How to write a charity communications strategy

posted in: strategy | 4

At a protest someone holds a sign reading 'Generic angry slogan'. Photo from http://public-domain.pictures/

Writing a communications strategy can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. There is plenty of good advice out there to help you.

Here’s a basic communications strategy template, plus six of the best in-depth strategy resources I’ve seen. Go forth and strategize!

Communications Strategy Template

(You can download the Communications Strategy Template as a Word document to stick your logo on and generally muck about with.)

Aims

What do you want to achieve? Keep this section brief and specific.

Objectives

How will you know (and how will you prove) that you achieved your aims? Make sure your objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound) and closely related to your organisational objectives.

Environment

Take a look around. What is going on in the external and internal environment that might affect your aims?

  • SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. It’s usually easiest to start filling in Opportunities and Threats, the outward facing ones.
Strengths: Weaknesses:
Opportunities: Threats:
  • PESTLE analysis: Political, Economic, Social, Technological:
    Legal, Environmental. Consider the current issues and trends in each area which may affect you.
Political: Economic:
Social: Technological:
Legal: Environmental:
  • Competitor analysis: What are other organisations in your field up to? Note where your communications approach overlaps and where you are very different. Think about their comparative strengths and weaknesses.
Organisation name Common ground Differences Comparative strengths Comparative weaknesses
  • Calendar: are there any important dates which might influence your communications activities or major deadlines to be aware of?
  • Resources: what cash, assets, and staff or volunteer time have you got? Don’t let this hem you in too much, as you may be able to source more funding or extra support if you hit on a particularly brilliant tactic.

Communications channels

List out all the different communications channels you have access to. It can be helpful to make quite a detailed list to remind yourself of all the different options, not just the channels you use every day.

 

Channel Type (earned, owned or paid?) New or established?

 

Are they earned, owned or paid? Are they new or well established? For example you might have been placing stories on local radio for years but only just be getting started with Facebook, or vice versa. Whatever the channel you can’t build the right audience, relationships, knowledge or skills overnight.

Audiences

Power-interest grid

Who are you trying to reach? What do you want them to do / think / feel? Be as specific as you can, don’t just say ‘the general public’.

Make as long a list as you need, but then choose a top three, the most important audiences for achieving your objectives. It might be useful to plot them on a stakeholder mapping square like this one.

Key messages

What do you want to say? Choose short, simple, messages which represent the most important things that your audience need to know / feel / believe for you to achieve your objectives.

You may have different key messages for each of your three audiences, but try not to create too many otherwise they will become unwieldy. Each key message should be no more than a sentence or two.

Methods / Tactics

Bring objectives, audiences, messages, and communications channels together. In order to achieve this objective, which audience should we target? Which messages should we highlight? Which channels should we use? It’s likely that you will have several audiences, messages, and channels for each objective.

Objective Audiences Messages Channels

This should give you a strong foundation for your workplan, and help you decide what to do (and, crucially, what not to do!), who will do it, and when.

I’d recommend keeping your workplan in a separate document as it’s likely to change more frequently and go into much more detail than your strategy.

Evaluation

When will you evaluate the success of your strategy? Think about setting some milestones. And how will you evaluate it? By starting with measurable objectives you’re halfway there already.

 

Communications strategy resources

Knowhow Nonprofit – Developing a communications strategy

Accessible introduction from Knowhow Nonprofit which sets out the different elements of a communications strategy.

Government Communications Service – Writing a communication strategy

This is an excellent, clear guide which goes a little further by introducing insights and interdependencies.

End Violence Against Women Now – Campaign Communication

A great resource with several pages of advice about creating effective campaign communications strategies, with advice on ethical representation and plenty of examples.

Spitfire – Smart Chart 3.0

The bees’ knees in communications strategy development, this free interactive tool takes you through the whole process in detail. Step by step.  Be warned, it is extremely thorough, you won’t be able to dash it off in 10 minutes.

Dave Fleet – Strategic Communications Planning

This free communications strategy ebook isn’t directed at charities and nonprofits but it has a good no-nonsense approach and asks the right questions in plain English.

CharityComms – Make It Matter

A whole book about creating communications strategies from the lovely CharityComms. Acutely aware of the day to day realities of the charity sector, it’s full of inspiring case studies nonetheless. £14.95 + postage for members.

 

Finally, there’s some sound advice on taking it all forward in these two posts:

Good luck!

If you’d like some help or advice about developing a communications strategy for your organisation please drop me a line.

4 Responses

  1. Great post. Thanks for pulling together.

  2. Wow. Thanks for this post. So useful.

  3. Thanks! I’m really glad 🙂

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