Creating & Using Your Communications Plan: a workshop for the MetroWest Nonprofit Network


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Marketing consultant and non-profit specialist
Niki Lamberg

Is your non-profit striving to grow? A communications plan gives you a framework for reaching your most important audiences more efficiently. With a basic, thoughtful plan in place, you can budget, benchmark, and breathe more easily. Whatever your budget--even if it's practically zero--you can take charge of your communications strategy.

Presented February 4, 2011 in Framingham, MA for the MetroWest Nonprofit Network

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Creating & Using Your Communications Plan: a workshop for the MetroWest Nonprofit Network

  1. 1. Creating and Using Your Communications Plan Presenter: Niki Lamberg
  2. 2. Agenda <ul><li>Overview </li></ul><ul><li>Individual planning </li></ul><ul><li>Group work and brainstorming </li></ul><ul><li>Takeaways: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Communications Audit </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Communications Plan Objectives </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Plan Framework: Strategies, Tactics & Budget </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Pulsed Calendar </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Measurement Matrix </li></ul></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Starting Points <ul><li>Plan at your own scale: </li></ul><ul><li>Entrepreneurial  Strategic  Organizational </li></ul><ul><li>No funding  Limited funding  Substantial funding </li></ul><ul><li>Internal resistance  Ambivalence  Internal support </li></ul>
  4. 4. Why plan? Why invest? <ul><li>Increase income and spread support </li></ul><ul><li>Reduce guesswork and stress </li></ul><ul><li>Anticipate systems you’ll need in the event of success </li></ul><ul><li>Provide evidence of and feedback on the match between internal perceptions/priorities and audience interests </li></ul>
  5. 5. Simplifying choices, overcoming barriers <ul><li>Agile Marketing: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Everything is an experiment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Failure is built into the system </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Short bursts enable easy adaptation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Research: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not enough? Too much? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internal vs. external insight </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The Communications Cycle Benchmark  Adjust Collaborate Evaluate Monitor Implement Plan
  7. 7. Building blocks of a Communications Plan <ul><li>Know your organization: resources & limitations </li></ul><ul><li>Know your audience: demographics, values, context </li></ul><ul><li>Where you are, and where you want to go </li></ul><ul><li>Strategies: simple and manageable </li></ul><ul><li>Tactics: affordable and easy </li></ul><ul><li>Budget and/or staff time </li></ul><ul><li>Clear assignment of responsibilities </li></ul><ul><li>Calendar of activity </li></ul><ul><li>Consistent measurement tools </li></ul>
  8. 8. Your Communications Plan covers… <ul><li>Advertising </li></ul><ul><li>Public/Media Relations </li></ul><ul><li>Messaging/Marketing </li></ul>
  9. 9. Advertising <ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Paid print ads, radio spots </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Print/collateral materials (brochure, direct mail) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Google AdWords or Facebook ads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Calendar/directory listings (free or paid) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Your level of control: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  10. 10. Public/Media Relations <ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Press announcements / “Earned” editorial coverage </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blogger cultivation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facebook & Twitter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your organization’s blog </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Your level of control: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  11. 11. Messaging/Marketing <ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Speaking engagements </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experiences: volunteer engagement, hallway signage, customer service </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Letter-writing campaigns </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Facebook/Twitter/blog </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Your level of control: </li></ul><ul><li> /  </li></ul>
  12. 12. Your first audience: INTERNAL <ul><li>Buy-In </li></ul><ul><li>Expectations </li></ul><ul><li>Goals and Indicators </li></ul><ul><li>Sharing Updates & Successes </li></ul><ul><li>Budget </li></ul>
  13. 13. Manage Internal Expectations <ul><li>Communications planning is: </li></ul><ul><li>A support and strategy, in tandem with other efforts… Not a magic wand. </li></ul><ul><li>Intrinsic and organic to the program process… Not an afterthought or sales job. </li></ul><ul><li>A thoughtful and controlled experiment that will evolve and adapt over time… With some budget! </li></ul>
  14. 14. What is your organizational context? <ul><li>People </li></ul><ul><li>Price </li></ul><ul><li>Product </li></ul><ul><li>Place </li></ul><ul><li>Promotion </li></ul><ul><li>Process </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Communications Audit, </li></ul><ul><li>Steps 1 & 2 </li></ul><ul><li>Worksheets </li></ul>
  16. 16. Getting out of a rut <ul><li>Your patterns and your audience’s patterns: changing in sync? </li></ul><ul><li>Is habit or strategy driving the bus? </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Communications Audit, Step 3: </li></ul><ul><li>Your Promotional Mix </li></ul><ul><li>Worksheet </li></ul>
  18. 18. Communications Audit <ul><li>What are you doing in outreach now? </li></ul><ul><li>What is your actual cost? </li></ul><ul><li>Potential discoveries, with visual clues: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Is your frequency balanced appropriately, or are you connecting with one audience more frequently/effectively than another? Why? Is it easier? Cheaper? More fun/less scary? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Are you appropriately balancing your investment of time and money? Are there surprises? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Are you relying on certain tools/media more than others? Why? Are these the most effective/efficient, or just the most familiar? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Define Indicators of Success <ul><li>Get concrete (and realistic): We want to… </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Enroll more students </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Serve more meals </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Raise more money </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Generate more letters of support to elected officials </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sell more tickets/stuff </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>The test: what numbers can you grow, by when? Look for the $, # and % signs. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Recognize NON-Indicators of Success <ul><li>“ Increase public awareness” </li></ul><ul><li>is NOT concrete. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Success breeds success <ul><li>Achievable goals for change </li></ul><ul><li>Measured change </li></ul><ul><li>Feeling of success for you, staff and stakeholders </li></ul><ul><li>Eagerness to continue </li></ul><ul><li>New achievable goals for change </li></ul><ul><li>Even more effort </li></ul><ul><li>Even more measured change </li></ul>
  22. 22. Who cares, specifically? <ul><li>Ask: Who cares about your work, or could care? </li></ul><ul><li>Whittle down your target audiences to a manageable group of 2-3: </li></ul><ul><li>Examples: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>School groups, parents, teachers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students, alumni, funders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Households in poverty within a 5 mile radius, high-income local residents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Women ages 18-25, high-tech employers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Farmers, youth ages 14-24, residents of two towns </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hint: if you answered “everybody,” keep whittling . </li></ul>
  23. 23. Whittling can be hard work <ul><li>Questions to help your whittling: </li></ul><ul><li>Which demographic is essential to our mission? </li></ul><ul><li>Which demographic do we care most about serving? </li></ul><ul><li>Which demographic already believes in and supports us most passionately? </li></ul><ul><li>Can we reach our target demographic directly? If not, which demographic influences others to support us? </li></ul><ul><li>It’s OK – in fact, essential – to de-prioritize some. </li></ul>
  24. 24. What do you want your targets to DO? <ul><li>Nail down those concrete actions </li></ul><ul><li>Figure out how to make taking those actions easy: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Clickable, copyable, automated, do-able. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  25. 25. A note about Key Messages: <ul><li>Key Messages explain to your target audiences why they should do what you want them to do. </li></ul><ul><li>In your Communications Plan process, they are: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Essential </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Implicit </li></ul></ul></ul>
  26. 26. S.M.A.R.T. Objectives are: <ul><li>Specific </li></ul><ul><li>Measurable </li></ul><ul><li>Achievable </li></ul><ul><li>Realistic </li></ul><ul><li>Time-based </li></ul>
  27. 27. Example: <ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>We want: </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Specific To increase ticket sales to </li></ul><ul><li>families with young children </li></ul><ul><li>Measurable by 10% </li></ul><ul><li>Achievable over last year’s sales, </li></ul><ul><li>Realistic based on a comparably-strong </li></ul><ul><li>product this season and a level- funded communications budget, </li></ul><ul><li>Time-based over the next 8 months. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Example: <ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>We want: </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Specific To engage enough volunteers </li></ul><ul><li>Measurable to enable us to increase our caseload by 5% </li></ul><ul><li>Achievable over our current caseload, </li></ul><ul><li>Realistic with the support of our new volunteer manager and 20% of the administrative assistant's time, </li></ul><ul><li>Time-based by December. </li></ul>
  29. 29. <ul><li>S.M.A.R.T. </li></ul><ul><li>Worksheet </li></ul>
  30. 30. Communications Strategies <ul><li>Learn (or ask around, then guess) as much as you can about where your audiences get ideas, information and recommendations: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>From you? (How?) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>From media? (Which?) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>From each other? (Where?) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Identify the 5-10 most prominent ways to reach out </li></ul><ul><li>Choose 3-5 of those as strategies to pursue </li></ul>
  31. 31. Example <ul><li>Our parents get ideas and make choices influenced by: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preschool recommendations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Word-of-mouth </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Three local newspapers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Four parenting websites </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Educational consultants </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Workplace EAP programs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Educational fairs </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>We think the most likely, lasting and efficient choices are: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preschool relationship-building </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Social campaign through our current parents </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Listings on and coverage by local websites </li></ul></ul></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>Communications Strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Worksheet </li></ul>
  33. 33. Communications Tactics <ul><li>You now know: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Where you are headed for each target audience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>So now: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Brainstorm 3-5 ways to bring those strategies to life </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Consider who could take on each effort </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Price out each effort </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Weigh your choices and decide which to try </li></ul></ul></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>Communications Tactics </li></ul><ul><li>Worksheet </li></ul><ul><li>with: </li></ul><ul><li>Brainstorming List </li></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>At Last…. </li></ul><ul><li>The Communications Plan </li></ul><ul><li>Summary and Budget Sheet </li></ul>
  36. 36. Pulsing Communications on a Calendar <ul><li>You now know: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Exactly what you will do to reach each target audience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>How much your plan will cost </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Who will take responsibility for implementation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>So now: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Line up your plans on a calendar </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Check that your balance is appropriate and manageable all year long </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Plan ahead for deadlines and crunch periods </li></ul></ul></ul>
  37. 37. <ul><li>The Communications Plan: </li></ul><ul><li>Pulsed Calendar </li></ul>
  38. 38. The Communications Cycle Benchmark  Adjust Collaborate Evaluate Monitor Implement Plan
  39. 39. Measurement & Evaluation <ul><li>Benchmark your starting place (data) </li></ul><ul><li>Set up systems and intervals for: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Measuring anything you want to know (Google Analytics / Alerts; phone logs; counting) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Monitoring and reporting (Excel spreadsheets; clip files) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Plan ahead for who will review the data, when, in what context, with what goals </li></ul>
  40. 40. <ul><li>The Communications Plan: </li></ul><ul><li>Measurement & Evaluation </li></ul>
  41. 41. Your Communications Plan <ul><li>Now you have: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your organizational context </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your communications objective </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your indicators of success </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your strategies </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your tactics </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your budget </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your calendar </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Your measurement system </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Congratulations! </li></ul><ul><li>You now have a Communications Plan. </li></ul>
  42. 42. Thank you! <ul><li>Niki Lamberg </li></ul><ul><li>Nicole Lamberg & Associates </li></ul><ul><li>Messaging & Marketing Strategy, </li></ul><ul><li>Specializing in Non-Profits </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>617-869-8695 </li></ul>