By Kelsey Boudin
President and Founder, Southern Tier Communications Strategies, LLC
Are you seeking a strategic communications consultant? That’s great news! Perhaps you need someone with an unbiased, third-party perspective to:
- Develop and launch a new content marketing strategy
- Research grant opportunities and write funding proposals
- Rebrand your public image
- Build community outreach campaigns
- Write speeches and other public relations (PR) materials
- & much, much more
The field of strategic communications today is not so much a field, but rather a galaxy of potential tasks that are necessary for the success of your business or organization. A business can’t survive and thrive without a way to reach the masses with news of its goods and services. A nonprofit organization can’t launch programs benefiting its community without writing proposals for grant funding. Your PR campaign won’t gain traction without a definitive focus and direction.
The written word is not dead (despite what you may have heard). The base element of each strategic communications campaign, whatever it may be, is strong writing and storytelling. Every great television script, political speech and project proposal originated with a strong writer taking a concept and putting it to words.
It’s an art.
Contracting with an outsider can be ideal for many organizations and businesses. An external consultant may come at a significant cost savings, as opposed to hiring a full-time staffer who comes with a salary and fringe benefits. But finances aside, you intend to secure a legitimate expert with years of experience across a range of writing disciplines. Someone with a well-rounded approach brings competence and confidence to all tasks, working with you to steer efforts toward success.
What You Should Expect in Contracting with a Strategic Communications Consultant
At minimum, you should expect your strategic communications consultant to be an expert communicator across a variety of focus areas. But here are some additional client-relations and behind-the-scenes tactics that are sure to bring results.
You can’t start the journey without first knowing where you’re going. Onboarding meetings — ideally a series of them at the start of a contract — provide a comprehensive overview of your needs. It’s important to know where you’ve been and where you’d like to go. From these meetings, your strategic communications consultant can learn your pain points and develop a plan for how you’re going to get there.
For instance, you (and/or your team) may note that prior content marketing efforts have been generally aimless or there’s no time to coordinate nonprofit fundraising activities. The consultant will actually listen to (and empathize with) prior shortcomings and current needs and work with you to strategize effective solutions.
Preliminary and Ongoing Research
Strategic communications based on best guesses are doomed to fail. Often, small internal teams tackle numerous responsibilities at once. They have only so much time in the day to devote to important research tasks like:
- Monitoring website traffic
- Curating third-party content
- Vetting grant funders and nonprofit benefactors
- Analyzing demographic data and community perspectives
- Tracking local, regional and national media
- Studying messaging narratives, tones and voices
- & more
Preliminary research allows your communications consultant to become informed and armed with data before approaching critical messaging tasks. Ongoing research allows the consultant to adjust and evolve alongside developing dynamics and to fine-tune your messaging accordingly. Expect your consultant to frequently present new research and knowledge, allowing you to execute decisions based on fact.
Taking the Pulse
Your consultant must be constantly in-tune with your needs and in lockstep with your strategic plan. Frequent and open communication throughout the process keeps everyone in the know and engaged.
Expect daily emails, texts and phone calls detailing new research, opportunities and deliverables. Expect meetings (in person, via videoconference or otherwise) weekly. Expect progress reports monthly. Expect quarterly recaps and goal-setting sessions.
Setting SMART Goals
Goals aren’t goals unless they’re SMART. Not smart in the sense that they’re intelligent and based in reality, but SMART:
SMART goals fulfill a rubric for all ways one could quantify or qualify an action. Sending targeted emails sharing content about a new product release is specific. A goal of writing five grant proposals in a month is measurable. Writing a feature article in a week is attainable. Monitoring website traffic when entering a new content marketing campaign is relevant. Releasing related video content to complement the new quarterly blog campaign is timely.
A current client, for whom I do grant writing, once shared with me that a previous contractor in the same position quickly went MIA. Weeks would go by with no communication. Grant proposals went unwritten and fundraising goals unfulfilled.
You deserve better than that. A consultant is responsible for completing — and delivering — the tasks that are strategized and assigned in a timely manner. It’s unacceptable to wait three months to build and deliver a social media campaign. It’s unacceptable for a well-planned grant letter of intent to arrive for review one day before it’s due. Not delivering is unprofessional.
Contracting with a Strategic Communications Consultant Should Be Easy
You aim to contract with a strategic communications consultant not because you need a new employee, but because you need a partner to ease your burden and complete tasks you cannot do. A new employee may require training and handholding for several months, costing you time and money as you wait for them to become effective.
Your consultant will be a valuable asset from Day 1 — from onboarding through the final keystroke. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free 30-minute consultation.