Communications Strategy—It Starts at Home

I work with many organizations that are new to building a communications strategy. They usually want help with a plan that will raise their profile in the newspapers or on TV.

That makes sense of course. Facebook and Twitter presence is a wonderful and essential thing. But it’s still true that those who believe in your organization’s mission—activists, board members, funders– love to see their efforts and perspective recognized on the evening news or in the morning newspaper that policymakers read.

Before you get there, though, you’ve got to make sure your internal communications are happening. That may seem like ridiculously basic advice. But I have worked with organizations that don’t quite have that together.

Some groups hold lengthy meetings where staffers recite details that don’t affect the work of others. You can see everyone texting and playing online Scrabble. The practice soaks up time and doesn’t assure that those who actually need the information are receiving what’s pertinent.

One community group I advised—a very accomplished, adept and efficient organization—was at work on a campaign that required them to monitor a complex transportation issue. Several staffers took turns attending committee meetings.

But there was no system to keep track of the decisions and policy turning points that came out of those meetings and stay on top of what was going on.

We worked together to devised a simple system. We came up with a form that each staffer could use to take notes at each meeting to record the date, the names of those present, key decisions and other important observations. The info went into a binder after each meeting so that anyone on staff could get up to speed before the next meeting, ask questions of other staffers. And everyone involved had access to the needed information.

Internal communications is step one to a successful overall communications strategy. You have to have it before you are ready to develop your messages, do traditional media outreach and make your organization more high-profile.