(Many of you come to NGOS looking for information on creating a regional communications strategy, so I tapped the expertise of my friend and former colleague Racine Tucker-Hamilton, who was gracious enough to write this guest post. Racine is the associate director of communications and editorial services at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation in Washington, D.C. EGPAF is a global leader in the fight against pediatric HIV/AIDS, and has reached more than 17 million women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. It currently works at more than 6,800 sites and in 15 countries.)
Regional communications can be both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side you have the opportunity to share your message with the world. On the con side is the fact that the world is your audience and that global audience just gets bigger each day and avenues of communication get more complex. As media director for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), with a presence in 15 countries mostly in Africa, I face a daily challenge with language translations, cultural differences, and Internet access, among other things. Fortunately, I have a great team of expert global communications colleagues to assist with overcoming these communications adversities.
In my opinion, a solid regional communications plan includes four vital elements for success:
Goal(s): Is your focus on building your organization’s brand or is it to increase awareness of issues?
Audience: Who are your key stakeholders? Audiences can be very narrow or extremely broad, ranging from local government officials, potential partners or donors, a specific population or group (elderly women or men under 30 years old), or the general public. What do they need to learn about your issues or organization? And what action do you want them to take? Do you want them to write a check, attend an event, or click on a link?
Tools: Identify which platforms you will use. Local and national media, editorial products (publications, brochures, advertisements, opinion pieces and letters to the editor, digital/online platforms (social media, blogs, videos, podcasts) or events that highlight your organization's accomplishments.
Tactics: How are you are you going to use these tools to execute your strategic plan?
– Media: Identify the media outlets, programs, and journalists who cover your issues. Develop strategic story pitches that highlight your organization's expertise and begin to position your NGO as a thought leader on your subject matter. If you are successful, reporters will come to you instead of the other way around. Consider organizing media field visits and briefings. Give reporters the opportunity to see your work on the ground first-hand and be sure to have experts and human interest elements readily available.
– Publications: Determine the types of publications you can create based on resources, target audience, and your overall goal. You may decide a brochure rather than an annual report is better suited for your audience. When possible always try to produce high quality materials and aim for high resolution images.
– Events: Use this as an opportunity to create a media moment. Infuse your message in speeches and media materials. Invite journalists your are cultivating relationships with.
– Digital: Be sure you are leveraging all digital platforms and that your messages are in sync with your overall goals. This is a good opportunity to repurpose your materials. For example, you can write a blog post highlighting your annual report; pull a strong sentence from the blog and repost it on Facebook or Twitter, or start a web chat. Also, let your images tell the story through sites such as Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and other online photo sites. Your digital activities should always drive traffic back to your website and materials.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy for regional communications, but starting with a good strategy will help you find the best fit for your organization.