Eric Brown, Vice Chair of The Communications Network’s Board (and a former Board Chair), is departing his job as Communications Director at The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. A version of his farewell post appeared on the Foundation’s Work in Progress blog.
Here’s what I’ve learned about foundation communications in ten years, nine months, and four days:
1. Tactics without strategy are pretty much a waste of time.
I’m about to give away the secret to the nonprofit communications strategy kingdom—start your communications plan with a goal, and make it a good one. There, I said it. Organizations are pretty good about designing strategic plans that have reasonably good goals. They want the utility to remove a dam by 2015, or they want to provide reproductive health services for 25% more women in a particular district in Tanzania by the end of the year. Things like that. When the communications plans come in, though, often the goal is do some kind of tactic. Write an op-ed. Get people to like you on Facebook. If pressed, grantees might say that the goal is to “raise awareness” about an issue. Well, I have high awareness that kale is better for me than bacon, but that doesn’t stop me from eating BLTs. You get my point. Good strategies start with good goals, not good tactics. It seems so obvious, but we all know that it doesn’t always go that way.
Post by: Sean Gibbons, Executive Director
Dear Network Colleagues,
I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Sean Gibbons and today is my first day as the Executive Director of the Communications Network.
Sharing stories and ideas has been my work and my passion for most of my adult life. First through journalism, and over the past decade, in the public policy world. My experiences have made this truth plain: quality communications are a difference maker. They can spark debate, elevate new ideas, and in very real ways, improve lives.
You Can Fight Falsehoods
More and more these days, debates and discussions about important social issues get hijacked or derailed by misinformation that people too readily accept as truth. For example, who can forget the “death panel” myth propagated by opponents of the Affordable Care Act? Or in the absence of any evidence linking autism to vaccines, why do some parents refuse to immunize their children?
In our latest SmartCast, we talk with Brendan Nyhan, Assistant Professor of Government at Dartmouth University, who has been studying the phenomenon of false beliefs since 2000, as well as the challenges in debunking misinformation and myths once they begin to take hold.
The big question we put to Nyhan: can anything be done to combat the spread of erroneous information?
Guest Post: Cassandra Stalzer
For the past year, the Rasmuson Foundation has been partnering with the Anchorage Daily News (ADN) on a special project, “State of Intoxication,” a print and video series about the profound effects over-consumption has on the lives of Alaskans.
This was the first high-profile partnership between for-profit news media and philanthropy in Alaska, and as such, it raised a lot of questions and generated a lot of ideas.
Guest Post: Nolan Haims
One of the most important communication books of the last number of years was quietly released in February. It is so far flying rather under the radar, but it has significant and immediate implications nonprofits and foundations.
The book is a tactical one on how to use a piece of software, but it directly addresses a challenge that organizations face on a daily basis: how to effectively and properly create written material for stakeholders using everyone’s default tool: PowerPoint.