Pulse: Communication Is King
Cross-organizational participation is even more vital once messages are ready to roll. Every communicator's colleagues are her primary on-the-ground messengers via their daily conversations and communications.
3. Not knowing the wants and needs of the people your organization needs to engage to meet your goals. I can't say it strongly enough: Audience research is the only way to ensure that any communications initiative has maximum impact.
Stay in sync with your organization's supporters so you don't alienate them. If they start to think that you have little sense of who they are, or that they don't really know your organization, you're in trouble. That kind of discomfort breeds distance and disconnection.
Without ongoing audience research, your programs and services — and the messages you use to recruit and maintain donors, volunteers, participants and even staff members — are bound to be off base.
Ways to close the gap can be relatively inexpensive and accessible, although some effort is a must. One of my favorites is a communications advisory board. Other doable strategies include online surveys and selective phone interviews.
FS: How can nonprofits ensure that their communications are relevant, timely, effective and move recipients to action?
NS: This one's easy. There are two absolute musts:
✱ Build understanding and support on the part of your organization's leadership. You'll need it to fund your work and to ensure you're involved in planning from the get-go. Remember, there's no program without program participants, no fundraising without outreach.
Leaders need to understand the role that strategic communications has in organizational success. You'll also need to build their understanding of how strategic communications functions, including a robust message development process.
I recommend case studies as the best way to build that understanding, and excitement. There are several useful sources for relevant case studies, and I suggest you frame (relating the strategies and results to your own organization) and circulate them on a regular basis.