The 4 Dimensions of a Successful Communications Plan

shutterstock_209253385 asian couple megaphoneNo one likes to feel left out or overlooked, and when key stakeholders feel that way, the results can be painful and long lasting. I recently conducted a focus group of community leaders who expressed serious concerns about the lack of communication within a significant regional initiative. When I asked the group what could be done to fix this, another participant said something I’ll never forget: “Communications need to be top-down, bottom-up, inside out, and all around.” I think that sums up the components of an effective communications plan.

The next time you launch a new grantmaking program or initiative for any issue, think through these four aspects of your communication needs so that none of your key stakeholders feels overlooked.

Top down

Make sure there are strategies in place for those who are managing, governing, and funding the initiative to communicate regularly with all the organizations, grantees, and partners doing the work. Priorities may need to shift based on things that are beyond the control of the initiative, such as changes in the economy or in government. It’s important for you to be as transparent as possible and to ensure that your partners can count on you for regular updates.

Bottom up

You want to be sure there are regular opportunities for everyone involved in the initiative — grantees, evaluators, vendors, and other stakeholders — to regularly communicate with the people managing the initiative. Use any method that works for you: monthly meetings, quarterly check-ins, regular conference calls, or whatever allows people to feel comfortable and bring up issues or concerns as they emerge — rather than a month or a year later, when it’s too late.

Inside out

Everyone involved in your program needs to be regularly communicating and coordinating with each other. If you’re trying to create change within a community, it likely means that the people and organizations need to do things differently. They might need to coordinate their work better or make joint decisions, so you need to put systems in place to allow for that communication and coordination to happen.

All Around

The final way to think about your communications needs is to think about what’s all around you — in other words, external communications. If you could draw a circle that encompassed you and your grantees and partners, then look outside that circle and think about who is not involved but should be, who needs to know about what you’re doing, who else you should be influencing, and who might be trying to work against you whom you should instead engage. Once you’ve identified those groups, think about what each needs to know and how you might best communicate that.

For more about successfully communicating to all your stakeholders, click here to read the full article. You can also listen to a podcast with Kris on how to Prioritize and Implement a Communications Plan Immediately, and read Kris’ article The Strategy Behind the Story: Putting the Pieces in Place for an Effective Communications Plan.

Kris Putnam-Walkerly is a philanthropy expert and consultant. If you found this blog post useful, please subscribe. On Twitter? Follow me @Philanthropy411.

Posted by Kris Putnam-Walkerly © Kris Putnam-Walkerly and Philanthropy411, 2014.

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