Don’t shoot yourself in the foot: Revisit your communications plan before you speak!

“If you don’t know where you’re going it doesn’t matter which way you go!”

How could one of the country’s most trusted nonprofits end up in a no-win situation with its supporters and corporate partners?

How could a well-liked and respected organization that does so much good for so many find itself on the defensive?

Below is a brief overview of how the Susan B. Koman Foundation landed in such a difficult spot.

On January 31st AP reported that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation’s leading breast cancer charity, was halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates that provided breast screening services through a Komen grant.

This caused a bitter rift between the two organizations. Planned Parenthood responded immediately and launched a fundraising initiative to replace the lost funds; at first the Komen Foundation was quiet. By the time they responded it was too late.

The ongoing effects were almost instantaneous. The once venerated Komen Foundation found itself on the defensive and it appears it will remain there for a long time to come.

It is hard to imagine, but as Kivi Leroux Miller describes in the Accidental Rebranding of Komen for the Curethe foundation waded into an area of highly charged public feelings without a communications plan. Or, I would suggest, without using their marketing communications plan to guide their actions.

This is not the first time that Komen has hurt itself. Nancy E. Schwartz, in Getting Attention, describes corporate relationship snafus Komen made, and how the brand suffered.

So, what can you do to prevent your nonprofit from shooting itself in the foot?

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Always keep your marketing communications plan  updated & use it!
  2. Always market your mission.
  3. Carefully define whom your mission serves. You need to meet the needs of your core stakeholders.
  4. Measure your constituents’ needs. Research, research, research to ensure your programs & services resonate with your target audiences.
  5. Evaluate the success of programs & their relationship to your mission.
  6. Communicate regularly & consistently.
  7. Craft your messages to reflect how our mission affects your different audiences.
  8. Communicate in terms of your ROI even when it is not in monetary terms; quantify your economic impact.
  9. Celebrate your successes. Show how your ‘market diversification’ creates the funding to provide your services.
  10. Know your organizational elevator speech so you can articulate your vision & Competitive Advantage Statement.
  11. Keep a “face” on your marketing initiatives.
  12. Evaluate often & be prepared to refocus your efforts.
  13. Do not go into the dark. Have a crisis communications plan and be prepared to use it.
  14. Keep your social media outreach up-to-date. If/when a crisis strikes be prepared to address issues head-on. Make sure your posts & tweets are relevant to the issue at hand.

Not certain your new initiative serves your better purpose?

Test it before you launch!

I would love to hear your thoughts on ways to ensure your communications integrity and success.

Interested in a CS&I Marketing Communications Template? Contact me at deborah@creative-si.com.