As a non-profit or purpose-driven organization, you are likely vision and mission driven. Your change-making relationships, programs and activities are probably closely connected with your strategic plan and the goals identified in it.
Have you ensured that your communications and marketing are also aligned with your strategic plan? If not, you are missing out on a key opportunity to maximize your communications and marketing to help accomplish your mission. When you have aligned a communications strategy with your organizational strategic plan, you will maximize your communications resources, activities and budget.
Adopting a strategic approach to communications will ultimately help you say, "Mission accomplished".
Benefits of having a communications strategy
Some of the benefits of developing a comprehensive, direction-setting communications strategy are that the strategy:
- Gives focus and clarity to what you are aiming to accomplish through your communications
- Demonstrates the strategic value and importance of communications for organizational success
- Shifts the perception of communications from being solely tactical to a strategic approach that is supported by tactics
- Provides a proactive approach to communications for the things you can reasonably anticipate
- Outlines how you will measure and demonstrate the effectiveness and success of your communications
Nuts and bolts of a communications strategy
A robust, direction-setting communications strategy is designed to guide all your communications for a period of time; such as the length of your organization's strategic plan. Communications strategies include everything you need to know to maximize your resources and ensure that communications is helping your organization achieve your mission.
Here are the sections I include in the comprehensive communications strategy I offer in my Mission Pack and a few pointers if you are looking to develop your own communications strategy.
This is the high level change that you want to accomplish through your communications. Ask yourself: what is the ultimate way that communications can help your organization achieve its vision and mission?
These are the tangible things you will be doing to meet the goal of your communications strategy. A good starting point when developing objectives is to look at the objectives or goals in the organizational strategic plan and identify which ones communications can directly support. As you develop your objectives, keep in mind the SMART framework (smart, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely). Taking the time to develop SMART objectives will benefit you as you budget for and evaluate your communications.
Whether you use a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities or threats) or PESTEL (political, economic, social, technological, environmental, legal) framework or other analysis method, the importance of this section is that you are evaluating the context in which your organization operates and identifying opportunities and challenges that you may face in your communications.
In order to achieve the change you'd like to see, you need to know who can help you make it happen. When developing your audiences, consider three types: primary, secondary and influencer. The primary audience is the people who are essential to achieving the change you'd like to see; if you don't connect with these folks, the change won't happen. Your secondary audience is the people who it would be nice to have know about the change; they may be able to support or contribute to the change in some way. Influencers are those who can share or amplify your message in some way but may not directly contribute to the change themselves.
These are the critical pieces of information that your audiences need to know. Key messages focus on the essentials of what you are doing: why your organization's work is important; how it will make a difference, and the ways your audiences are important to making the change happen. Keep in mind that key messages are not a one-size-fits-all and develop customized key messages for your audiences as needed.
Tactics and timeline
Taking what you know about your audiences and how they like to be communicated with, on which channels and in what formats, the tactics and timelines section is where you develop a detailed plan for types of communications you will undertake (the tactics) and in what time frame. You may also wish to include a budget column if any of your tactics require funding.
Remember those SMART objectives you developed earlier? Take a look at those again and develop a method for tracking the results of those objectives. One way of doing this would be to create a spreadsheet that captures the metrics and analytics that you've identified in your objectives. Metrics should be captured at the beginning of the strategy, consistently throughout the strategy's time frame, and at the end of the strategy period. Evaluation is an important part of being able to demonstrate the value of your communications and the ways that your work is essential to helping your organization accomplish its mission and clearly demonstrates what's worked well, what could be tweaked and what didn't work.
Strategic communications helps you achieve your mission
If you've never had a comprehensive communications strategy before, it may seem daunting to put one together. By considering these seven sections, you can be assured that the strategy you develop will be well-suited to help you deliver communications that are clear, consistent and effective. Time spent on ensuring your communications are aligned with your strategic plan by creating a communications strategy will also demonstrate the important function that communications serves in helping your organization achieve its mission.
Need assistance developing a communications strategy? Discover the comprehensive, direction-setting strategy I offer through the Mission Pack or a project-specific strategy I offer through the Launch Pack.
Have a communications strategy in place and would like to receive some expert feedback? I offer a Lunar Exploration Consult where we can discuss questions or ideas about your strategy.