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7 communications policies your nonprofit cannot live without
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7 communications policies your nonprofit cannot live without

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So what makes up a world class communications, PR and marketing department? …

So what makes up a world class communications, PR and marketing department?

In one simple word: Structure. Set aside experience, skills, budget, internal bureaucracy and all the other issues that exist within every organization…and it doesn’t matter whether you are two person team or part of a forty person team in place at most major universities. The bottom line is that without structure and a solid foundation of support, your organization’s communication’s department will never be able to function with the efficiency, creativity, effectiveness and level of organizational respect that is necessary to create effective marketing strategy that supports the organization’s strategic plan.

So where do you start?

What policies, procedures and plans create a solid communications foundation?

In this white paper written by Jarid Brown, we explore seven organizational policies, plans or tools that no growth-oriented nonprofit can afford to be without. These policies create the foundation and framework for successful organizational communications and marketing.

To learn more visit http://www.jaridslog.com or follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/advancinghope

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  • 1. Without structure and a solid foundation of support, your organization’s communications department will never be able to function with efficiency, creativity, effectiveness and organizational respect... Seven communication policies your nonprofit cannot live without Copyright 2013 - HCM Brown www.hcmbrown.com
  • 2. What makes a world class communications, PR and marketing department? In one simple word: Structure. Set aside experience, skills, budget, internal bureaucracy and all the other issues that exist within every organization...and it doesn’t matter whether you are two person team or part of a forty person team in place at most major universities. The bottom line is that without structure and a solid foundation of support, your organization’s communications department will never be able to function with the efficiency, creativity, effectiveness and level of organizational respect that is necessary to create effective marketing strategy that supports the organization’s strategic plan. So where do you start? What policies, procedures and plans create a solid communications foundation? In this white paper we explore seven organizational policies, plans or tools that no growth-oriented nonprofit can afford to be without. These policies create the foundation and framework for successful organizational communications and marketing. Marketing Plan A marketing plan starts by creating a strong, strategic marketing foundation for your organization. The plan addresses the goals and objectives for your organization based you’re the organization’s strategic plan. If your organization does not have a strategic plan…you may as well scrap any marketing efforts. Likewise, if the strategic plan has not been disseminated to staff, then a marketing plan is again a pointless exercise; since all nonprofit communications and marketing efforts should align with the goals of your strategic plan. The marketing plan addresses how you will package services, develop unique propositions, and position your organization based upon your organization’s audiences, competitors and emerging markets. A marketing plan defines and establishes how your organization is to be positioned, and creates strategies for getting there. A marketing plan should be thorough, specific and flexible and reviewed annually. Strategic Communications Plan Whenever I mention that an organization needs both a marketing plan and strategic communications plan, I’m often met with the inevitable: “Aren’t they the same?” question. The answer of course is a resounding no. In simplified terms, a marketing plan is designed to identify and achieve organizational goals and objectives. Whereas, a communications plan is a more specific plan on how the organization will communicate, or deliver, a marketing plan to your audience. A communications plan often forms a part of a larger marketing plan, but can also stand alone. Marketing plans, although flexible, seldom undergo major change; unless, there is a change in the strategic vision and plan of an organization. However, a communications plan may change often, depending upon new technologies, market habits, market saturation, or any number of additional factors. The communications plan identifies specific advertising initiatives, promotional schemes, channel budgets, marketing tools, and milestones. A communications plan is seldom a singular plan. Often you will create smaller, quicker marketing & communications plans for new projects or events that may arise during the year. A Marketing Plan is defined by an organization’s Strategic Plan. A Communications Plan is defined by an organization’s Marketing Plan. Trying to implement a Communications Plan without first developing a Marketing Plan would be similar to sailing the high seas on a cloudy day without a compass. You may be moving, but you have no direction. HCM Brown © 2013
  • 3. In today’s age of instantaneous news, high profile events have underscored the need for both a crisis/ emergency plan and a crisis communications plan. Although many organizations take the time to carefully develop emergency plans and procedures, they often overlook the development of a comprehensive crisis communications plan. If operations are directly affected, the need to notify clients, families, regulators, government officials and other community members may be immediate and patience among these audiences may be running thin. As importantly, establishing procedures and pre-planned messaging for media, community supporters and others will help your organization control the message, maintain positive relationships and minimize negative publicity. A crisis communications plan also addresses the unfortunate circumstances in which an event does not directly impact operations, but may impact public perception of your industry sector. Such was the case in the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, when media outlets created a misleading and inaccurate tie between autism and planned violence. A crisis communications plan allowed organizations such as Autism Speaks to react definitively and quickly to media reports, develop specialized educational materials and position themselves as an authority on the issue. Crisis Communications Plan Communications Policies and Procedures Social Media Policy Visual Identity & Style Guidelines Communications professionals are often the first people to complain when a department manipulates or changes an organization’s logo. What is even worse is when a communications professional alters official colors, chops a logo apart or otherwise abuses the visual identity of an organization. Yet, the question is whether or not your organization has established clear branding/visual identity guidelines? A communications department bears the responsibility of protecting the organization’s identity and establishing oversight for the proper usage of the organizations name, colors, logos and other visual elements. Moreover, the communications department is responsible for establishing a consistent messaging across the organization. As a result, every organization should establish a visual identity and style guide that departments and employees can freely access to assure proper organizational branding. I’m often surprised how few communications departments have established policies and procedures for their departments. Although marketing and communications plans provide the framework for the development of efficient and consistent messaging, published departmental policy and procedures control the workflow, establish roles and provide understanding of the communications process across organizational programs. A communications department’s primary function is to provide support to organizational programs. As such, well-organized, successful departments often function more as independent firm, rather than internal production houses. As a result, these departments utilize policies and procedures to better manage workflow, establish clear production schedules, establish a clear scope of available services, and define departmental roles. Whether your communications team consists of 3 members or 45 members, running your department as a business unit will create a more efficient and happier workforce. As more nonprofits embrace social media and digital marketing, policies and guidelines to govern the use of social media have become a necessity. As a marketer, I would tell you that there is no better natural market to spread the message of your organization than your own employees. However, understanding the need to protect the viability of the company, no organization should allow free reign when it comes to social media. Rather, your organization must find a balance between empowering employees, protecting employee rights, workplace productivity, protecting brand identity and protecting IT infrastructure. A well-laid out policy should bring together executive leadership, human resources, MIS, and communications personnel to draft a comprehensive policy that empowers employees, provides education, protect the company and establishes a clear boundaries.
  • 4. Organizational Master Calendar As organizations grow in terms of programming and scope, so does the need for an organizational master calendar. There is nothing more frustrating as a marketer than not being aware of an event that has planned for months. Yet, as a marketer, there is no one to blame but yourself. There is no department within an organization that has a greater need for a master calendar, yet many communicators rely upon the good will of other departments to notify them in a timely manner. One of the best policy changes that your organization can make would be to establish an organizational master calendar and assign curation of the calendar to a communications staff member. Then, take an active role, identify key personnel across programs and periodically (as part of a schedule) call those individuals to see what updates need to be made. HCM Brown © 2013 About HCM Brown At HCM Brown, we work with you to design and develop customized, creative digital and traditional marketing solutions including a full suite of consultative and technical solutions. We specialize in marketing consulting, digital media strategy development and online marketing solutions including website design and development. We create solutions that are marketing-driven, professional, easy to use, and integrated with your brand identity. For more information visit us online at www.hcmbrown.com Where To Start Crisis Communications Planning Ready.gov provides a great starting point for developing your organization’s crisis communications plan. http://www.ready.gov/business/implementation/crisis Communications Policies and Procedures The University of Wisconsin-Madison Communication and Marketing Department provides a great example of communications policies and procedures. http://universityrelations.wisc.edu/policies/ Likewise, Georgia Perimeter College Office of Marketing and Public Relations provides another outstanding example of Communications Policy and Procedures. http://www.gpc.edu/mpr/#.UT0jKlfCZ8E Social Media Policy Social Media Governance list of social media policies http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php Social media policy presentation from OrgSpring http://www.slideshare.net/craiggrella1/social-media- policy-for-nonprofits Nonprofit Social Media Policy Workbook from IdealWare http://www.idealware.org/reports/nonprofit-social-media- policy-workbook Visual Identity & Style Guidelines The University of Wisconsin-Madison Communication and Marketing Department provides a great example of such guidelines. http://universityrelations.wisc.edu/policies/ About the author Jarid Brown is the owner of HCM Brown, a digital marketing firm, and the Director of Online Interactions for The Hope Institute for Children and Families in Springfield, Illinois. Jarid Brown has established himself as a powerful voice in the nonprofit marketing community. His work in creating integrated nonprofit marketing strategies, has earned recognition throughout the nonprofit industry with case studies on multiple nonprofit marketing websites, a cover story in the November 2011 edition of Fundraising Success Magazine and inclusion as the featured story of the first chapter of the 3rd Edition of Web Marketing For Dummies in January 2012. Jarid can be contacted via linked in: www.linkedin.com/in/jaridbrown