Making your communications successful

Every organization aspires to have successful communications efforts. Successful communications build support for your mission and attract people and resources to your organization.

But what does successful communications look like? Generally, we can think of success in terms of two basic qualities: effectiveness and efficiency. In communications, effectiveness means that our messages reach our audiences in ways that advance our programmatic goals, and efficiency means that we get the biggest impact with the least investment of resources. Communications that are effective but not efficient are unsustainable in the long run, and communications that are efficient but not effective will not get you the results you want. We want our efforts to be successful in the short-term but also sustainable in the long-term.

Unfortunately, many organizations struggle to maximize the success of their communications efforts. This is sometimes due to a lack of time and other resources, sometimes it is due to a lack of institutional understanding about the role and importance of communications, and sometimes it is due to a lack of clarity about how to utilize communications to their fullest effect.

In my experience with organizations, many fail to engage in successful planning for their communications. Good planning helps to focus your efforts, use your resources more effectively and efficiently, and establish a common understanding with others about what you will do and how it will get done. A good plan covers four areas:

  • Purpose. What is it we are trying to achieve and why?
  • Direction. What is our approach for achieving our goals?
  • Action. What will be done, by whom, and by when?
  • Evaluation. How will we monitor progress and measure success?

We sometimes don’t invest in planning because we think it takes too much time and we have an urgent need for action. However, plans need not be elaborate nor time-consuming, and failing to plan can lead to inefficiency and ineffectiveness. While a robust plan can yield strong results, even learning to simply articulate the purpose, direction, action, and evaluation of your communications effort can be used to build support and keep things moving towards success.

To learn how to design quick and practical plans for your communications efforts – from an annual plan to a one-time event – check out the upcoming workshop at The Foundation Center in San Francisco, Easy and Effective Communications Planning, on Tuesday, July 12th from 9:30am to 12:30am. Register today!


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