Sunday, April 7, 2013

Strategic Communications for Nonprofit Organizations, 2nd Edition: a review

Strategic Communications for Nonprofit Organization: Seven Steps to Creating a Successful PlanStrategic Communications for Nonprofit Organization: Seven Steps to Creating a Successful Plan by Sally J. Patterson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Are you leading your organization through the process of creating a communications strategy? Good for you! There's a lot of scatter-shot communications in the nonprofit world, but very few organizations take the time to think about how to bring all their communications--in print, in person, on the web, through social media--together for the greatest impact. Whether you're a consultant, a staff person in house, or a Board member, this book is meant for you. 

If you are a seasoned communications strategist, the book will serve as a refresher and a series of checklists. It also contains two dozen worksheets, all available online, and you can use the ones you find most helpful to structure the discussions you lead. 

If you are new to strategic planning, don't get overwhelmed. Look at the overall flow of the book to get a sense of what steps are involved. You may decide you want to hire a consultant to lead the planning process, and this book will give you the tools you need to interview that person and decide whether he or she will meet your needs.

This book offers a lot of good advice. I particularly like some of the lists. For instance, here's a list that could serve as the itinerary for the whole process:

*What are we trying to achieve?
*Whom are we trying to reach?
*What do we want them to do?
*How will we encourage them to do it?
*How will we know if we have succeeded?

There are also some real drawbacks to the book. It seems to assume that people in the organization will already understand the value of creating a communications strategy and commit themselves to a what could be a very long process (every week for six months).  My experience tells me that you begin instead with a certain amount of information sharing and consensus building.  You might not want to tackle a wholesale audit of the agency's communications at the outset.  You might want to start with concrete questions like "Whom are we trying to reach?" and "What do we want them to do?"

I think that the process of creating a strategy and the process whereby you get the buy-in of the people who have to carry that strategy out are the same process. I wouldn't hand this book to people who know a lot about programs but not much about communications. It would alienate them.  Instead, I would take what I could from the book and apply it to my organization in whatever order would get the most participation in and eventual buy-in.  That's the way to make sure your plan doesn't sit on a shelf but instead directs the actions of your agency every day.

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