Recently, we were presenting to a group of secondary-school students about the importance of communications. We explained how all too often, people tend to focus on the mechanics of an idea and pay less attention to telling people about its benefits. Communicating ineffectively is a bit like organising a party but not inviting any guests – the process and planning is important, but unless you inform people, no one will come.
Effective communications are particularly vital for social enterprises, not-for-profits, community services and non-government organisations. These groups often work incredibly hard and produce great services with very little resources. However, they don’t always know how to effectively connect with the people they need to reach. So like the party with no guests, the potential social impact may not be achieved.
Here’s our approach to developing communications that help community-focused organisations reach their goals and inform, engage and connect with people.
Developing effective communications can start by taking a step back and thinking about what it is you want to achieve. What are your long-term objectives? Where are you headed? What communications will help you get there?
Take the time to think about possibilities that you haven’t previously considered. By approaching communications in different ways, you can often uncover new opportunities to make an impact. Thinking differently and looking at the broader picture can help you plan the right communications strategies to connect with people and meet your organisational goals.
Once you’ve confirmed your goals, you can then look more closely at the specific communications tools you’ll need to bring about your strategy and influence change. There are obviously heaps of communications choices out there – print and digital media, cause-related marketing campaigns, annual reports, publications, education resources, website and content development, social media, video stories, apps and so on.
The important thing is to choose the best combination of communications vehicles to achieve your aims – don’t just do something because you feel you have to or that it’s the done thing. Ask yourself, what is the message? Who am I speaking to? And then, how can I best communicate that particular message to that particular audience? Answering these questions will help keep your communications on track to reach your goals.
Also, make sure the communications you create are integrated – everything should flow, work together and support all the other elements, helping to build a stronger brand and clearer message.
If your communications have been carefully planned and developed in line with your strategic goals, there’s big potential for your organisation to make an impact with the people you want to reach. Done well, communications can help you inform communities, engage people and influence positive social change.
Effective communications tell people what you do, make you more visible and help you connect with the people who need to find your services. They also raise your profile, inform a wider audience and improve fundraising opportunities.
In a nutshell, strong communications change your environment to help your organisation get on and do what they do best.
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Let us know if you’ve got examples of how a community-focused organisation has used effective communications to improve social outcomes in their community.