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.
Think Like a Marketer—Not an Expert
All marketing professionals think about one thing above all else: their audiences. For those of you who are not marketers by trade, this may sound easier than it actually is, and that’s because we are all grounded in our own expertise and view the world through that lens. If, for instance, you are an educator, a public health professional, an early childhood specialist, a program evaluator, or work in any field for the public good, you have your own jargon, beliefs, and assumptions. These serve you very well in your profession, but they may not serve you well when communicating to others.
Let’s say, for instance, that you’re rolling out a new evidence-based program to prevent bullying. You know that this program, implemented with fidelity, will likely improve classroom climate, reduce discipline referrals, and reduce rates of bullying.
In other words, to you, this program is a “no-brainer.” But others may feel very differently. These others are your audiences. They may include teachers who don’t want to give up precious classroom time and perceive your program as yet another fix that’s “here today, gone tomorrow.” They may include school and district administrators who believe that every dollar spent on prevention would be better spent on hiring more teachers. They may include parents who don’t believe that bullying is a problem in their child’s school.
This reality presents a communication challenge. It may seem like your own expertise—and the data that back it up—should be enough to convince everyone to get on board with your programs and services. But every marketer knows this is a recipe for failure. Why? Because most people don’t really like to be told what’s best for them by an “expert.”
It’s just human nature.
Put Yourself in Your Audience’s Shoes
To overcome this challenge, put yourself in your audience’s shoes, and consider things from their perspective. What do they need, want, believe, and value? What are their priorities? What keeps them up at night?
What you’ll discover is that different audiences care about different things. The needs, values, and beliefs of a single mother holding down two service industry jobs are very different from the needs, values, and beliefs of her school district’s superintendent.
These distinctions point to one important truth: there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to communications. If you craft a brochure about your programs that’s meant to be all things to all people, it will end up meaning nothing to anyone.
There is some good news, however. In thinking like a marketer, your communication efforts become significantly more strategic. You’ll now be poised to demonstrate the benefits of your programs and services in ways that will matter to your audiences. Likewise, you’ll be able to anticipate and avoid barriers that may exist for your audiences.
By shifting your focus from your expertise to their realities, you’ll be able to craft meaningful messages that resonate. You’ll be able to raise awareness of issues, but more importantly, you’ll be poised to engage your audiences in positive change.
Contact Jean for a conversation about your organization’s needs.