important as the work itself. Once you know who you want to reach, create key messages that clearly articulate what you want each audience to do, highlight the benefits they receive by taking those actions, and minimize the real and perceived challenges for audience members. You may also want to reevaluate your mission and vision statements to ensure they articulate your organization's story.
* Talk to your critics along the way. Before you finalize your script, it is important to answer any questions you might have about your audiences--both internal and external. Don't make assumptions about what they want, their interpretation of your key messages, or what will motivate them to act. List the key stakeholders who will help you identify the needs, perspectives, opinions, and areas of improvement for your organization. These critics may include consumers, program staff, board members, funders, and others. Ask critics questions, and more questions. And really listen. You may be surprised at what they share, but will come away with a greater understanding about how to engage them. When you are confident that your understanding and assumptions about key audience members are accurate, go back to your original script and make any necessary changes.
* Hold a dress rehearsal. Your communications are only as strong as your cast members make them. Your cast may include staff members, board members, and other volunteers. Make sure that each member has a clear understanding of your organization's messages, and how to deliver them--this is not the time to ad lib. Make sure that each person has a clear understanding of the goals for the communication and does not have any outstanding questions or agendas that have not been addressed. Develop a communications guide that can be used internally to ensure clarity in your expectations about how the brand will be conveyed.
* Promote your work in the right venues. Determine the best marketing activities to promote your organization. Be sure they offer the right approach in reaching your key audiences where they are likely to obtain information. Activities include media outreach, direct mail, corporate sponsorship, and special events.
* Conduct your final checks and balances. Before the curtain opens, make sure that you have evaluated all aspects of your brand. Do your logo and tag line support the image you are conveying through your written and verbal communication? …