Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Communications Audit Tool for Not For Profits

Before beginning a new communication journey, it is worth reflecting on the current state of your organisation’s PR and marketing. A communications audit provides the opportunity to review your efforts and assess their effectiveness. 

A communications audit is a valuable exercise whether you are a large or small not for profit. It provides a handy reference point to assess what is working and what is not. Based on this you can then decide what to continue with and what to abandon.

In my workshops I ask groups to complete a simple audit template which takes around 20 minutes. An extract is below. 

Communication activity



Very effective


Not Effective

For example

Gather those who are responsible for directing and those who are responsible for carrying out your PR and marketing to complete the audit. Often in small not for profits these are the same people. It is handy to have the CEO or Chairperson involved because they know what is coming up, set future priorities and importantly control the communications budget. 
 Limit the audit to what you have done in the past 12 months and begin filling in the template. 
 In the column labelled Communication activity individually list what you currently do. For example you might use: 
  • Print collateral such as brochures, fliers, newsletters. Even list your annual report if this is how you make key people aware of what you do.
  • Media relations such as media releases, interviews, media conferences, letters to the editor.
  • Digital platforms such as your own or others’ websites, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Foursquare.
  • Events such as those you stage and those where you join with others.
  • Word of mouth marketing such as liaising with influential people and asking clients for testimonials.
  • Advertising such as radio, TV, newspapers or on-line advertising.
  • Direct marketing such as direct mail, email campaigns, telesales
  • Other activities.
 This list is not exhaustive but I hope you get the idea. 
 In the column labelled Frequency write down how often you do these tasks. For example it could be something you do regularly such as keeping in contact with funding agencies. Or it might be something that happens throughout the year such as approaching the media.  Or it might be something occurring once a year such as publishing the annual report.
 In the column labelled Budget you need to identify the dollar cost of each activity and the number of hours spent on it each month. Small organisations often have little to spend on marketing and PR, but compensate by devoting considerable time to communicating. It is important to identify both types of costs.
In the column labelled Very effective place a tick for a particular activity that you regard as successful and would want to repeat. Or you might rate an activity as effective (which is still a high score) so place a tick against that item in the column labelled Effective.  Or you might judge something as just not working, so tick the Not effective column.
Each communication task can only have one effectiveness rating and assigning a rating is based on either on evaluation data you have collected or an educated best guess of what works and what does not. (More on evaluation data in a later blog post .)
 A completed template shows at a glance the relative effectiveness of each item on your communications menu. You can now decide what to keep, improve or ditch.  Ideally you would want to continue an activity that was low cost in dollar terms and staff time but very effective.  Something that was effective but expensive might warrant more effort to make it work even harder.  Something graded not effective needs a massive overhaul or should be dropped.
You should conduct a simple communications audit least every 12 months and make sure you keep a record.  This then becomes an important document from which you can judge your progress. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not For Profits And PR Planning

A charity would never think of providing food to the homeless without the proper arrangements in place? A not for profit would never schedule respite care without preparations? A green group would never save a river without researching the best ways to undertake the task. Not for profits continuously plan their next steps.

Yet when it comes to PR and marketing, many organizations work in a haphazard fashion, improvising as they go. The committee cries out. We need a brochure, build a Facebook fan page or get us on the evening news.  That is often enough for someone to be off and running with little thought of a larger marketing picture. 

Effective communication does not have to be elaborate or expensive. But it does have to be planned. A simple plan focuses efforts, ensures money is wisely spent and harnesses staff and volunteer effort into concrete actions which lead to a desired end point. A communication plan is as important as other key business and corporate strategies and flows on from these documents. In turn it contributes to their successful implementation.  You need a plan but it does not have to be complex.  

Unless your organization is small with only a handful of members you need to document your communication goals and activities. A written plan ensures everyone shares a common direction, removes doubt and allows your achievements to be measured. 
Communications plans vary between organizations but most identify:
  • Objectives: the communications fundamentals to achieve.
  • Audiences: the people you need to reach.
  • Messages: what you want to tell people.
  • Tactics: how you will get information to your audiences.
  • A timetable: what happens and when.
  • Budget: how much you have to spend and on what, over the life of the plan.
  • Measurement: how you will measure your efforts so you can improve.
  • Responsibilities: who is doing what and by when. 
Not for profits are dynamic organisations and change constantly.  For example you hire new staff, get new clientele or your funding varies. Therefore your communications plan should be flexible rather than set in stone and has to be vigorously reviewed and updated so it remains current and relevant.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best Book of 2010

Of the ten or so marketing and PR books I have reviewed in the last 12 months  the stand-out is Repositioning: marketing in an era of competition, change and crisis by Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin.
Trout and Rivkin have written a book of uncommon wisdom for  the post Global Financial Crisis world.  They call on companies anxious to succeed, to adjust the perceptions people have either of them or their competition.  This mandates repositioning the competition and or competing all out on a simply defined value proposition.

Most managers are disinclined to attack the competition head.  It usually invites comparison, criticism and counter attack.  However Trout and Rivkin cite examples in the olive oil, luxury car, liquor and other industries where marketers have used this strategy  to  fence in the  competition and win.  

On the other hand  “value is the name of the game”. And companies can grow market share when they do something special, pioneer new technologies, compete on whole of life costs or introduce a premium.

This is an easy to read five star book for those after different ideas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Become A Brand And Stand For Something

 A golden rule applies to each one of us whether we are politicians, business tycoons or on the frontline of community service.   

You must stand for something if you want to succeed.  This applies as much to not for profit organisations as it does to individuals.
Before you step out to communicate your value you must have a firm idea of who you are, what you do and why you are important to your cause, your clients and your community.
Having a strong sense of identity is critical.  It will guide how you work, what you say, who you engage and how and when you communicate.  In marketing this sense of identity is called branding and it influences how you deliver services as well as every aspect of your outreach.
In 2001 I worked for a national organization responsible for promoting community harmony among Australians from different cultural backgrounds.  The Federal Government had hand-picked high powered and accomplished professionals as Council members.  The organisation had dedicated and professional staff.  It had money and everyone expected big things. 
Within six or so years it had ceased to exist.  There were many reasons for its failure but a key one was it never defined its real purpose.  It never found a sense of brand which meant it lacked conviction when it entered the public domain.  A sad and visible result was a pattern of patchy and inconclusive communications.  At the time a friend seeing this wasted potential and lost opportunities summed it up concisely: if they want attention they must stand for something.
We are all aware of the big brands: McDonalds, QANTAS, Chanel, Bank of America, Lloyds of London and the like.  They behave in a consistent, certain way and when they speak they do so with clarity.  Small organizations need to have a similar sense of purpose or brand.  In fact it is even more important for them.  They lack the resilience and strength of larger organizations and unless they are strongly focused they are easily elbowed aside and overlooked.
Sometime ago I worked with a prominent community organization that provided in-home services for older people and disabled individuals.  The 35 person staff decided that to continue to succeed over the next 12 months collectively they had to come to:
  • Show a consistent purpose.
  • Deliver benefits clients, funding bodies, the media etc can readily see.
  • Deliver those benefits to a high standard day in, day out throughout the year.
  • Regularly reinvent the organization as community expectations changed.
  • Communicate constantly to staff, clients and the key groups that shaped their environment.
These five points provide a pretty clear roadmap of what an organisation – or brand - must do to move from being good to becoming great.
But finally a word of caution.  Do not confuse branding with logos, colours and symbols.  The best graphic designs in the world cannot replace a sense of corporate purpose, clarity or commitment.  These essentials must come first.  The fancy blueprints for business cards, websites, office signs and the like can usually wait so beware the marketer who claims they are the mandatory first step.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

PR on a Tiny Budget - Why I'm Writing A New Book

I am putting the finishing touches to my new book: PR on a Tiny Budget: How Not For Profits Can Communicate To Win Attention.

I'm motivated to write by one sad fact.  Today’s not for profits must be as good at marketing as they are at providing services.

In a perfect world sponsors, governments, communities and clients would know what  charities and others do and why they are important.  They would automatically give money, volunteer time and shower recognition on their staff. 
Unfortunately people are just too busy to naturally notice the good works going on around them each day.  They may catch an occasional glimpse but usually they are too time poor, cash strapped and attention deprived to notice and value the not for profits that enrich their communities.

On the other hand not for profits have wonderful individuals committed to doing something worthwhile, putting ‘something back’ or caring for others. Yet despite their enormous outpouring of time and effort, most strain to tell the stories of their great work.  Year in year out they grapple to win attention.  Put simply they fail to market themselves.

Why should this be so?  We live in the age of the marketer where selling yourself and what you do is essential for twenty-first century success. Silence may be golden but today it is rarely rewarding. Most not for profits lack the knowledge and skills to market or they devote insufficient effort or money to their communications. They are so busy just keeping afloat and providing essential services that outreach and promotion fall into the nice to have rather than the must have category.

This predicament can set up terrible anxiety and confusion for many managers and workers.  They know they must promote their organisation to attract more volunteers, carers, supporters and even clients. They know they must communicate to win funding and raise awareness of their issues and concerns.  But how and where can they find the talent, energy and effort, let alone the money to do all this?   
They face a dilemma and are caught between the rock of resources and the hard place of need. However there can be no place for weary resignation. Something must change.  In the post global financial crisis the long term survival of many not for profits in the end may come down to how they market as much as their good deeds.
So the reason for this new book.  It offers guidance - based on hard-won experience - on the essentials of effective marketing and the strategies and tactics needed to win the attention you deserve even though your budget is tiny. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hall of Valour: Current Campaign

I am currently involved with the national marketing campaign to promote the new Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.  The Hall of Valour holds Australia's national treasure of Victoria Cross medals, the highest award for bravery any Australian serviceman or woman can earn.

97 Australians have won the Victoria Cross and this new space tells their personal stories of courage, bravery and sacrifice in a dignified and moving way.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Wikileaks Winners ... So Far

Wikileak disclosures of US State Department cables dating back to the mid 1960s have dominated international news in recent weeks. 

As Governments around the world grapple with containing the damage from these revelations, there has been a slow build-up of public support for Wikileaks and its right to publish almost a quarter of a million leaked million cables. 

At this point it is hard to see who will emerge as victors in this battle for Internet control - if indeed anyone will. Certainly the US State Department and America's security officials must feel profoundly angry as Wikileaks continues to drip feed cables onto the Internet. Senior government officials from other countries in regular contact with US diplomats must be anxious as they peek inside their morning newspapers to see if they are featured in the latest disclosures.  

Julian Assange and his cronies are hardly winners at this stage.  Assange sits in a UK jail, awaiting extradition to Sweden and you can bet  intelligence efforts are full pace to hunt down those continuing to run the whistle blowing website.

The biggest winners may turn out to be those in government who were  always opposed to or nervous about the concept of Gov2.0.  The movement advocating greater government transparency through new digital media must surely have been battered in recent weeks.  Critics will now point to the Wikileaks' affair and say I told you so.   And they are likely to be supported by security agencies and nervous politicians anxious to avoid similar embarrassment in future.

The other winners are newspapers and they must be laughing. The leaked cables provide them with a flood of ready made stories and compelling content, and no-one is questioning their right to publish it.  

It seems government plans for social media have just hit the rock wall of national security in the most spectacular fashion and newspapers are back in business.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Making the Right First Impression

Two recent events confirmed for me the essentials of making the right first impression.

This week I had poor experiences with an advertising sales rep and a car salesman on first meeting. Both came on abruptly almost aggressively in their desire to do business.

They forgot consumers do not like to be rushed particularly when buying a new type of product for the first time or an expensive item. In their minds buyers always believe their decision making process takes the shortest route from interest to purchase.

And that route can be blocked when the seller comes on so strongly the buyer becomes uncomfortable. This may be head slapping basic stuff but it is sometimes forgotten.

The takeaway: always make a good first impression on first contact and then work from there.