2 min Read
February 26, 2019

Plan for your new communications role with these nine questions

Most new jobs come with a learning curve—especially nonprofit communications roles. Your work likely relies on collaboration with other departments, balancing their priorities, navigating internal and external obstacles to success, and potentially setting up a strategic foundation from scratch.

As Big Duck’s newest staff member, the feelings of those first days on a new job are fresh in my mind. The following resources and questions challenged me and helped me plan how I shape my role.

First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins
Setting goals to achieve in your first 90 days on the job can create alignment on why you’re there and what you need to spend your time on. Often, nonprofit communicators are inheriting a role that previously lacked clarity or intentionality. The exercise of a 90 day plan will ground you with purpose that the entire team can get behind.

Even before your full 90 day plan is set, these questions from the book’s acceleration list will set you up for success:

  • What will it take to reach the break-even point—the point when you’ve contributed as much value to your new organization as you’ve consumed—as quickly as possible?
  • What are some traps you might encounter, and how can you avoid them?
  • What can you do to create virtuous cycles and build momentum in this new role?

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
While Gino Wickman’s book is intended for planning at the organizational level, it is also helpful for planning how you want to present yourself to your new team and for laying a groundwork for your own professional development no matter what your department or role. Ask yourself:

  • What’s my vision—who I am, where I’m going, and how I’m going to get there?
  • What’s my 10-year target, professionally, and how can I set smaller goals for myself throughout the year that support my journey to that target?
  • What’s my “vine”—the kind of responsibilities I tend to hoard even though I should delegate them—that’s going to hold me back and how can I let go of it?

6 Steps to Make Your Strategic Plan Really Strategic by Graham Kenny
This article by Harvard Business Review contributor Graham Kenny has three questions that have been particularly helpful as I ramp up:

  • Have you identified your target audience?
    Kenny reminds us that we “can’t be all things to all customers.” Your nonprofit can’t solve every problem on each donor’s mind, nor can it effectively appeal to every college grad for your year-long service program.
  • Have you identified what your stakeholder groups want from you?
    Beautiful, story-driven HTML emails may have humanized your previous nonprofit in the eye of donors, but those at your new organization might want to see a clean, to the point quarterly report on programmatic status. If your predecessor conducted research to determine the target audience’s preferred communications preferences, fantastic! Use it. If they didn’t, this is a great chance to ask…
  • Am I practicing continuous improvement?
    You must be ready to pivot and evolve your go-to strategies and tactics—both for the health of your marketing plan, and the health of your professional development.

Consider revisiting these nine questions beyond your onboarding weeks. It may be helpful in evaluating what’s shifted and if you’re staying on track.