The irresistible power of storytelling for organizations

“Good stories surprise us. They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.” Read more

Small communications team? Read these 5 tips to help you effectively deliver

In many organizations, communications is not always on top of the priority list. This usually means that many communications teams are far from being effectively resourced with sufficient funds and staff.

But don’t fret – you can still do great work with a small staff. Writing for the Communications Network, Jennifer Oldham, who is also part of a small communications team, shares five tips. Read the summary below or the full article here.

1. Plan your work

Oldham writes: “A communications plan should be in line with the organization’s strategic plan. The plan doesn’t have to be complicated or require specific software, but it should include some basic features: 2 or 3 key messages for the year, measurable and meaningful goals, and an evaluation plan.”

2. Evaluate early and often

Evaluating your communications plan once per quarter and at the end of the year is essential to review progress towards your goals. It will help you make appropriate amendments to your tactics, if necessary.

3. Say no

As Oldham notes, “Saying no can be difficult, but the reality is that we can’t do it all.” She adds: “We are all drawn to what is shiny and new, but that newest thing isn’t always the best use of our limited time. While it can be tempting to use the latest technology and join the newest social channel, consider whether you have time to learn and implement those things.”

4. Learn from others

“Take opportunities to learn more about other people’s strategies, mistakes, and successes,” says Oldham.

5. Self-care

Linking effective communications to self-care, Oldham writes:

“The connection between communications and self-care isn’t immediately obvious, but our state of mind impacts everything that we do. The work we do requires us to have in-depth knowledge about some difficult topics that we often can’t leave at the office. We spend our time responding to these issues, sometimes to the detriment of our well-being. Creating a good strategy involves visioning, and we can’t envision a great strategy if we’re always busy implementing.”

She adds: “Schedule time regularly to go for a walk, sit outside, or any other activity that brings you joy. Imagination precedes implementation.”

 

Featured photo source: sage.com

Great writing tips for authors, bloggers, columnists & journalists

Writing for Inc.com, Andrew Griffiths provides some excellent writing tips for authors, bloggers, columnists and journalists. This is all based on experience writing 20 books and 3,000 articles over 20 years!

My favourites include:

  • Always visualize a person who is your ideal niche whenever you write
  • Don’t waste a whole session on a piece that isn’t working
  • Keep an anecdote and story list
  • Figure out when you write your best words

Check out all 10 tips here

10 ways to improve your communications strategy

Are you currently developing, reviewing or delivering your nonprofit communications strategy? If you’re thinking about the type of strategy you need, why not start here. If your looking to take your communications strategy to the next level of effectiveness, consider the 10 tips below. They are all sourced from a Gaurdian article on the importance of communication in aid work and how to get it right.

1. People engage best with people, not abstract issues

Use case studies, testimonials and human interest stories to illustrate your issue in a real, accessible and relevant way.

2. Communicate the difference people can make

Rather than only focusing on the negative aspects of the problem, show that it is possible to address the problem and communicate what each audience member can do to help address it.

3. Find a private sector partner

Find an influential company that can act as your champion, so it can push your cause among peers.

4. Strategic communications can change policy

Aim for policy change by advocating for your cause in the media and amongst politicians. Policy change is one of the most tangible ways to achieve your social development goals. For example, the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report team engaged with Pakistani press and politicians to advocate for education in the country. This contributed to the Government finding more funds for education and passing the free education bill.

5. Monitor everything

Speaking of monitoring, continually monitoring your progress and impact can help you generate a clear picture of what’s working and what’s not. You will then be able to make informed and effective adjustments to your strategy and use the positive monitoring data for stakeholder engagement and advocacy.

6. Know your audience

By clearly identifying your audience and understanding their behaviours, you can tailor your strategy and messages to best suit their needs.

7. Shift from compassion to solidarity campaigning

Move from convincing your audience to feel sorry for those you are helping, to working together with those in need to improve our shared world. Move your audience from focusing on pity to championing empowerment; from “it’s sad, but I have my own problems” to “we’re all in this together.”

8. Select the relevant data

Data is essential for transparency and evidence-based advocacy. With that said, ensure that you use the right data that is consistent with your strategy and messages, to ensure maximum impact.

9. Do more with less by being inventive

If you’re a small NGO lacking in resources, you’ll want to remember this tip. Work with freelancers and pro bono communications specialists, and organize competitions among students to generate content. Leverage free social media platforms and strategic partnerships that are cost-effective.

10. Listen to people on the ground

Talk with the people you are working with and serving in your project sites. Listen to them to understand what the real problems/needs are. Then together with them, incorporate this feedback into your communications strategy. This will ensure that your strategy can be as effective and relevant as possible for your these top-priority stakeholders.

Featured photo: Marc Wathieu, Flickr Creative Commons

Developing your advocacy strategy: Three questions to ask

In previous posts, I explored to definition of advocacy and the foundation areas for an effective advocacy strategy. But what is the very first action you should take in developing your strategy? Writing for Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jim Shultz stresses that organization’s need to first ask themselves three essential questions.

1. What do you want?
Deciding what you want – what impact or outcomes you want to achieve – requires some serious analysis. This begins with clarifying the deeper problem you are trying to solve and what you think it will take to solve it. As a result, you may find the you have big ambitions. But as Shultz notes, “these grand solutions are almost never initially within political reach, and organizations need to make strategic choices about what to fight for in the shorter-term”.

2. What does the political map look like?
Shultz stresses: “You wouldn’t make a move on a chessboard without studying where the pieces are, and you shouldn’t set off on an advocacy campaign without looking hard at the political map involved.” Mapping out the politics can include looking into who has authority and influence at different levels of government, as well as the political processes and structures that may affect your strategy. Having a good understanding of the context and dynamics will ensure that you adapt your strategy in the right and most effective way.

In addition, I contend that you should also explore the socioeconomic and sociocultural context when addressing this question. These aspects are linked to the political map and can significantly affect the implementation of your strategy.

3. What will you do?
Once you understand what you want and what context you are working in, you need to define the actions and tactics needed to deliver your strategy effectively. Truly explore what you think will have a real impact, assess your capacity to take these actions, and explore strategic opportunities, such as potential partnerships and events.

Reflecting on the three questions, Shultz notes that many organizations fail to take the time to genuinely think in a strategic way. “It is simply easier to think about the next action—a protest, a report, a lobbying visit—without seeing it all through a strategic lens,” he says. Strategic thinking will ensure that your advocacy is as intentional, consistent, relevant, context-specific and impactful as possible.

Shultz notes that effective strategy is an art, not a science, and there is no magic formula that works automatically in every circumstance. But these three questions are a good starting point in place of such a formula.

Featured photo: Protest at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, December 2008. Credit: allispossible.org.uk, Flickr Creative Commons