A communication strategy is a document that guides the external communication efforts of an organization. An NGO without a communications plan is an organization engaging with its audience blindly.
Drawing up a communications strategy for your organization is an art, not a science and there are lots of different ways of approaching the task. The guide below provides you an overview of successful communication strategies. Whether your communications strategy is designed for a specific project or for the same period as your organizational strategy, it should establish the following:
• Tools and activities
• Evaluation and amendment
Your objectives are the key to the success of your communications strategy. They should
ensure that your communications strategy is organisationally driven rather than
communications driven. Your communications activity is not an end in itself but should serve
and hence be aligned with your organisational objectives. Ask yourself what you can do
within communications to help your organisation achieve its core objectives.
Aligning your communications and organisational objectives will also help to reinforce the
importance and relevance of communications and thereby make a convincing case for the
proper resourcing of communications activity within your organisation.
You should identify those audiences with whom you need to communicate to achieve your
organizational objectives. The best audiences to target in order to achieve an objective may
not always be the most obvious ones, and targeting audiences such as the media may no
always help achieve your objectives. Everyone would like a higher media and political
profile, yet activities aiming towards this may ultimately be self-serving and only
communications driven, with no wider impact. They can even have a negative effect if you
dedicate resources towards this that would otherwise be put towards communicating with
Strategic targeting and consistency are key to your organisation’s messages. Create a
comprehensive case covering all the key messages, and emphasise the different elements of
the case for different audiences.
Successful Communication: Targeting Tools
To maximise impact you should summarise the case in three key points which can be
constantly repeated. Remember that communications is all about storytelling: use
interesting narrative, human interest stories and arresting imagery.
Tools and activities
Identify the tools and activities that are most appropriate to communicating the key
messages to the audiences. These will be suggested by your audiences, messages, or a
combination of the two. For example, an annual report is a useful tool in corporate
communications whereas an email newsletter lends itself well to internal communications.
Ensure that you tailor your tools and activities to the level of time and human and financial
Resources and timescales
The key rules to observe are always to deliver what you promise and never over promise.
Use your resources and timescales to set legitimate levels of expectations and outline the
case for more dedicated resources.
Evaluation and amendment
Consider performing a communications audit to assess the effectiveness of your strategy
with both your internal and external audiences. You should use open questions with
appropriate prompts and benchmarks and, if possible, get someone independent to do the
work. Consider and discuss the results carefully and use them to amend your strategy.
Example audiences to consider are your staff, funders, key political targets and media.
Questions you should consider asking are:
• What do you read/see/hear?
• What works/doesn’t work?
• What do you want to see more of?
• What information do you need that you are not currently supplied with?
• How often do you want us to communicate with you?
While drawing up your strategy, you should involve your team, and on a smaller scale, the
entire organisation. Feed the communications strategy into the organisational strategy to
ensure maximum alignment and efficiency.