Just because you are doing amazing work does not necessarily mean that anyone knows about it or even really understands what you do. It’s your responsibility to tell the world about your organization, especially if we want them to get the right impression of who you are and what you do. If you don’t take the lead on spreading the word about your work, someone else will set the tone for you and, when that happens, there is no guarantee that what they are saying will be accurate or even nice. The last thing you want to do is spend all the time and energy you could have devoted to getting the word our about all of your amazing efforts, refuting and correcting what someone else has said about you.
With that in mind, here are a few pointers on what to do to control your message:
1) Have a communications strategy. This means that when you sit down to plan your agenda for the year, you need to factor in how you are going to communicate all those great new initiatives, in addition to keeping your ongoing work at the top of mind for your constituents.
2) Define your brand. If you don’t use consistent wording and imagery to describe yourself, then it will be that much harder for someone else to describe you. And if they can’t describe you, why would they tell anyone else about you?
3) Define your offerings. Clearly articulate what you do in layman’s terms that they average person can digest and comprehend. No one will want what you have to offer unless they first understand what you are offering.
4) When you doing something awesome, tell the world about it. If you’ve just launched a new initiative, instituted a new procedure, won an award or met a milestone, you need to tell people about it or they will never know just how awesome you are.
5) Be the first to talk about what you are doing. This may mean keeping something that is percolating completely under wraps until you are completely ready to be out front and telling the world about it. It also means that if you start to hear about things people are saying about you, then you need to grab the reigns and be the loudest one out there.
6) Consider where your audience is and go to them. Increasingly, no matter who your audience is, they are online, so you need to be there too. But you should also consider what professional organizations they belong to, what events they attend, whether there is a need for printed as well as online material and what media outlets they watch and read. These become the target channels for your communications.
7) Develop relationships with key constituencies BEFORE you have something important to impart to them. People are much more likely to listen to you if they know you so you should get to know them. Find out which reporters write about your field and reach out to them to introduce yourself. Find out what other organizations have a mission and vision that aligns with yours and actively seek out ways that you can help one another.
8) Communicate directly with your target audiences. It’s your job to gather contact information for people that you want to know about you and contact them – via a newsletter, key email updates and on social media. The more channels you employ, the more likely that they will hear you.
9) Communicate ALL the time. We are all busy people so it’s your job to keep yourself at the top of mind for your constituents. This means updating your website content, sending consistent email marketing, and using social media every day.
10) Correct bad information. If an article runs about you and a fact or number is wrong, you need to call that reporter and fix it. If a blogger is making accusations, you need to address them. If someone posted something negative to your social media, make sure you clarify and address any concern – even in situations where it is best to take a conversation offline, your constituency needs to know that you are not ignoring them, so tell them that you are addressing that concern offline. It’s not likely that absolutely everyone will love you, but it’s important that your message and your actions overshadow your critics.