I have a question for you: What percentage of communications professionals implement strategies to drive business goals? I’ll give you a clue – it’s a shockingly low number.
Luckily, Monique Freeman and Josh Stoffregen of Prudential are part of that 12%, and they did a wonderful job laying the foundation of starting a Public Relations toolkit for nonprofits – small and large alike.
As Ms. Freeman explained, there are five steps to creating a communications strategy.
- Identify the organization’s business goals.
The first step is to discuss the business goals of your organization with the “decision-makers.” If you are a decision-maker (i.e. executive director), you must do some serious soul-searching about what these goals are, because what is a solid strategy without solid goals? It’s also important to prioritize your goals. For each goal, you should be asking yourself these types of questions: Is the goal aligned with the organization’s overall mission? Why is this goal important now? Is Communications the answer to this particular challenge?
- Translate goals into specific stakeholder behaviors
The second step is to figure out how to use communications to influence stakeholders and/or change behaviors. This is at the core of all marketing.
Who are the stakeholders in your organization? This could include anyone from volunteers to long-time donors.
- Create actionable communications objectives
Ms. Freeman offered up an acronym used in business school curriculum to help identify these objectives: “SMART”
Specific – These are objectives – not goals. What exactly are you going to do to achieve business goals?
Measurable – All objectives must be measurable. How will you incorporate analytics and metrics into the strategy?
Achieveable – Do you have the capacity, manpower, and the resources to fulfill these objectives?
Realistic – No need to solve all problems at once! Be realistic about what you can accomplish.
Timely – How will you hold yourself and the organization accountable for fulfilling these objectives?
When creating a communications strategy, it’s tempting to come up with goals and try to tackle them head on, without subdividing them into objectives. “SMART” can be a very useful tool in distinguishing the two.
- Socialize communication strategy within the organization
It may seem obvious, but it is essential to have buy-in from your organization. Even if you’re the decision-maker, you should make sure the rest of your organization believes in the strategy. It’s much easier to tell stories and market your work if everyone is on board.
- Finalize communication strategy
While you’re implementing the strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything will go as planned. Be flexible. Refine the strategy according to external influences, and continuously analyze it along the way.
The presenters spent the second half of the workshop fielding questions from attendees, and there was an abundance of knowledge to be taken away from the discussion. For example, communicating in the digital age has provided professionals with numerous outlets to tell their story. You can take one piece of content and spin it many different ways, including hashtags, web content, video, photography, and infographics. Social media provides a free (or low-cost) outlet to target your audiences and engage your community, rather than always paying for advertisements in traditional media.
The presenters also provided tips for smaller organizations that just want or need the “essentials:”
– Target your audiences
– Only use social media accounts that make sense for your organization, there’s no need to spread yourself too thin
– Set up focus groups, meet with potential investors and donors
– Develop relationships with local reporters
– Focus on imagery, videos, and blogging in the beginning, as easy ways to reach and connect with audiences; always link back to your website.
– Position your organization/business as a thought leader in the field
– Make frequent appearances at events, workshops, conferences, and community gatherings.
– See where you can partner with other organizations/businesses in the
– Consider asking close friends and colleagues to act as ambassadors
– Focus on storytelling – it can directly lead to business.
In closing, for those who aren’t quite yet versed in digital, our presenters offered this advice: Build on your authenticity, because at the end of the day, being real is what will energize and engage your audience in your cause.
- Communication strategies are essential to business, non-profits and for-profits alike
- An entire social media strategy can be built from just one piece of content
- Start small and then expand: There’s no need to manage all social media/website at once.
- Position your organization/business as a thought-leader in the field.
- Authenticity is key!
Written by Dan Deutsch