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Getting the Word Out
You’ve got a big event or change coming up. You need input from the rest of your organization for a big decision facing your company or organization. You need donations for a sale or volunteers for a bake sale. Some new opportunity for service needs money, volunteers, participants. How do you get the word out? You need an approach. Making Space Consulting can help you through the process, but here are some things to think about.
Whatever approach you come up with is your Communications (comms) Plan. The plan comms may be simple or complex. It may have many elements, or a few, or only one. How do you decide? There are several things to consider in creating your comms plan. They can all be summarized in two questions: Who is your audience? And What is your message?
Who is your audience?
Who needs to hear your words? What are their ages? Their gender? Their demographics? How do they like to get information? Do they want logic, stories, or sound bites? What is their relationship to your organization? What information channels will reach the people you want to reach, in the way they want to be reached?
Everybody learns in different ways. Whatever the demographics of your intended audience, you need to consider that some people will want to read the message, some will want to hear it out loud, and some will want to talk it over. Some will want artwork to increase their memory or create associations. Some people never read newsletters and bulletins, others will read those cover to cover and be annoyed by special-purpose communications.
What is your message?
Is your message simple or complex? Does your message just need a memory jogger, or do you need to explain complex processes? The comms plan for making sure everyone knows about major change is much different than the comms plan for reminding people about Friday Happy Hour.
How important is your message? How many people do you need to reach? Will the extra people reached by a complex comms plan be worth the effort and/or expense? Or will using one or a few information channels meet your needs? Do you need to do due diligence in getting the word to the whole organization, or do you just need to reach enough people to get the job done?
Crafting Your Message
Once you know your audience, you craft your message. Sometimes there will be multiple messages for multiple audiences. Sometimes the message will be short and sweet, but always it should tell people where to go to get more information.
Once you have your message, you need to choose how many channels to use and which you think will be most effective. Some of the communications channels you may consider:
- Email blasts
- Company Web site
- Network log-in page
- Voice mail greeting
- Company newsletter
- All-hands meetings
- One-on-one meetings
- Personal phone calls
- Mass voice mail
- Public appearances
- Posters and signs
Suggestions for Creating your Comms Plan
- You may wish to create a grid laying out for each channel the form of the message, the frequency, the duration, and the scheduled start of the message.
- Don’t work alone. Two heads are better than one, and many heads are even better. This is especially true of comms plans. The more people you have working on the plan, the greater number of views of how people will receive and perceive information that will be represented. If you are a Web browser, you may be led to assume a Web article will reach everyone; if not, you may not even consider the Web as a channel. Better to get a broader view.
- Consider your timing. Is this a long-range effort or a one-time shot? Is this an ongoing effort? For long range and ongoing efforts, realize that you have to change the message and the media. After a poster hangs in the same place for a while, after the same message is in the same place in the newsletter for a while, people don’t see it anymore.
- Consider your resources. How many people do you have? Where do their talents lie? Do you have letter writers, public speakers, sign makers? How much money do you have? Can you buy supplies, pay postage, hire outside resources, buy advertising?
- Consider your message. Create an integrated set of written, oral, and visual messages to get the word out. Assign each message to one or more channels in your grid. Assign people to work each channel and craft each message.
- Be careful to define acronyms, avoid short-cut words, and use full names, not just first names. It is easy to confuse people who are not “in the loop” on everything going on in the organization. Whether written or oral, make sure your message is complete.
- Proofread, proofread, and proofread again, then get three other people to proofread. And still people will find errors.