Sunday, July 17, 2005

Are we there yet?

Most of you know that while I was at the Benton Foundation, I created the Best Practices Toolkit (which was later renamed Strategic Communications in the Digital Age). This was an e-newsletter and web site to help organizations place the use of the Internet into their overall communications and strategic planning.

One of my inspirations was the late great Janel Radtke and her excellent book, Strategic Communications for Nonprofit Organizations: Seven Steps to Creating a Successful Plan. It’s still a great book (and still available), but it was published in 1999, early in the evolution of Internet use by nonprofits. And while a lot continues to be written about the Internet, such writing tends to focus on the technology more than how an organization should think about the Internet as part of its overall strategy for reaching its audience, for achieving its mission.

Well, there’s a new kid in town who has done a great job of pulling Internet communications into a strategic communications planning guide. Cause Communications, a nonprofit marketing firm, has recently published the Communications Toolkit: A guide to navigating communications for the nonprofit world.

I like this new toolkit because it very excellently incorporates different Internet tactics into a larger communications strategy.

The hard copy version is well designed and attractive -- in a nice, matte-finish, spiral-bound, hard-cover notebook format. It is easy to follow, with great advice and specific steps for implementing a communications planning process with, as I said, Internet activities built in. I also like the "on-the-road" metaphor used throughout:

  • Where are you now? covers research on your key audiences
  • Where do you want to go? covers objectives, target audience, branding and message development
  • How do you get there? covers budgeting, funding, staffing and collaboration (including addressing organizational culture challenges that may exist)
  • What to take? dives into the “tactics” such as advertising, advocacy, capital campaigns, events, guerilla marketing and more (including web sites, blogs, and online giving)
  • And lastly, Are we there yet? describes the measurements needed for evaluating, refining and adjusting your strategy.

Very fun and useful are the "roadside assistance" sidebars that suggest relevant resources for further exploration and support. In addition, the toolkit includes checklists, suggested survey questions, forms and other handy items in the back.

Available for free, their web site indicates they’ve already run out of hard copies and are publishing more. I recommend getting on their list for hard copies, but in the meantime, you can download a PDF of the entire 134-page document.