Published: 1 June 2012

5 things I learnt from CharityComms’ communications strategies workshop

You’ll probably have seen CharityComms’ Communications Benchmark 2012 survey by now, which revealed that almost half (47%) of charity communications professionals do not feel that they have an organisational culture in which comms is respected.

I think that having a rock solid, well thought out communications strategy is fundamental to comms proving its worth to any organisation, so I was delighted to attend the CharityComms workshop on this topic last week.

The workshop was very useful and I’d like to share the highlights of what I learned with you. They are:

1. Brand is increasingly important.

Communications Benchmark 2012 shows that 82% of communications professionals think brand is important.

This view was echoed by Jacqui Kean, Head of Marketing at Diabetes UK, who advised charities to “position brand as a key tool in your business strategy”. She also emphasised that charities should “mobilise enthusiastic ambassadors” to champion the brand internally and externally, whether they are your Chair or volunteers.

I liked her pragmatic take on how marketing should work with the rest of your organisation as the brand guardian: “The marketing team should be the brand partner, and not the brand policeman.”

2. Integration is critical.

Lindsay Gormley of Barnado’s focused on how comms strategies can be integrated with policy and fundraising. She advised that identifying the barriers to integration, and then focusing on the common ground for these departments, was an effective approach.

Agreeing an achievable plan and clear roles and responsibilities for integrated work between departments is vital. Her final tip was to show other departments how working together would help them achieve their objectives.

3. A good comms strategy requires an effective environmental assessment.

Grant Imlach of Bowel Cancer UK emphasised that taking the time to analyse the internal and external environment for your charity, using tools such as SWOT and PEST was a good starting point for any strategy.

4. Remember that your strategy is an enabler.

Joe Barrell of Eden Stanley Group shared some useful thoughts on putting communications strategies together, but was careful to advocate that your approach is as important as your tools. For example, communications professionals should not feel enslaved by research, and should remember that it is simply a tool to understand barriers and motivations. Similarly, a good comms strategy will encourage charities to be innovative, and help create an environment in which this can occur.

I am a great believer that innovation doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a big budget; it’s about ambitions and attitude. Just because budgets are tighter doesn’t mean we can’t aim to think innovatively about what our communications strategies can help our organisations achieve.

5. A flexible strategy will help you roll with the punches.

In these fast changing times, Gerry Tissier from the NSPCC talked about how a good comms strategy must be adaptable. Refining your key messages, reassessing choice of channels and continually tracking audience responses to campaigns will inform this process.

And of course, measuring your strategy is vital too. I’ve blogged about this and other strategy tips for CharityComms previously.

Putting together a good communications strategy can seem like a daunting task. CharityComms’ workshop offered plenty of useful advice, tips and examples from sector experts, covering all the bases. To me, there is nothing more empowering that knowing what you want to achieve, and how you are going to go about it. A good communications strategy will help you do just that.


Zoe Amar, director, Zoe Amar Digital

Zoe Amar is founder and director of Zoe Amar Digital, a charity marketing and digital communications consultancy who've worked with Action Aid, CAF, Crimestoppers and many other great charities. She also blogs for The Guardian. Zoe shares charity marketing resources over at www.zoeamar.com and @zoeamar