(Editor's note: This was first published on Jan. 1, 2013.)
We were at lunch, and my friend Ms. B was describing her nonprofit’s latest communications failure. I had dipped my spring roll into the bowl of sweet sauce and was trying not to drip the red sauce onto my green tie.
Ms. B’s organization services people with various educational backgrounds.
They are not unintelligent people, but unlike Ms. B, they do not have a PhD in
administrative healthcare, either. They also do not work in government
relations, which requires Ms. B to prepare detailed position papers about
healthcare that only those with a healthcare background—or who legislate
on health issues—could comprehend. Ms. B prepares dry material, like a
spring roll without the sweet sauce.
The vast majority of the people her organization services certainly could not
digest her reports. And Ms. B is not trained to translate her research into a
language those stakeholders could absorb.
And therein lies the stain. Ms. B’s organization decided its researchers must blog, tweet, and otherwise spread their reports via social media. No matter that they are not trained in social media. No matter that they haven’t been trained to synthesize their reports into a format understandable by the general public. Just do it, they’ve been told.
The organization has a communications team. But they are not to be involved in this endeavor.
Say what? The sweet sauce is tipping over! Quick, get a napkin! Too late. Ms. B’s nonprofit just poured sauce on its tie.
Not incorporating the communications team in a communications plan is a recipe for failure. Communicators take the complex, simplify it accurately, and disseminate it with the greatest chance of positive impact. It’s a skill set, an acquired taste. Successful organizations integrate the communications team into every aspect of the organization. A successful organization assigns members of the communication team to the researchers so they can work together to spread the word.
Communicators are the sauce that makes the message tasty. They are effective on the spring roll. They’re wasted on the tie.
Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications. Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.