June 20, 2009

It’s not about you: building a successful communications strategy

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With all the feverish activity that communications and development professionals label as branding and marketing, it’s important to remember that they are not two separate activities, but part of a continuum of communications.

For your communications strategy to be successful, the following aspects of brand alignment have to be present:

  1. You’re different: Are you indistinguishable from similar organizations, or are you significantly different?  Different enough that it makes prospective donors aware that your values and theirs are aligned?
  2. You’re listening: Are you delivering what they are asking for?  Have you asked them what they are looking for? Are you engaged in listening and responding? (in relationships, we call this conversation)
  3. You’re having a conversation: Are your marketing and communications materials, in any media (print, web and social) about how you help make an impact? In other words, are they about your organization, or how you made an impact in the lives of others?
  4. You have a collaborative approach: Does your story and messaging align with your mission and strategic plan?  If you're managing your organization to outcomes, to achieve the greatest impact, your communications must communicate to those outcomes.
  5. Is your board engaged? You have a terrific board of directors, but do they understand your story well enough that they can communicate it? Have they funded and empower the executive director and the outreach/development staff to communicate with clarity?
  6. You’re focused: How many messages do you have, and can you communicate your story in 15-30 seconds?  How about in 5 seconds?  Simplify your message, keep it consistent.
  7. Are your advocates and donors engaged? Have you made your advocates, donors, and followers part of the story? In the narrative of your organization, are they powerful ambassadors of the mission (which is in support of the cause) and can they communicate it to their personal network? Do they realize greater meaning in their lives because of their support?

Strive for these and you're on your way to aligning your brand with the mission and the stakeholders that support the cause. Yours will be a meaningful cause or organization that builds relationships with advocates, donors, and followers.

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