‘How can I improve my charity’s comms?’ Start by asking a different question.

Many managers in the charity world worry that their comms ‘aren’t good enough’. It’s a key question I’ve been working on since shifting from journalism into comms over a decade ago, especially since going freelance.

All of us working in this field will know that feeling that things aren’t going as well as they should. Perhaps it’s sparked by low engagement on social media, seeing others gain a higher profile or failing to get media cut-through.

But let’s start with another question – ‘what do you mean by improve?’

Image by Daniel Reche from Pixabay

Improvement is something that’s measurable. For example, I go jogging once a week. If I ‘improve’ my jogging then that might mean running my normal route in a quicker time. Or perhaps I’ve managed to run further than ever before.

So when we talk about ‘improving’ communications we need to think about our goals. What does ‘good’ look like?

For me, good communication is about being effective. It’s not simply about telling people what you do or what you think, it’s about achieving a certain aim.

Communications should have a purpose.

For instance, it might be about raising money, providing advice to help improve people’s health, or getting Welsh Government to ban plastic cutlery.

Improving our communications means making them more effective and efficient in meeting our organisation’s aims.

So where do I begin?

Here are three key elements of answering that original question and putting your organisation on track:

  • Aims – what are you trying to achieve overall? This should be in your existing plans or strategy. If not, get this sorted!
  • A baseline – how well are we doing now, in terms of communication? If you don’t know, consider a communications audit.
  • Communications strategy – this is the starting point of great communications, setting out your key audiences, comms objectives and how you’re going to meet them. Without this in place, you could be wasting precious time and money.

Of course, another important aspect of this is resources. Once you know what you’re trying to achieve, do you have the time, money and skills to succeed? What if you’re cash-strapped and time-poor?

This is where focus and prioritisation come in. Can you drop ineffective activities to free up time? How can you best target your budget? Could you train or re-organise existing staff?

In an ideal world, perhaps we’d all have huge and brilliant comms departments, but that’s not essential to do great things with comms. Get the basic strategy right, and you’ll be well-placed to use communications to help people and the planet.

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