Stop the Communications-Program Tug of War

Nonprofit Marketing PartnershipAre you in a tug of war with program colleagues for control of your communications?

Raise your hand if you’ve run up against any of these challenges:

  • Your colleague on the program side makes an outrageous communications demand based on a consumer marketing model. You know it’s likely to hurt, rather than help, build relationships with prospective supporters and participants.
  • You share your email and social campaign plan to support the coming advocacy campaign with your program colleagues, and they are totally annoyed that you didn’t bring them into the planning process.
  • Your program colleague share a memo outlining the components, timing, lists and budget for the campaign you’re planning to support a new program launch. It’s given to you as a done deal to execute.

I think you see what I mean.

The marketing-program dynamic is a delicate one. But remember, there are TWO SIDES of this perennial struggle. From “our” side—We know how to get where we need to go, let us do it. And from “their” side—We are the content experts, and know our issue. We guide the outreach, you execute.

A recent conversation on Progressive Exchange (one of my favorite online communities, invaluable for sharing questions, sources and approaches for those who work for/with progressive causes, campaigns or organizations) generated this practical guidance from a fellow communicator:

I found when I give program staff results on their emails / actions, and explained why some did well and others didn’t, they started giving me better content and information to use. They wanted to get emails out about their work, so we came up with some simple things for them to think about before sending us requests. Answers to questions like “why now?” “why me?” and “why act?”.

The other thing that helped was to restrict access to our online supporters to programs that could give us everything we needed to make the email perform.  If a request for an email had all the required ingredients for strong performance (urgency, relevance, emotion, etc.), we’d schedule the email and likely send it to a large audience. If program staff couldn’t provide the things we needed, they either didn’t get an email out, or it went to a very small audience. I was transparent about all of this, and it was a good motivator.

The reality is that strong fundraising and advocacy messages comes from great programs. If the program stuff isn’t there, the fundraising and advocacy rings hollow and that’s obvious to supporters.

This makes perfect sense to me, as is or slightly revised to fit the culture and personalities in your organization. The fact is we’re stronger together! Now go find a way to work more collaboratively with your program colleagues (and your fundraising folks, too).

What are your techniques for smooth collaboration with your program colleagues? Please share here.

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Nancy Schwartz on November 20, 2013 in All-Org Marketing Team | 1 comment
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