How to Communicate Effectively in Troubled Times

In troubled times – be it war, a shaky economy, or political uncertainty – it’s harder than ever to engage your audiences. There’s just so much on everyone’s mind.

So how do you keep the communication going, as it must, during this time?

Communications experts tell us that nonprofits (and other organizations) should expand their communication efforts during the war and economic downturn, with an increased focus on fact-driven messages. A recent article in PR Week reports results of a survey of journalists nationwide who almost unanimously urge organizations to “communicate factually, frequently, and consistently.” “Use this time wisely,” said the journalists, “to position yourself.”

Offhand, I agree with the survey findings. It is essential to continue to reach your audiences during this time, especially to reassure them that your organization is still here and still working hard to address the issues on which you focus. Remember, people don’t stop volunteering, advocating, or giving during tough times. They are likely to deliberate more carefully, and more slowly, on where to direct their resources.

I suggest the following:

• As always, make sure that your organization has a compelling mission and a unique approach to delivering products, programs, and services.

Once that’s in place, design, or refine a strong brand. (Branding is the art of creating a consistent, recognizable, and clear, unified voice or personality that conveys your organization’s uniqueness, focus, and values.)

Once you’re confident that your brand is on target, stick to it, rather than focusing on short-term needs or concerns.

• Review your messages to ensure that they are relevant in the current environment. Evolve the words to make sure that they match the world your audiences are living in today.

• Take advantage of the hyper-focused landscape to speak with a more significant voice and define yourself in a somewhat less cluttered marketplace.

• Put more online communications strategies to work – e-newsletters, web sites with strong content, and more. Online communications usually provide more value for price and, also, are more measurable than many other communications strategies.

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