Organized communications with streamlined and consistent messages are essential for every organization and business in today’s climate. The need to explain to people what you’re doing and why it matters can help you reach those you are seeking to serve, connect with funders and raise awareness to the general public and politicians about the issues. In many cases, nonprofit organizations have additional challenges around capacity and general expertise on the subject. Unfortunately, this usually means that organizations don’t prioritize this task and it isn’t done as well as it could be. In this post, I will outline a few primary priorities that will really help steer your communications in a better direction as you evaluate and develop a strategy for the future.


Getting Started

Chances are, you are already performing this function to some extent within your organization. When you aren’t starting from square one, you have the opportunity to evaluate your current situation and make it better, which can be considerably easier. Start by making a list of all of the different tools that your organization has and uses, along with any existing scheduling, resources and staff accountability associated with it. This includes everything from a logo and tagline, to structured emails that go out to a list, press releases, social media accounts, business cards, marketing materials and more. Once you have this list, look at them and evaluate whether or not they are consistent, represents the values of your organization and follows basic general rules for brand recognition. Again, it’s much easier to discard materials that are obsolete or ineffective and update those that are. It’s also a much better use of your resources, which everybody can appreciate. Further, it is essential that you evaluate your all of your communications and work on an ongoing basis so that you can prove that your efforts are worth it. Using email, website and social media analytics, surveys, and attendance numbers are just a few easy ways to check in on your work. Don’t feel bad if you have to revamp things – learning more about our clients helps us to serve them better.

Brand Recognitionphoto2-branding-image
People often misunderstand brands and think they only apply to businesses and cor
porations, but people and organizations have them too, whether they realize it or not. A brand is the articulation of a set of values, goals and p
romises a group represents and hopes to portray to the rest of the world. More than a logo, the consistency of your messages, styles and practices packaged together make a brand that b
ecomes recognizable over time. Moreover, the professionalism in which you exhibit throughout this process, from how you answer the phone to how you describe what your organization does should complement all of the other printed and digital materials. The more you put out with your brand elements on it, the more people will begin to recognize your organization and make associations based on their experiences with you. Consider this when you are going through your materials in your original audit and make sure that they are consistent and representative of your brand.

photo3-audienceSpeak to Your Audience
Are you putting out communications that your audience is receiving? Are they in the correct format and pushed out on communication channels where they visit? It is most important not to spread yourself too thin and try to be everywhere all the time, especially if these different tactics are beyond the personnel skillset. When you are making your list of all of the different assets that you currently have (logo, marketing materials, etc.) make a note about where you distribute and publish these items. Then think about the different opportunities for distribution and make sure that is in alignment with where your audience is located.
For example, if you are hosting an event that would appeal to a young professional demographic, you might not be as lucky by posting flyers at the senior center. Think critically about how you might find your audience and utilize your resources to have a presence there. Moreover, using graphics and messaging that resonates with your intended audience is more likely to increase their interest.

Defining a Strategy
Planning your communications and your overall strategy has a lot of moving parts, and involves a variety of skills, resources and buy-in for it to be effective. If you have a full campaign ready to launch but you can’t get the rest of the organization to use it, then it has a higher likelihood of falling flat. The tips described above are really just a start and a way to tighten up what you already have, and I do highly recommend working collaboratively as a team and with a professional to develop a strategy that everybody is proud of and can use to hit the ground running. CEDAM hosted a recent webinar for members and Main Street communities in August that outlines the process of getting started more thoroughly. Listen to the recorded webinar here for more tools to create a better and appropriate strategy for your organization.

 

Lisa lisabenckAssenmacher is the Communications & Training Specialist with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM) in Lansing. CEDAM is a nonprofit membership organization supporting community-based economic development in Michigan. At CEDAM, Lisa supports both the organization and members through marketing, graphic design, communications and educational resource development. S