Internal Communications

AmandaaldrichOur guest blogger Amanda Aldrich is Regional Communications Specialist with the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio. Her experience as a volunteer, board member, executive director and regular-old-employee shape the opinions she shares here, which do not represent those of the American Red Cross.

I’m always moving a million miles an hour, and I know it’s likely the same for you. When you’re flying, it’s all too easy to forget the little things that help keep us afloat as we’re running from one meeting to the next. But it’s vital to keep your team (and others) in the loop.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “One more email to read? No thanks!” Seriously though – keeping your team, other colleagues, volunteers, and board members abreast of your activities pays off in the long run.

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 New Headshot Susie Bowie Please join me in welcoming back guest blogger Susie Bowie. As communications manager at the Community Foundation of Sarasota, Susie is a passionate and talented force helping organizations in the region develop their nonprofit marketing finesse…

In the quest for the spiciest marketing and public relations recipe, we spend so much time focused on external communications that we often neglect our internal audiences.

I’ve always been impressed with the efforts of Maran Hilgendorf, who has worked as communications manager at the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) for over 10 years and is a master of effective internal communication.

Honoring and expecting different perspectives, communicating frequently, and having a process in place to manage communications are three ways I’ve observed her succeeding over the years.

I recently asked Maran about her work managing the Citizens Advisory Committee of the CHNEP. The Committee’s function is to represent the interest of the public and to work closely with staff to reinforce and maintain public support, develop public participation strategies and provide input on public education programs. It’s integral to the overall effectiveness of the organization.

This Committee embraces the challenge of including everyone who is interested in helping implement the Estuary Program’s plan to protect the natural environment.

Maran serves as the link between the committee and staff, but often members work directly with other staff on issues and tasks. Good communication is essential so that all the staff – and committee members – can accurately represent the organization in the community, she says.

Between the many members and perspectives, she has a difficult task in making sure everyone is heard and consensus is reached. I’d like to share her answers to a few basic internal communication questions:

Susie: What are 3 critical aspects of facilitating good internal communication?

Maran: 1) Remembering the mission. For us, all things tie back to our plan that was developed to help protect the natural environment of southwest Florida. 2) Attend to details in a timely manner so people can make the best use of the time they are donating. 3) Value the strength of the partnership.

Susie: How has digital communication changed/ enhanced the way you communicate? Has there ever been a time when it led to misunderstanding or disruption of peaceful relationships between committee members?

Maran: E-mail has increased the frequency of communication and reduced the cost but it has also made some people feel as though they aren’t “in the loop” or current on projects and issues because not everyone uses email. For several reasons, the email updates I send don’t show addresses. This makes it impossible with one key stroke to immediately “reply all” with a comment that might be negative or not tactful.

Susie: Does consensus get in the way of making decisions and acting quickly?

Maran: Consensus is important to our process because it takes into account and validates each person. It does take time but it doesn’t get in the way.We also recognize that consensus isn’t always unanimous. Staff can respond to an issue if it has already been addressed by our Management Conference through its plan (we call it our Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan) or during meetings. If it’s a new issue and time doesn’t allow for consideration at regularly scheduled meetings we invoke procedures adopted by the Management Conference in our Advocacy and Review Procedures.

For me, Maran’s emphasis on consensus is a true indicator of good communications health. It’s difficult, right? But possible. And it only serves to strengthen her team.

What are your essential ingredients to good internal communications?  Do you have a structured process that works well in your agency? It’s good food for thought, and I’d love for you to share your practices.

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to nonprofit marketing  success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Guest Blogger in Internal Communications | 2 comments
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The 8 Key Elements for Effective Internal Communications -- Ask Nancy Q:   I'm developing a communications plan for a client, but it's not focused on reaching the media (as many plans are). This is about generating visibility internally at a large institution.

I have meetings scheduled with key members of the institution to collect ideas, but I'm hoping you'll share your ideas on core elements for a plan to communicate within a complex environment.

My instinct is to consider messaging, audiences, media, resources required, measurements of success. What am I missing?

–Noelle, Communications Consultant

A:  Dear Noelle,

Great question and good you're asking now, before you dive in.

You've made a great start with your list. But include these additions and clarifications:

  1. Goals — What you're trying to achieve
  2. Measurable objectives — What tangible outcomes will indicate campaign success or need for fine-tuning
  3. For Audiences — Who you have to engage to meet your goals
  4. Strategies (rather than media) — Building awareness or engagement, or motivating action, and channels that lead there (likely to include building buy-in and training for any internal communications work)
  5. Tactical work plan — What gets done when
  6. Roles and responsibilities — Who does what. You'll want to build a team of messengers throughout the organization, way beyond you and your client there.
  7. Budget
  8. Evaluation and campaign revision

Let me know how the planning goes, Noelle, and what the outcome is.

Best of luck,

P.S. The right messaging is critical to the success of every internal or external communications campaign! Download the free Nonprofit Tagline Report for must-dos, don't dos, case studies and 1,000+ nonprofit tagline examples!

Nancy Schwartz in Ask Nancy, Internal Communications, Nonprofit Communications, Planning and Evaluation | 0 comments
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