How to Go Public With a New Strategic Plan
Social change organizations often spend many months — if not years — developing strategic plans.
They hire strategy consultants, convene special board subcommittees and invest considerable time building roadmaps that will guide their work into the future. Quite often, however, they fail to stick the landing.
That’s because they don’t take the same level of care in explaining their new strategy to donors, grantees, partners and communities as they do in creating the strategy itself.
The result? Powerful strategies end up buried in filing cabinets or Dropbox purgatory, never reaching their full potential.
I hate to see a good strategy underachieve. So we’ve been developing a process for helping organizations communicate about their strategic plans in ways that resonate with and actively involve your most important audiences. Here’s some of what I’ve learned.
Internal Audiences Come First
The ultimate success of your strategic plan hinges on your ability to ensure everyone on your team — your professional staff, board members and key volunteers — understands your strategy and can clearly articulate what it means.
This is a difficult task at many organizations since staff and board aren’t always in alignment. It’s critically important, therefore, to invest the time up front to properly train your internal audiences before you go public.
If possible, carve out time to host workshops and training sessions with your staff and your board to ensure that they not only understand your new strategy, but they fully grasp how to talk about it.
While your internal audiences take priority, it’s also important to take time to fully understand your external audiences. Identify what they care about, how your new strategy will impact them, and how to address their questions and concerns.
If you have the bandwidth, take time to create personas for each key audience.
Then, make sure your team understands who you’re communicating with, how to best reach them, and what messages you’ll need to develop about your new strategy.
Meet Your Audiences Where They Are
When it comes time to unveil your strategy publicly, take deliberate steps to connect with your key audiences in ways that align with their preferences and in language that speaks to their concerns and questions.
The Boston Foundation accomplished this with the recent announcement of its new strategy. In addition to its formal announcement, it created FAQs segmented for grantees and donors, and developed fact sheets in multiple languages to communicate with key audiences in its community.
Not every audience cares about the same things. And each audience will have its own questions and entry points. The more you can anticipate these differences and can provide information that addresses their concerns and questions, the more likely you are to get their buy-in.
Avoid Making It Only About You
It’s natural to want to communicate about your strategic plan.
But you’re more likely to gain traction and gain donors and partners if you communicate about it in ways that engage others in the work.
In working with the Greater Washington Community Foundation to roll out its plan, there were deliberate steps to make sure the word “together” was front and center throughout the messaging — and to show how achieving its strategy would benefit the community, not the foundation itself.
You can even take this a step farther by inviting the community to participate in listening sessions that will help shape your tactics and build trust.
Build a Drumbeat
Once you unveil your new strategy publicly, don’t stop talking about it. Turn it into an ongoing storytelling campaign that includes opportunities to engage with audiences across multiple channels and in multiple venues.
Remember, communication is central to the success of any strategy — and it deserves careful consideration as you go public with your new roadmap.
Make sure you devote the time and resources necessary to ensure your strategy takes hold.