• Communication Matters: Reputation, Relationships & Resources


    I had the pleasure of joining Communications Network board members Minna Jung (Packard Foundation), Alfred Ironside (Ford Foundation) and Joanne Krell (Kellogg Foundation) for a panel discussion titled “Why Strategic Communication Matters to the Causes We Care About” at the Council on Foundations conference in Washington, D.C.

    The standing-room-only session highlighted several important lessons about the work we do as communicators, and the responsibility we all bear for championing its strategic value across our organizations.

    It also gave me a chance to provide an update on “Communication Matters,” the Communications Network-sponsored research effort to gather evidence about what constitutes effective, integrated communications at foundations and nonprofits.

    Our research is now running at a full sprint… We hope to be able to show some exemplary models, relevant tools and clear evidence that can advance the field and help make the case for why Communication Matters.

    Remembering The Three R’s

    Our evidence gathering and analysis are ongoing, and will be rolled out in earnest at the Network’s annual conference this October.  But here’s one early insight we unpacked during the panel’s conversation.

    For most organizations, success (or failure) in strategic communications can be directly tied to how well they manage and leverage three primary assets. Let’s call themThe Three R’s:

    • Reputation: This is the sum of the earned and perceived credibility an organization holds around a set of issues (think of it as your brand equity and issue expertise).
    • Relationships: This is the set of affiliations and associations that give an organization “authority” and increased capacity to advance its agenda or theory of change.
    • Resources: These are what an organization invests to achieve its goals and objectives. They include both dollars (grants, PRIs) and human capital (labor, research, thought leadership, and access).

    Our research process is now running at a full sprint. We’ve been listening closely to communication practitioners from foundations and nonprofits. We’re hearing from program leaders about how they prioritize and integrate with communications. And soon we will be launching a survey to solicit the views of executive directors and CEOs on these same themes.

    effective-online-communication When all is said and done, we hope to be able to show some exemplary models, relevant tools and clear evidence that can advance the field and help make the case for why Communication Matters. Stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead.

    David Brotherton is a Seattle-based communications consultant. He and Cynthia Scheiderer previously co-authored Come On In, The Water’s Fine, an analysis of the philanthropy sector’s engagement with social media. They expect to share the results of their latest research at the Communications Network conference in Philadelphia. Follow David on Twitter  @Wordsmith68.



    The Communications Network Conference October 8-10 – Philadelphia



    The last time a group of really smart communicators met in Philadelphia, they produced one of the greatest pieces of writing and sparked a revolution. declaration-independence

    At COMMUNICATION MATTERS, the 2014 Communications Network Conference, there’s no telling what revolutionary ideas we can produce.Get ready for the year’s best conference in one of America’s greatest cities! penn_parkway_04
    COMMUNICATION MATTERS, the 2014 Communications Network Conference, is set for the city of “Always Sunny,” October 8-10.
    We have four outstanding plenary speakers: 

    • Terry Gross, host of NPR’s Fresh Air
    • Judy Smith, crisis communications expert and Executive Producer of “Scandal”
    • Ben Smith, editor, BuzzFeed
    • Sarah Lewis, author of “The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery”
    fall2014speakers2rlntws Excited yet?  There’s much more to come.  EARLY REGISTRATION OPENS MONDAY, JUNE 30:
    • Email info@comnetwork.org to save a spot and to request an invitation to register early at a discounted rate.
    • As always, Communications Network members receive priority registration and the lowest rates. Click here for membership or renewal information.
    • A full conference schedule is coming soon with full details of our pre-conference workshops, a list of breakout sessions and our special welcome reception. Stay tuned to this page for updates.
    2rnwupy   o-PHILADELPHIA-facebook If you have any questions about the conference, please email info@comnetwork.org.

    Terry Gross Photo Credit: Will Ryan
    Sarah Lewis Photo Credit: Annie Leibovitz

  • “The misinformation persists…” A Conversation with Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth & The New York Times 


    Brendan Nyhan teaches at Dartmouth and is a contributor to The Upshot at The New York Times. He joined The Communications Network to discuss his recent research into false information: how it takes hold and why it persists. A lightly edited transcript follows. 

    The Communications Network: 

    Let’s start with a broader picture Brendan. Why are people fooled by false information? What makes them susceptible to that?

    Brendan Nyhan:  

    There’s a couple of big problems when it comes to politics, but I think the kinds of problems I’m describing actually do extend farther beyond politics. The first problem is that when it comes to things like politics the incentives for us to have accurate beliefs are actually pretty weak.

    You have a much stronger incentive for instance to buy a reliable car than you do to know the correct information about say an initiative you’re voting, or the presidential candidate you’re supporting, or the issue that you’re telling people your opinion about. So the accuracy motivations for us in politics are quite weak.

    That’s fine. That’s normal. Democracy has always been that way. People have better things to do most of the time and we all have lives. But it is something we have to contend with because it makes people more susceptible to false information. There just aren’t strong incentives to go out and get correct information. That’s the first problem.

    The second is we have in a lot of cases at least when it comes to controversial issues strong beliefs. We have strong preferences about the right thing to do or the side that is right in a given debate. What decades of research have shown is that those beliefs, those preferences about politics or issues influence how we process information. So they make us more likely to think information we get is true if it confirms our predispositions and less likely to think it’s true if it contradicts our preconceptions. 

    We shouldn’t just assume that facts and evidence are the best or the most effective approach to informing people or changing their behavior.

    The Communications Network: 
    In your work, particularly in healthcare reform, for those of us who have followed the debate, there are a lot of myths out there. Let’s talk about some of those myths and what are some ways that you would advice communicators and others who are confronting those strongly held beliefs. What’s the best way to have an informed debate and conversation about that?

    Brendan Nyhan:       
    Well it’s challenging when it comes to an issue like healthcare reform because it’s already so politicized. Much of my research has come to some fairly depressing conclusions about the difficulty of changing people’s minds when it comes to those kinds of issues. It’s very hard. There may be better and worse ways to approach it though.

    Read More

  • Thank You



    The Network crowd’s about the loveliest, liveliest, most fun group of people I’ve ever hung out with online and at conferences, so I try not to bore you with the details of the work and effort that makes the Network go vroom, vroom.  You maybe got a glimpse of how passionate our new Executive Director, Sean Gibbons, is about communications – you may have gotten a sense of how much our board cares about the Network from Eric Brown’s farewell post, but for the most part, we don’t write blog posts about how we do our business.  This is, we feel, as it should be.

    But as Board chair, I sometimes need to step away from the mission and ideas that fuel the Network and acknowledge and thank individuals who have given exceptional service to the organization.  So this post is to say a heartfelt thank you to three departing board members:

    Edith Asibey, now with UNICEF in Brazil, who did so much to help the Network engage with existing and new members;

    Eric Brown, who has departed the Hewlett Foundation for communications consulting and travel, and who pretty much did everything – fundraising, program content, vice chair, board chair, and then vice-chair again—and did it all with humor, heart, and smarts.

    Mitch Hurst, now the communications director for the First Five Years Fund, who added digital smarts to the Network and also lent a wry, witty, keep-it-real presence on the board throughout all of our discussions and strategic planning.

    Thank you so much.  We hope to see you in Philly and beyond.  Once a Network Jedi, always a Network Jedi.

    -Minna Jung, Chair, The Communications Network Board 

  • Rev Tn

    Tools We Love

    (The Communications Network is introducing a new series that invites you to share tools you use–especially the ones you love–to help make your jobs easier. Let us know about tools you love by sending a brief writeup to info@comnetwork.org.

    To kick things off, we’re sharing our experiences with an online transcription service we just discovered.)

    We Love Rev

    When the Communications Network set out to find a service to transcribe our new SmartCast interviews, we had two basic requirements: fast and inexpensive. After doing some searching online and reading recommendations, we decided to go with a service called Rev.com.

    Read More

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