When it comes to strategic communications, begin at the end

By Susan Gottshall

Heidi Thompson leading workshop at convention

Photo by George Conklin

The smallest details so often tell the biggest tales. In the case of the Communication Research and Planning workshop at RCC’s 2019 annual conference, it was the punctuation in the featured PowerPoint’s title that gave it up.

That punctuation, an exclamation point, in Heidi Thompson’s presentation – “One Page Communication Plan!” – made it clear that, above all else, the plan’s the thing.

The one-page plan is “getting back to basics,” but it’s much better than staring at and starting from a blank page of paper, said Thompson, an organizer, marketer and publishing executive with 25 years of nonprofit experience.

“Get agreement on the ‘Big Stuff’ up front,” Thompson said, and you have something to refer to throughout the process. That ensures everyone working on a project is on the same page, and it forces the team to set priorities because there’s only one page for all major aspects of the plan. Keeping the plan to one page also keeps it accessible to everyone.

Before tackling the process of completing the planning document – which includes blocks for identifying audiences, messages, channels and tactics – Thompson encouraged session participants to take time to answer the following questions to determine where the project should end up:

  • What will success look like?

  • What will we achieve with this success?

  • How will we prove it’s a success?

  • Why does this project matter?

  • How is this project connected to our mission?

“There is a tendency to focus on the stuff we are doing, rather than the results we want,” Thompson said. And it’s the results that ultimately make communications successful, so why not start there?


Susan Gottshall is Associate Executive Director of Communications, American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

 
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