Using your strategic plan to make better communications decisions
At a time when news seems to break every day––and much of that news impacts the nonprofit community––it can be hard to make sense of what to communicate about. Do we need to send an email about the White House’s most recent announcement? Are our followers expecting us to comment on this breaking news? Though there is a desire to respond to every little thing, I challenge you to take a step back and reframe the question: would communicating about this be in service of our goals as an organization?
Making strategic and thoughtful decisions about what to prioritize in your communications is never a simple task, and it’s even harder when you feel a heightened sense of urgency to make your organization’s voice heard in the conversation. Luckily, you have a tool available to make some of these decisions a little easier: your strategic plan. This plan serves as a guide for your organization––identifying goals and priorities, as well as strategies for making it all happen. That means it should also serve as a guide for your communications.
But how do you use this organization-wide plan to make communications decisions? To start, spend some time with your communications team breaking down your organizational goals into priorities for your department. Ask yourself:
- Would communications be a useful strategy to help us achieve this organizational goal? If so, how? (In some cases, communications will not be the main strategy for carrying out your organizational goal. It may play a supporting role to something that other teams are taking the lead on.)
- What specific communications goal could be associated with this organizational goal? What do we want communications to help us achieve?
- Who do we need to communicate with to work toward this goal? What do they need to know? What do we want them to do?
Answering these questions can help you establish a set of communications goals and outline the people you need to reach to make those goals a reality. These key priorities and audiences are now your guide rails for communications.
Next time the news breaks, check your desire to communicate against them and ask, will responding to this help us reach our key audiences? Does it clearly advance our goals?
Maybe that means you do end up posting that tweet or sending an email. But sometimes it will mean you say no, and decide that this time, staying out of the conversation is more in service of your organizational priorities. You’ll have a clear framework to explain that decision to your colleagues who might be gunning for you to respond, too.
Developing your communications goals and audiences will not only guide you through the era of breaking news, they will also serve you in times of stability. When you’re helping your development team create a theme for your year-end fundraising campaign, for example, you can use them to help break the tie between two possibilities. When you’re deciding if your nonprofit needs to have a stronger presence on Instagram, you can use them to weigh the pros and cons. They act as a gut check for every decision you make as a department.
A little communications strategy goes a long way. This practice will not only ensure that your communications are in service of the bigger picture, it’ll keep your strategic plan alive and in use organization-wide.