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Four Questions Mission-Driven Communicators Need to Ask

Good communicators know how to craft a message that resonates with a target audience. It sounds simple on the surface, but truly effective communicators need to do many things before they can make an impact. They need to make sure their messaging is clear and concise. They need to understand what audience they are really trying to reach, and then listen to that group in order to understand its needs. And beyond simply creating a message, they need to determine the most effective ways to make sure that message reaches their targeted audience.

Most mission-driven organizations ranging from local nonprofit groups to Fortune 500 corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are trying to reach a wide variety of stakeholders at any given time. Those responsible for communicating on behalf of these organizations need to understand that there is no “one size fits all” message. If you want to truly make an impact with your messaging, here are some questions to consider before you develop your communications strategy.

Four Questions Mission-Driven Communicators Need to Ask

WHO are you trying to reach?

Before you even start drafting a message, you need to know who it is you are trying to reach. The overall tone and language used will differ depending on the recipient. The way you speak to a board member will differ from how you interact with a potential partner organization or donor. Messages for the public or for a reporter will focus on something different than a message meant for influential policymakers.

WHAT information are you trying to get across?

Your messaging should have a consistent theme and convey your organization’s overall mission, however, different audiences will ultimately focus on different types of information. The general public might not necessarily care about facts and figures, but this information might be crucial to someone considering making a sizeable donation. On the other hand, you might need find a way to evoke some emotion, through case studies or testimonials, in order to convince a reporter or policymaker to pay attention to your cause.

WHY is it important the audience knows this message?

Know the underlying goal for why you’re reaching out to this particular audience, and what action you ultimately want its members to take in response. Are you trying to inform the board to keep trustees engaged with your organization? Do you want people to make a donation? Are you trying to have people share some information so it gets widely distributed? Does a policy need to be changed?

HOW will you reach them?

Communicators have an arsenal of tools at their disposal to disseminate their messages. Once you figure out whom you need to reach, figure out what channels they most frequently use. What’s the most effective way to reach them? Do you need to send them an email newsletter, or is good old-fashioned snail-mail more likely to get read? Are they likely to engage with you directly, or are they more convinced seeing something through a third party? Are they active on social media, and if so, which platform? Is simple text enough, or do you need to take it a step further with some infographics or even some video?

These questions are meant to be a springboard for communicators working to make a difference. Some messages might resonate with multiple audiences, and some platforms might lead to more engagement than others. There’s no single secret strategy that works on every target, every time. Ultimately, YOU are the expert on your mission and your messaging. Remember, the most important thing you can do to develop an effective communications strategy is to ask questions!

This post is reprinted from The Inner Circle, the Scott Circle Communications blog.

Four Questions Mission-Driven Communicators Need to AskDee Donavanik (@donavanik) is vice president at Scott Circle Communications (@ScottCircle), a Washington, D.C., based public relations firm working with mission-driven clients.

Topics: Nonprofit Communications