Getting Started

Understanding How Organizations Communicate Socially, Virtually, or Not At All

0 Comments 24 December 2008

Two-way communication, photo by Jacob Botter

Two-way communication, photo by Jacob Botter

In my last post, I spoke about assessing your current communications strategy before you begin your social media strategy. I’d like to expand on that by sharing with you my own questionnaire that I use at the initial client meeting. I use this questionnaire to consider how the organization currently engages, listens and respects its stakeholders. I also look at the overall communications strategy that the organization uses (or lack thereof). My initial questionnaire is as follows:

1. Who are your stakeholders? Please describe each stakeholder group including their relationship to the organization, total numbers, demographics and activities with your organization.

2. What is your current communication strategy with each group? How do you communicate with them (by email, newsletters, reports, general meetings, proprietary closed online network discussion, surveys, etc)? How often?

3. What are the methods/tools that your stakeholders can use to easily communicate with you?

4. How do you integrate feedback from your stakeholder groups?

What I am looking for are the answers to these specific considerations:

  • does the organization communicate regularly with its stakeholders groups (all of them!)?
  • does the organization make it easy for the stakeholders to communicate with it?
  • does the organization invite critique and ideas?
  • does the organization integrate stakeholder feedback?
  • does the organization have a communication strategy for each stakeholder group?

I then divide each organization into the following categories:

  • Limited Communicators: those who do not engage in routine stakeholder communications and do not have an existing communication strategy.
  • Hyper-focused Communicators: those who communicate regularly with just one or two stakeholder groups, but not all of them. This is usually the case of an organization that prioritizes communicating with funders or a membership base, but ignores regular communication with other stakeholder groups.
  • Passive Communicators: those who create rote, one-way, regular, informative communications. Examples of these would include an annual report, announcements in the newspaper of the general meeting, email alerts in times of need, or publicity events.
  • Tactical Communicators: these organizations have implementing many dynamic communication tools (blogs, yahoo member groups, facebook groups, etc) but have not elaborated their goals for the communication strategy.

Often, organizations are a combination of two types.  Categorizing organizations helps me to understand how they currently view their stakeholders and currently communicate, and whether or not they have a communication strategy.

Once I’ve assessed an organization, I work with them to elaborate specific strategic goals they they want to achieve with each stakeholder group. Once these realistic goals are set, then we create a cohesive communication strategy that integrates improving current communications and defining what (if any) social media strategies would meaningfully move the organization towards achieving its benchmarking goals for each stakeholder group.

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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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