Apr 29, 2015

7 Steps for Effective Nonprofit Communications

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Marketing a nonprofit organization can seem a daunting task. You don’t always have the resources or staff to dedicate to a communications plan.

So where to begin?

I sat down with Mandy Herbert, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Patient Services, Inc. (PSI), an organization that helps people with chronic illnesses afford life-saving treatments, to discuss the unique challenges of promoting a nonprofit.

Here are seven tips for building your nonprofit communications strategy:

1. Define your communication goals and needs: It is important to know who you are and where you want to go. Mandy says, “Understanding your goals, what you are trying to achieve, and making sure everyone else is aware of this, is key.”

Gather your team and define clear objectives, such as expanding your social media presence or increasing visibility within your industry. This will give your strategy a clear direction.

2. Identify your audience: Who is your target audience? Who are your stakeholders? Knowing who you are trying to reach will help you tailor your message to your audience.

Connect with journalists who share your nonprofit’s passion, suggests Mandy. If they share your story with their audiences, you are likely to reach a broader group of people who may also share an interest in what your organization is about.

3. Monitor the conversation: Knowing who is talking about your organization, what they are saying and what is trending in your industry will help you craft your message.

“We want to monitor the conversations about our organization and be able to quickly respond to meet the needs of our stakeholders,” says Mandy. “By being able to see what type of conversations are occurring, we can tailor our communications to what’s ‘hot’ in the industry and share how our services might be beneficial for that topic.”

4. Create your content: You have to consider several factors when creating your content. Who are you writing this message for? Is your content relevant? Relatable? Will it move people?

Creating compelling content is the first step in catching your audience’s attention. “Currently, we include patient testimonies in our newsletters, email blasts, presentations, and on our website,” says Mandy. “We also have videos where our patients talk about the impact we’ve made on their lives. If a patient speaks at an event, we would highlight part of that testimony in a press release.”

Mandy also suggests writing catchy subject lines for email distributions, and keeping your content interesting and easy-to-digest to catch and keep your audience’s interest.

5. Distribute and engage with your audience: There are countless ways to distribute your content, and choosing the right method for your audience is key. While using a wire distribution for a press release is tried and true, Mandy says creating targeted email lists of journalists will help your message reach specific media outlets. Additionally, being able to track your email distributions and see who opens and engages with your content and who doesn’t, allows you to make changes to your list and keep it up-to-date.

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6. Monitor “again,” evaluate, and respond: The capability to track and monitor your reach and the response is crucial to determining the success of your campaign and deciding on a course of action moving forward.

“From an organizational stand point, we want to be able to have more control over our reputation,” says Mandy. “Using a communications platform allows us to target journalists who care about our mission, and lets us monitor how our organization is perceived by the public. This can drastically improve communication between our organization and the public.”

7. Always keep in mind why you do what you do: As a nonprofit organization, you care deeply about your mission. Bring this passion to your communications strategy. Mandy says it best: “I know that when I come to work every day, my efforts go to helping save lives. We’re restoring hope and health. At the end of the day, I go home knowing that I made a difference in somebody’s life.”

Mandy also offers one final piece of advice for those looking to maximize their nonprofit communications efforts: “Look for tools that will allow you to maximize your efforts, that are within budget, but that will also save time. Because at a nonprofit, you don’t always have 40 hours a week to dedicate to PR. Good tools will allow you to improve your communication strategy in order to stand out within your industry.”

Learn how to find the right tool to handle all of your brand monitoring needs by downloading our guide Justifying a Media Monitoring Service.

Author Lucie Vietti-Curtis is the program manager for channel and advocacy marketing at PR Newswire. Connect with her on Linkedin

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