By Kelsey Boudin
President and Founder, Southern Tier Communications Strategies, LLC
Businesses and organizations often use spotty and misguided communications strategies. Yes, budgets are tight, necessitating small nonprofits and service organizations to tackle a variety of communications with just one person or limited staff cobbling together mountains of material.
They need strong messaging to craft grant proposals, community outreach/public relations, content marketing or some combination of the three. The consequences of failure are obvious and almost always tied to revenue and public perception. Regrettably, chief executives often invest minimal resources in these important tasks.
But communications strategy takes a village. It takes people involved in all aspects from administration down through program planning and implementation, fiscal coordination, and outreach. Well-rounded and impactful storytelling requires buy-in and participation from C-level executives to support staff — even if you’re a staff of one or few wearing many hats. Whether you can hire a full-time writer or contract with a consultant, your person needs cooperation to coordinate and produce effective communications.
How Your Organization’s Team Members Support Communications Strategy
An expert communicator must gather materials, resources and input from all levels and angles of your organization’s process.
Great ideas for grant proposals, community initiatives and outreach may come from the top — a CEO, other executives or board members. Or at least, the idea receives the blessing and formal approval to move forward from administrators.
Your writer needs to know overarching plans and intricate details to build compelling grant narratives. For strong public relations, they must know the organization’s stance on a key issue or its plans for a new product launch. They could also rely on administrative guidance to build a content marketing strategy around quarterly sales goals.
Administrators provide the big picture:
- Executive direction and oversight
- Institutional background
- Goals and objectives
- Authoritative quotes
- Strategic alignment
Without administrative oversight, your writer will lack important perspective and direction to begin building a message. (Helpful hint: Administrators live with their plans and goals. Even the best professional communicators cannot read minds. Keep them in the loop!)
Program Developers & Support Staff
These folks often sit closest to the action. They should also sit close to the writing action. Program staff initiate programs and interact with the public. They often have key insights to community needs and proprietary data to tell great stories for grant proposals. Office managers and floor staff can give first-hand knowledge about processes and products for public relations in both emergency situations and good times. Sales staff can relay customer conversations, just as marketing staff can note high-traffic keywords and social media chatter to frame messaging around consumer needs.
Program staff and developers help the writer make sense of high-level directives and see the project in greater detail. Longtime employees may also know tidbits of organizational history that no one else knows!
Professional communicators often must understand the financial picture guiding organizational efforts — even if only at a very high level. Grant writers rely on accountants, fiscal coordinators and other numbers-crunchers to develop program budgets fitting organizational budgets. Financial pros can guide budget narratives to justify expenses in grant proposals, as well as compile financial and supplementary documents.
Where an administrator decides and program staff enacts, a fiscal coordinator accounts for financial feasibility. PR pros and marketing staff may not need to know the depth and breadth of the organization’s financials, but internal and external communications sometimes require an understanding of such impacts.
Bring a Team Mentality to Strategic Communications
You’ve hired a full-time or contract writing professional for a reason. You need them to handle writing and messaging tasks your administrative team and staff don’t have the time or expertise to do.
Your communications pro doesn’t exist on an island. They’re capable of expanding a few key concepts into a final product that sings, just as they can digest complicated language into easily understood key points. But poor communication from various levels and departments can hamstring or derail this process.
An experienced writer, no matter the mission, should hold a pre-project meeting to establish supporting responsibilities and deadlines. If they’re managing a large grant process, they may ask that an accountant provide budget numbers and tax forms within two weeks. If they’re coordinating an outreach campaign, they may ask program staff for client testimonials by Wednesday. Rest assured, your writer will shoulder most of the burden, but a little help to fill in the blanks and clarify points always positions the team for success.
If you’re looking for a professional writer to coordinate your next strategic communications campaign, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.