When developing programs and strategies it tends to be the same cast of characters at the table: leadership, logisticians, budget wonks, operations experts and program officers to name a few. Noticeably absent often times? Communications.
The communication team members are often considered end-game players. Once everything has been decided, the comms team is brought in to communicate it. Or, when a program runs into trouble, the comms team is brought in to “spin” the issue. But there is increasing evidence that programs are more successful when communications has a seat the table from the beginning.
Here are 5 reasons why you’ll want to bring your comms team in early in the game.
- Communicators know what “plays.” We’ve all seen outstanding ideas that died on the vine because the vision and value wasn’t well articulated. Any communications team worth its salt knows your organization’s stakeholders – probably better than anyone else sitting at the table. Your comms team can help you nuance your message to call attention to what decision makers value. They can, and should, help you think through communicating how your idea supports your organization’s mission and priorities.
- Communicators understand why and how to engage communities. Even the most well designed project doesn’t stand a chance if the community it is intended to help isn’t on board. Community engagement is one of the key skills in a communicator’s portfolio. Communicators can help design participatory processes that can be integrated into the project. These efforts engender trust, allow communities to provide input and mitigate rumors that can undermine a project.
- Communicators can identify potential missteps before you make them. Your communications team should have their finger on the pulse of the community, they understand the environment in which you’re working – both politically and culturally. As a result, they can provide insights about potential pitfalls that others on your team may not be aware of – additionally, communicators are masters of turning problems into opportunities so it may benefit your project if the comms team is part of the brainstorming process.
- Communicators are outstanding “translators.” Often times, social sector program development can be very technical – it can be steeped in a language many don’t speak, whether epidemiology, anthropology or micro economics. Communicators specialize in bridging the gap, translating complex and technical issues into understandable interventions. Communications also plays a critical role in bridging that gap between developers of strategy and those that must execute it.
- Communicators think fast on their feet. The world of communications is fast moving and dynamic. Issues evolve quickly and as a result communicators are experts in thinking through contingencies and “Plan B’s”. This ability to quickly see the details, the big picture, and potential future landscapes can be incredibly helpful in your planning.
Communication experts are often master strategists who can add valuable insights to your planning processes. Many communicators working in a social sector organization wear multiple hats so they bring a multidimensional outlook and diverse experience which will only make your planning efforts more successful. The depth and breadth of their knowledge of the players and the issues can be a plus when tackling difficult issues.
So, the next time you gather the “A-team” be sure your comms team is part of it. You can be sure what they bring to the table will strengthen your program and improve your outcomes.