Thinking about communication at the beginning? What a novel idea!


Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network Fall 2013 Annual Conference conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by  Lori McClung, President of Advocacy & Communication Solutions.  Follow Lori on Twitter – @mclorius.

LoriMcClung1In most of the sessions I attended at the Communication Network conference in New Orleans, funders and communication professionals alike shared one similar sentiment – building communication into the fabric of their work at the outset was key to their success. Each presenter said it in a slightly different way but the result was always the same: if you plan for it (communication) the people you want to help/the goal you want to achieve will be accomplished.

As a communication professional I agree wholeheartedly. But I kept thinking to myself that many of the people who needed to hear the presentations were not in attendance at the conference. I’m left wondering if we can somehow package the information we all learned (or approaches that just were reinforced) and could somehow share them with those who are not the true believers.

In each organization that skeptic may sit in a different seat (board member, executive director, or whomever). What if they heard the same message over and over again from different people? Perhaps the third party validation would change the culture of an organization – or at least encourage them to think about communication early, rather than last, in at least one project. That success would lead to another success and so on and so on.

We can work together to develop some innovative ways to share what we heard without asking colleagues to read a PowerPoint presentation; it’s the back and forth discussion that they need to hear after all. For those organizations that don’t have 5 internal communication staff and $1 million to spend on a project, we can also figure out how to translate those large scale successes to smaller initiatives.

Great examples of building in communication at the beginning included The Atlantic Philanthropies who used communication assistance as early as the RFP development process in their effort to demonstrate how older adults can lead local change in all types of communities to the Ford Foundation which invested in two years of in-depth message research and development to change the dialogue about economic inequality in America. There are great case studies – and we can use them to help more people to see that while it may not always be easy, integrating communication at the very beginning is the smart thing to do. Every great idea starts with a question and conversation. How do we get this discussion going? How do you think we can get other people on the board? I would love to hear what successes or challenges you’ve had in integrating and embedding communication right from the start? Ready, go!

Kris is a sought after philanthropy advisor, expert and award-winning author. She has helped over 90 foundations and philanthropists strategically allocate and assess over half a billion dollars in grants and gifts.

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