There are free online universities, a wealth of training videos on YouTube and other sites and helpful tools and tips on most topics.
Learning a new skill and accomplishing something is rewarding and satisfying. Many of us grew up in a do-it-yourself culture where we tinkered with our cars and did our own household repairs and it’s natural to try to do most things on our own.
When our weed eater broke last spring the first thing we did was go to YouTube to learn how to fix it. My husband looked up user manuals and watched videos and, as painful as it was for him to admit he couldn’t do it, he realized that in this case he would need a professional. A few months later, our washing machine broke down. Not only could we not fix it ourselves but we learned we would be better off buying a brand new one.
It’s good to know that when we need help it’s there. In both of these cases, consulting a professional paid off in the long run. For a $30 investment the weedeater will last at least another year (if not longer). The new washing machine uses less water and less energy and the clothes are cleaner.
There are many free communication tools and channels available and you can learn a lot if you have the time and motivation. One of the main reasons for this site is to give you the tools for effective communications about your organization or business. With a few tips and tools, small organizations are able to do a decent job of basic day to day communications without the need to pay for the services of a professional.
Communications can be very complex and there are times when bringing in a professional will add value to your work, save you time and money and prevent or correct misunderstandings. We are in an information age where channels and media are continually evolving and changing rapidly. Expertise in communications is vital when information about your organization – both positive and negative – can go viral and beyond your control quickly.
Think of it like managing your day to day health on your own most of the time. When you need more information there are online sources like HealthLinkBC or WebMD but there are times when you need to see a doctor.
Here are five common experiences where a communications or marketing professional can help:
1. When your job involves doing communications off the side of your desk. You were hired because of your expertise in your field but a part of your job involves communications. You may have taken a few courses to learn effective ways to communicate, have a Twitter account and maybe even a blog. You recognize the value of communications and understand your need to keep pumping out messages. If things are working well that’s great. But if you ever find you need to spend time explaining yourself or working to correct misinformation about your organization, a communications professional would help. You most likely do not need a full-time communications staff person. Consider bringing in a consultant to do a communications audit of your organization and provide recommendations and a strategic plan. A good plan will map out where you need to go and how you can get there and a good consultant can do this in as little time as a few days, depending on the size and complexity of your organization.
2. When you are creating or updating a website. Many organizations recognize the need for a website to help promote their work and ensure the public receives information. A common first step in web creation is to seek out an IT professional. Consider what your website does – it is a channel for communicating just like a front counter, telephone, meeting or rack of brochures. Websites are strengthened by good content and IT professionals are not content experts. If you have launched a website and have heard comments about how good it looks yet how difficult it is to find information, your staff or volunteers may be spending extra time to help people find information or deal with complaints. You may need to go back and re-do some of it to ensure the information you need to communicate is there and easy to access. A good website should meet your organization’s communications and engagement objectives and a communications professional could be consulted to work with the IT team at the outset. But wait, your organization doesn’t have any communications or engagement objectives you say?
3. When you want to develop or meet communication and engagement objectives. If an important part of your organization’s function and mission involves getting information to the public or your market, a marketing and/or communications strategy is essential. A marketing strategy helps you learn about what your public needs to be aware of and how to best reach them. It can help you get the best value for your advertising and marketing budget, increase your market and create more effective and better relationships between your organization and your audience, partners and stakeholders. It can increase morale among your staff because they can be included in the communications and feel a stronger connection to the organization. It’s a vital investment that will pay off in huge dividends including time savings, more effective and efficient operations and even profit. Once you have developed a marketing strategy you can keep it fresh by checking in from time to time (about once a year or so is often enough) to ensure it continues to meet your objectives. Many organizations fear the cost of a marketing strategy imagining glitzy ad campaigns, yet often the best strategy need not cost a lot. There are economical ways to develop and implement an effective strategy for your organization’s budget.
4. When you have something new or different to communicate or announce. If your organization makes a change, has a new plan, service or product, or has important new information to communicate, consider a communications strategy as an important component of your new initiative. Many organizations invest in strategic planning or visioning, or in the development of a new product or service. If that investment does not include marketing or communications of your new initiative then the implementation will not be as effective. Ensure a portion of your development and implementation budget includes what you will need for marketing and communications.
5. When you need to hear from your audience. If your organization relies on input from your audience a marketing and communications professional can help ensure you are employing the most effective and economical engagement tactics. Engagement is more than communicating out. It’s about developing and maintaining a relationship with your audience or market to ensure your product or service continues to meet their needs.
Large organizations employ full time communications and marketing staff for a good reason. In a smaller organization you can manage well by consulting a marketing or communications professional from time to time.