Notes for 2008 FLC Communications Seminar November 8, 2008
Can You Hear Me Now?
Communication tools for Kin and our communities
There are two sides to every communication!
Define Your Audience
Email / Email List
Email / Email List
Media (newspaper, TV, radio, blogs, signage)
Quill / Editorial
Whether writing or speaking, selling or simply informing, the most effective communicators understand who their audience is and communicate one idea at a time.
In the web design business, the difference between an effective website and one that is no more than an online brochure, is the perspective from which is it designed. Your starting point should be from the perspective of what your audience wants to read or hear, not just what you want to tell them.
Tips for Effective Communications
Ever heard, "Sell the sizzle and not the steak?" Forget it. First you have to remind your customer that they're hungry (want/need), then you can let them know you have a solution to their problems.
Write or craft your message from the audience's perspective. In marketing, there are only four important questions the customer will ask: What are you selling? What does it cost? Why should I trust you? And (most importantly), What's in it for me?
Maslow's Heirarcy of Needs
Different targets will be looking to fulfill different needs. To understand your target, you need to know the answer to their "What's in it for me?" question, and to know that you have to understand what their specific need is.
In terms of dealing with the media, a similar series of questions applies: The core who/what/where/when/why/how? How credible is the source? And, would my readers be interested in this?
When crafting a message, whether an editorial or copy for an ad, a good trick is to write as if you're writing to one person. And not just any person ... define your audience to a specific individual (real or imagined). If the target audience is a 42 year old married female with grown children, then write as if you're writing a letter to a specific 42 year old married woman with grown children.
If you have multiple target markets or audiences, craft a separate message to each audience. Using recruitment letters as an example, you would not send the same letter to a small business owner, a recent college graduate, or a retired teacher. A recent graduate may be interested in personal development, the small business owner community involvement and networking, and for the retired teacher a new challenge to dedicate their time to.
Write to one person, and try to stick to one concept or idea. Business owners are often challenged to develop an "elevator speech", a 30 second or less explanation of their business. Whether for ads or articles, if you can't sum up the core message in one or two short sentences, then your message will be cluttered and confusing.
Remember that every piece of communication does not need to sell, convince or recruit every single potential customer or member in one shot. If you are trying to reach multiple target audiences, then plan on multiple communications (both in message and media).
Have a plan! Consistency and repetition are vital.
As a Club, you should have a communications strategy. Who will be the Club spokesperson? Is there a protocol for crisis management? What are the tools and timelines used to communicate internally to members, externally for recruitment, and externally to promote projects?
The strategy should be documented to allow it to evolve each year instead of needing to be reinvented. Media contact lists, copies of past articles, news releases, ads, editorials, etc., should be filed for reference.
Your Club strategy should also respect branding and copyright. For Kin Canada, there is a published graphic standards manual for ensuring proper use of Kin Canada trademark logos and designs. Graphics Standards Manual for Clubs (2007)
Communicating in a Connected World
Websites can take one of several forms:
The easiest form to create using free tools like NVu or FrontPage. Ongoing management and editing is more difficult than "Web 2.0" alternatives below, and major structural changes to content and navigation often require rebuilding the entire site.
Content Management Systems
CMS scripts are usually more complicated to set up, but allow for creation of user accounts (for password-protected sections) and dynamic content. To edit pages, authorized users simply log in to a separate administration URL and follow the menu prompts to locate and edit the desired page.
Wikis are focused on ease of editing, but require a little more planning up front to create the structure and security required to imitate CMS functionality. However, the ability to edit and manipulate data make wikis very easy to update and expand.
Blogs allow for easy posting of content and commenting by visitors to the site. The capabilities are similar to CMS or wiki sites, but there is a unique navigation structure where posts are organized automatically by date and category. Some blogging features like commenting, ping and trackback links have been used more and more by spammers, so diligence is required to remove spam and inappropriate content.
Dynamic website scripts (wikis, CMS systems, bulletin boards / forums) can allow Clubs to set up password-protected, members-only sections. Care should be taken when posting confidential or sensitive information, especially with regards to personal information about Members.
There are many open source (free) scripts and low cost hosting solutions. Some CMS and blog systems have hundreds of pre-designed templates to help dress up the look of your site, but the main focus should be on function over form. A plain text, black and white with easy navigation and accurate information updated regularly is more effective than a sophisticated work-of-art that contains out of date information and is difficult to navigate.
How much should a website cost?
Domain name - annual registration costs for a .ca or .com name should be $25 a year or less
Hosting - Typically between $100 and $300 per year
Using a free content management script (such as Joomla and Mambo)or hosted solution (such as Google Sites) that has a wide range of available templates, the cost to set up a Club website should be negligible.
Investing in a professional web designer may be a good investment, not only to create a custom design for your Club but also to assist in planning and implementing features that would make the site more useful. Cost to create a typical Club website can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the complexity and size of the site.
As with the National Website Award, the National Bulletin Award marking guildelines (National Awards Brochure) provide a checklist for creating an effective Club communications tool.
Focus on content before form. A simple typed document with content outlined in the Award marking scheme will be more useful to your club than a glossy, full-colour document that doesn't deliver the information you Club members need.
While Bulletins are typically written for Club members, remember that many non-Kin will also read the Bulletin. Be careful not to publish confidential or sensitive information, especially with regards to personal information about Members, and keep any humour or editorial content in good taste suitable for "family consumption".
Bulletins can be published electronically, either via email or posted on your website. While many Bulletins may be created in programs like Word or Publisher, the most efficient way to distribute electronic documents is in PDF format.
Open source (free) programs like OpenOffice provide many functions of the full Microsoft Office suite and can be helpful to create Bulletins. OpenOffice also provides a one-step "Export to PDF" function to convert Word files to PDF.
Free PDF creator tools can be downloaded* to convert most file types to PDF format. Many of the free PDF utilities install as a print driver on your computer, so any printable document can be converted.
*Many free utilities and downloads are supported by advertising. Some will also install "spyware" or additional software when installing the utility. Always make regular backups of your computer and important data!