I was recently asked by a brand new regional NGO to help workshop their communication plan. Here’s the reply:

Hi G,

I would say…don’t sweat your communication plan. If it’s complicated no one will even read it. The best communication plan is simply your “story”, disseminated again-and-again, in every avenue that’s readily available to you, starting with your members’ day-to-day conversations, phased in their own language and a little different every time. 

By “story” I mean an “elevator pitch” that frames the problem-opportunity-solution-benefits in terms that touch the listener’s hearts as well as their minds. In this case it’s about about a community that not just lowered its power bill but had the vision and courage to be an innovator. So it might be about the historically tough-minded, hard working and independently-minded character of your communities…that solve their problems without asking for a handout and that aren’t afraid to be the first. 

One thing I noticed in your email, by the way, is the lack of an explanation of what motivated this initiative. Why, indeed, are you doing it? I would expect to hear a logical cost-benefit-style explanation. However to really win friends and influence people I’d also want to hear the passionate voices of your members talking about their reasons in emotionally honest ways…after all this is a big project, it would only be happening if people were passionate…so the starting points for your “story” is those people wearing their passions and values on their sleeves. (P.S. And don’t, for goodness sake, talk about climate change. Avoid abstractions and generalities. Instead reach inside and talk about the personal passions that genuinely energise people.)

BTW…when asking people about their passions, you’ll really have to DIG. It’s amazing how we all tend to smother our genuine motivations in a layer of chilly abstraction. Don’t ask “Why are you involved?” “Why” always takes people into a world of abstractions and justifications. Instead ask “What moments in your life led you here?” or “What are the things you hate and love that make you a member of this group?” and dig and dig and keep digging until they offer up their real passions (which may even surprised them).

Is that useful?


– Les