Key Elements of Successful Strategic Communications

Outcome-driven research, media relations, reputation management, crisis and issues management, advocacy, community engagement, and media training and coaching are key elements to successful strategic communications campaigns. I also work with development teams to tell nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations’ stories to donors through outcome and people-driven pieces.

Outcome-Driven Research

Research is the first step in developing well-grounded strategic communications campaigns and, thus, positively affecting business outcomes.

One must prioritize and segment stakeholders, define their needs and interests, assess their perceptions of and relationships with the organization, and identify thought leaders and others who influence stakeholder opinions.

It is critical to understand how research contributes to achieving strategic communications goals in three main areas – (1) developing a strategic plan, (2) monitoring issues that could affect the organization, and (3) measuring campaign results.

Methodical research provides awareness of how to link with desired stakeholder outcomes through informing them, affecting their beliefs, and most importantly — spurring them into action.

Media Relations

I have worked with media outlets from around the world to provide favorable coverage for clients. Media placements include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Financial Times, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, NPR, CNBC, CNN, USA Today and The Washington Post, as well as local and regional publications and affiliates.

I work with your organization to craft your story and communicate it to your targeted audiences through the increasingly complex media landscape. Tools used to convey your message include:

  • Story pitching and placement
  • Third-party advocate utilization
  • Press releases
  • Media events
  • Talking points
  • Press kits
  • Reputation management

Reputation is a basic quality of every organization and its brand. It is a seed for why others want to work with you or make a donation on behalf of your cause. Once these relationships begin, trust builds. If an event can endanger your reputation, it can also harm or end trust. Overnight, trust that has taken years to build can be destroyed.

I work with organizations to nurture and advance their reputations with respective stakeholders, as well as community members, donors, organizational partners and other potential stakeholders.

Crisis and Issues Management

As a spokesperson for the University of Virginia during an unprecedented string of crises that included the tragic events of August 11th and 12th, I am well acquainted with crisis and issues management. 

In today’s 24/7 media cycle, the days of traditional crisis and issues management capabilities where an organization could take days to respond are over. Today’s world requires thoughtful planning preparedness. An organization must anticipate issues and crises to work through them in a timely, credible fashion. My ability to work with you to prepare and provide a rapid response to inquiries from media and stakeholders will help you address the crisis or issue in a real-time manner. This proactive approach protects your reputation.

I have helped organizations successfully manage crises and issues across a wide spectrum that include:

  • Activist campaigns
  • Loss of funding
  • Investigative journalism
  • Chief executive transitions
  • Law enforcement and regulatory agency investigations

I prepare senior executives to handle questions in high-stakes environments, such as media events, public hearings and town hall and board meetings. I also help them have hard conversations with the community that can help generate trust and goodwill.

Advocacy

Strategically crafted public policy communications position organizations to achieve their legislative and regulatory goals at all levels of government. The key is to create a sense of urgency to inspire the targeted stakeholders to take action. These occur through grassroots campaigns to those that influence elected and appointed leaders.

I conduct historical and real-time situational and environmental analyses to take the pulse of the issue. From there, I research target audiences to determine the optimal means of reaching them to influence the desired policy outcome for your organization. Tactics range from media attention to broadside sheets that succinctly lay out the pros and cons of the policy situation.

Community Engagement

Community engagement is critical in developing relationships with one of your most important stakeholder groups — your community. Everyone’s community is different — it can be a neighborhood, town, city or county, region, state or even the globe. With grassroots work experience across the nation, I identify civic leaders and organizations, businesses, clergy, nonprofits, governments and everyday folks with whom your organization need to connect.

Successful community engagement is like a spider web. The strands of the web are laid across different stakeholders with the goal of these strands connecting to form a comprehensive web that binds the community together through its “stickiness.” This “stickiness” is the glue that bonds you with your community to form a singular, exponentially more powerful unit.

Media Training and Coaching

How you answer questions from a reporter can make or break your organization’s response when facing an issue. Hastily or poorly thought out responses are particularly dangerous during times of crisis and can destroy your organization’s reputation in a matter of minutes.

I educate your organization’s media point person — the chief executive, board chair or public information officer — on what drives media interest and how to handle difficult questions. I also coach on optimal behaviors and body positioning during media interviews, as well as how to plant the seed of an idea in a reporter’s head for a future story that can benefit both the reporter and your organization. A media interview is a two-way street where it is best if both parties come away from an interview feeling that they benefited from the experience.

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