It’s been about six months since I started working with regional non-profit organisations to streamline organisational communications. The list of problems ranged from the need for a website revamp, to a need to build a visual brand to organisations almost 20 years old never having developed a communication strategy or organisational strategy.
It was surprising seeing organisations still using Gmail and Yahoo email accounts for operations. For some reason, I thought it would be a quick fix. But as I dug deeper and held virtual meetings with these organisations I realised there was a deeper problem. Most didn’t really know how to communicate, because they didn’t know why they really existed.
This is not really unique to these organisations, I have seen it consistently even in for-profit organisations. When people start business operations in a non-governmental organisation (NGO) or for-profit they are laser-focused, but they hit speed bumps and lose sight of the broader vision because of the usual fits and starts of operations mostly related to survival. But for the many organisations I have encountered, stay in survival mode as business culture and completely lose track of the initial vision.
Communication needs Vision
So what’s vision got to do with a busted website or running your organisation on @gmail.com? To put it simply, everything. Vision is your North Star, your compass, your unique selling proposition, it’s how you innovate. Like a personal vision for your life or one for a country, it distinguishes how you think, work and what you value. If those are not clear your life and a country are lost and when everything goes, nothing goes; it’s too chaotic to grow as an organisation.
Organisational strategy isn’t my area of speciality, but it is becoming a key area of interest and an essential part of what I do. Because to teach organisations how to communicate I first need to understand how they operate. Because if your operations are kaput, my general rule of thumb is you have no business communicating. You first need to fix the problem.
Communication needs Strategic Leadership and Organisational Systems which work
Let me dig a little bit deeper. If you have governance issues with your board of directors and a chaotic management team, that means you don’t have common ground, without that common ground the decision-making process is flawed. And that means it’s not clear what you stand for as an organisation. Communication needs clarity to be effective. So unless you fix that chaotic management by hiring the right team no website revamp, or marketing campaign will help you.
When management fully understands its role in line with the vision, they become the vision bearers and champions. When they champion the process they organically build organisational systems to work towards achieving that vision. With the right systems, you can build the right team.
Building a Communication Strategy
With a clear vision, strategic leadership and systems built to last, building a communication strategy becomes a seamless process. You are not struggling to define who you are, because you know who you are as an organisation. You also know what solution you are offering and its unique placement in the market. You also know who exactly you intend to offer your solution.
The communication strategy does three key things. It defines your solution, it defines your target audience and it provides clear messaging for your solution in a language that best resonates with your target audience.
Strategic communication is all about targeted, deliberate and clearly defined communication. And if your operational framework exists as an organisation you make it so much easier to communicate. You don’t waste time communicating with the wrong people with the wrong message. Communication like business operations is a process not a means to an end. And this process relies on a system that works.
So if you are wondering why your NGO is struggling with fundraising or why your marketing as a business is failing, it’s time you go back to the drawing board and ask yourself these questions:
- Why do we exist as an organisation?
- Are the management of our organisation at the board and executive level best fit to realise this?
- Is our business model the most ideal to get us to realise our vision?
- Who is the right target audience for our organisation?
When you can answer those questions, then call a communication specialist, not before, because communication is based on strategic business operations and not anything else.