It’s always a privilege to work with any organization committed to improving the health, safety, and well-being of people and the communities in which they live. Each organization has its unique qualities, but there are shared common denominators—especially among organizations that have never undertaken the work of communication and marketing.
There’s one common refrain I’ve heard so often that it’s actually appeared in my dreams: “Can you help us make a brochure? It’s all we think we need. We can just give that to everyone who stops by our office.”
The short answer is, “Sure, I can help you with that. But it won’t work, and here’s why.”
Three Great Reasons to Build Your Organization’s Internal Capacity in Communication and Social Marketing
Everyone knows this proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime.”
The world is full of top-notch public relations and social marketing firms. Outsourcing all of your work, however, is just about the same as dining on that one fish. If you want to feed your organization for a lifetime, then there’s wisdom in learning how to execute at least some of this work in-house.
For many organizations, that means improving your staff’s ability to think, plan, and act like marketers. Even staff who may not have any background in this work. Here are three great reasons it might be the right approach for you.
I work regularly with people who have no background in communication and social marketing. They’re public health professionals, prevention specialists, educators, program evaluators—mighty experts in their own fields, but not in this one.
The experts I’m talking about spend the better part of their lives implementing programs and services that they know will change lives for the better. They understand how their programs should be implemented and evaluated, and they can prove it with plenty of data, too.
But this same expertise can be a curse. Experts may assume that they can simply transfer their wisdom (their facts!) to the masses. The masses, in turn, will become enlightened as if the expert truth has somehow set them free. People will change, the world will be a happier place, and everyone will live happily, healthily ever after.
It’s a lovely fairy tale, but it’s not grounded in reality.
If you’re gearing up to implement a new program or seeking support to sustain your efforts, you can’t afford to be the best kept secret in town. You’re driving positive and lasting change that impacts people and systems, and it’s important to communicate your successes and market your great work to your partners, stakeholders, decision makers, and the public.
A comprehensive and strategic communication plan will help get you there. But if there’s just no time for that right now, you can still take a critical first step to ensure that any communication—down to a simple targeted email—is more effective.
I often work with people who have little background in communication and social marketing, but they’re wildly enthusiastic about rolling up their sleeves to create a website, a blog, a Facebook page, or a brochure. I always hear, “Everyone else has them—shouldn’t we?”
In truth, these tactics may not be what’s needed. Tactics are like “spaghetti on the wall;” we throw them up and hope something sticks. To increase the likelihood that your outreach efforts will work, ask four simple and iterative questions to ground your choices in strategy.
Give yourself a big, big round of applause. You and your team have invested the time and energy in mapping a strategic communication plan that fully supports your organization’s mission, vision, and programs. Your goals are SMART, you’ve identified your audiences, and you’ve conducted formative research. You’ve crafted messages and drafted materials (you even know how you’ll pretest them), and you’ve chosen your channels.
The only thing left to do now is to do it—and that means you need an action plan. Without it, your superb strategy will simply be a document that finds its way to the back of a file cabinet. Follow these tips to ensure that your plan sees the light of day.