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Building Your 2022 Communications Plan


Let’s face it. While 2021 was a little better than 2020, it didn’t quite turn out to be the “get back to normal” we all hoped for. Thankfully, 2022 is on the horizon.

You’re full of knowledge about your organization, and you’re brimming with ideas about how to communicate better with your current and prospective members, donors, students, etc. But have you put that wealth of insights on paper?

In this step-by-step session, you’ll discover everything that needs to go into your 2022 communications plan. You’ll learn how to:

  • Set goals that bring value
  • Define activities and tactics for your goals
  • Identify key audiences
  • Manage your plan throughout the year (no matter what it brings!)

We’ll also give you a free template for your 2022 communications planning. This session offers real, concrete solutions to the big question: What are we going to do next year?


Brianna: All right, we can go ahead and get started. Hello, everybody. I’m Brianna Martin, I’m the senior Marketing and Events Manager at Mighty Citizen. We’re here today for Building your 2022 Communications Plan, one of our very popular topics. So, thank you for joining us. Before we get started, I just want to go over a few housekeeping items. The total time that we have allotted today for the webinar is 75 minutes. Depending on the questions, we may end a little early.

Like I said, this topic is very popular. Typically, we have lots of questions, so hopefully you can stay with us for most of the time. If you have any questions during the webinar, please make sure you put them in the Q&A section instead of the chat. If you can, this will help us keep them in line and make sure that we can get to them.

Nicole: I’m going to interrupt you before you do that. So I want to point out something here because in since you’re going to hear me talk a little bit about audience research and surveys as part of this. I just want you to know that the reason that this webinar is long is because of an audience survey.

The feedback we kept getting back from our viewers is that we need more time for questions. We need more time for that. So, we’ve allowed for that. This is a value add of, “you said it, we’re delivering it. So hopefully you all have a lot of questions. Okay. Go ahead and continue, Brianna.

Brianna: Good point. And then last but not least, I also put a link in the chat. The presentation slides, a link to the recording, and then a few other tools will be sent to each attendee in the next few days. So don’t feel pressured to take notes. On the slide there, you can see the annual communications plan template that we will be reviewing today. You can go ahead and download it.

I’m going to share that link in the chat right now. That is where you can download it. All right. I’m excited to introduce our speakers today. We have Rachel Clemens, Mighty Citizen’s Chief Marketing Officer, and Nicole Aruajo, our Client Engagement Director. Rachel is going to start off. Rachel, the mic is all yours.

Rachel: Yeah, here we go. Y’all, we’re going to build a 2022 Communications Plan. That’s what’s going to happen. We’re not gonna do it today, but I’m going to set you up for everything you need. I think having a nice, buttoned up communications plan at the end of the year is just like getting a gift from Santa.

For me, it makes my year and sets me up to be really excited to go into the next year. So I hope you are feeling the same. We did this session last year and I started with a collective deep breath of recovery for 2020. I feel like we could probably use this again for 2021. With a deep breath, we are going into 2022 with optimism. That's is my goal today. 

If you’re not familiar with me, I’m Rachel Clemens, the CMO here at Mighty Citizen. I’ve been doing communications for 20 years. 20+ years. My strength is storytelling. My weakness is queso, though I could have chosen any number of things. 

For those of you that may not be familiar, if this is your first introduction to Mighty Citizen, we are a branding, marketing, and digital agency for mission-driven organizations. Effectively, what that means is that we help our clients increase their revenue, build their awareness, and better their communities through areas of business like branding, messaging, campaigns, websites, and analytics—basically anything that’s comms-related, we do it.

I’m joined today by Nicole. Nicole, do you want to give us an intro?

Nicole: I would love to, but first I’d like to say thank you. I’m just so happy that all of y’all are with us today. Your inboxes are full of invitations, and we know you have a lot of different places to be and a lot of different duties to accomplish. It means a lot to us that you’re choosing to learn about a communications plan with us today—so thank you for that. It’s great to be with you. 

I’m Nicole Araujo. I’m the Client Engagement Director with Mighty Citizen. I have been working with associations for well over 20 years. Again, like Rachel, I’m not going to tell you exactly how many years. I even sit on the ASAE Board of Directors, and my strength is communication.

I love it. Face to face is my favorite type of communication. I’m very accustomed to the zoom communication style that has come up over the past few years. Still, overall I’m just genuinely passionate about people, building connections, and doing great work. And that’s why I love to work with organizations like you—the mission-driven ones.

So, my weakness is also communication. Succinct is not typically an attribute that’s used to describe me. Some may say that I can make a short story a long one. I can drag it out a little bit. So keep that in mind. If Rachel goes,“Hey, Nicole, let’s move this forward a little bit,” we’re going to move this forward so we can get to your questions.

The Challenges We Face

Nicole: So, as communications departments, we are faced with a ton of challenges. Current events are a big challenge. In 2021, it feels like it’s just a continuation of 2020 in a lot of ways. We’re still dealing with the pandemic, vaccines, and safety protocols. These are still part of our everyday conversation.

Organizations are taking a deeper dive into DEI (Diversity & Inclusion), which is much needed, but we're also dealing with a lot more. We’re still seeing a lot of shifting priorities. Take events, for example. We have them in-person, then virtual, then in-person, then virtual. We don’t know on a day-to-day basis what’s going on with events.

Our work styles have still changed. Organizations now are leasing their offices. Many are still working virtually. Their members or audiences are working from home, so they don’t have their addresses to do any type of direct mailing campaign. That’s a struggle there. There’s staffing changes. Organizations that I see they’re doing so much more with less.

We’re also faced with supply chain issues and inflation. We were just talking this morning on the coffee call that I hosted about paper supply shortages and the cost of those materials. In the communications realm, that impacts how you’re going to communicate. Governance is still and will always be a challenge for communications teams. The approval process can sometimes be difficult, especially if leadership doesn’t see the value in marketing communications. Sometimes, there are just too many cooks in the kitchen, or you’re waiting on other departments to get their plans together. Sometimes you’re just not on the same schedule.

There’s also an overload of information. We have so many different ways to communicate. Our audiences are overwhelmed. We’re overwhelmed and have to be strategic about how we send information and how we receive information. And I’m going to add something to this. Technology while it’s so great when we can implement new technology. I know many organizations are implementing new marketing automation platforms, AMS systems, new CRMs, or a new website.

While we’re here, it’s great to do that. And the long-term value is there. However, it still disrupts the routine, and certainly, that impact impacts how you disseminate your communications. So a lot is going on on this list.

Rachel: Nicole, I think I added a bullet point at the last minute. The “other people in departments” bullet point. I wish that marketing and communications lived in a vacuum, but we don’t. 

Nicole: And that goes back to some people not being on the same schedule as you are. Let me tell you, Rachel plans out. It takes a lot for me because I have to get on her calendar schedule if I want something is done versus when I want it done. I usually say, “Hey, Rachel, what are you doing? Can we do this tomorrow? Yeah, that’s not going to happen.” 

So we communicate in so many different ways with our audiences. We have direct mail. We have our website. We’re doing webinars like today. There’s social media—but there’s 15 different types of social media. There are magazines and your events. And did I forget to mention that we’re doing surveys, and we’re asking them to participate in research and sending them press releases and videos and podcasts and newsletters and emails?

Then we want them to take advantage of promotions to sell products. As exhaustive as this list is, it’s not complete. There are so many other things that aren’t on this list. So we have to be cognizant of how we work with our clients and with our audiences. How do we communicate to them in the best ways to reach them?

Rachel: I know y’all feel this. I know we all do this, especially. We’re a small marketing team, and last year there were so many things to respond to. It was constant. You couldn’t even really get into a plan. Cause the minute you tried to, something changed, and you had to have a response. It had to be across these different channels and these different messages across different audiences. It has just felt very scattered.

I’m looking forward to what I hope will be sort of back to what normal cadence looks like.

Nicole: Normal cadence. Can you define normal cadence? Cause I don’t know what it looks like. 

Rachel: Planned. Planned.

Nicole: I like that term better than normal. 

Rachel: So much chaos maybe. By the end of this session today, you’ll be able to understand how to own the communications plan.

So who owns it? What does that look like? What does ownership look like? How do you report on it to the people who care about it or maybe should care about it? Identifying what’s in this plan, your goals, your activities or tactics; we’re gonna walk you through all of this. That way you’ll know what you’re going to do next year and also the value of what you’re going to do next year.

We’re going to talk a lot about value in this session—the value of marketing. We’re gonna talk about how to manage your plan. So it’s relevant to your team, your own internal team, assuming you have one—but also relevant to your stakeholders and your leadership. Given the state of the world today, it’s time to really reevaluate.

I think we’ve been in this system of chaos for the last couple of years. I’m hoping we can kind of go “that was weird.” Here’s what worked in the last couple of years, and here’s what really didn’t, and just kind of rethink things as we head into the new year. We will be sharing, and Bri has shared a link to grab a communications plan template in the chat.

And we’re going to walk you through that if you want to go ahead and grab it. Great. You can do that and follow along. You don’t have to grab it right this minute. 

Nicole: And it will be emailed later. So don’t forget that either. 

Rachel: Okay. So, we’re going to fire up a poll. Do you have a marketing communications plan?

Okay. So options are yes, and it’s written down. Yes, but it lives in many places, including my head. Not yet, but I’m in the process of writing it. Not yet, but we plan to this year—or no. And while all of you were getting your responses in, you’ll notice that I have marketing/communications. Here at Mighty Citizen, we don’t distinguish between them as if they’re two different things. Most of our clients are doing both marketing and communications that live in the same department, not large enough to have two different departments. And really, in my mind, comms kind of covers just about everything.

Let’s see our results here. So the highest result was about 35% of you guys said “Yes, but it lives in many places, including my head.” I feel that. And then “Not yet, but we plan to this year”—great! You’re in the right place. And then we’re sort of mixed between, you’re in the process of it, and it’s written down.

We do have “15% who have a written plan, so that’s great.” I imagine you might be here to go, “I have a written plan. Is it what it should be? What do other people put in theirs?” I’ve done a lot of that myself, so thank you. Let’s see. Oh, here’s the results. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize they weren’t shared.

So today there are lots of reasons that we need plans. Okay, there are lots of reasons you probably don’t have a plan. You might be a one-person shop and say, “this is only for me. I don’t need to write it down.” It could be that the world you live in changes so frequently—we felt this last couple of years—and you think, “Well, if I write it down, it’s going to change next week, and it’ll be obsolete, and it’s not worth it.”

But today, everybody is getting that plan. So I’m excited for all of us. We’re playing the part of Oprah today. Me and I’ve always wanted to be Oprah. You get a plan.

Why Plans Are Must-Haves

Rachel: Why are plans must haves? They force you to focus on strategy versus tactics. Think of strategy as what you’re going to do, and the tactics are how you’re going to do it. A lot of times, we want to jump right in. I’m going to do this event. I’m going to write this think piece. Those tactics are not strategies.

Think about why you’d be doing those things. So they kind of force you to do that. If you focused only on tactics, you would be wasting time and energy without a strategy. And none of us have spare time and energy. 

Nicole: And I’m going to say, I’m more of a tactical person. Or at least I’m going to say I used to be. I used to be. In my almost three years working with Rachel and using tools like this, she has trained me to become more strategic. It’s good for me. It’s good for Mighty Citizen. It’s definitely good for Rachel. 

Rachel: Yeah. If you’re thinking about this and your organization, you’re thinking, “How do I get people to be more strategic?” Because we face this a lot. If you’re the only person thinking about strategy, you kind of get dragged into the tactics. Putting that people have to fill out, to think through these things before they just ask you for them is really one of the ways that we have done that internally.

“Hey, Nicole, you have this idea for this piece you want to create. List these three things before you give it to me. Why are we doing it? Who is it for?”

Nicole: She hands me our campaign template, which by the way, can be used for anything in your organization and helps you think through it. Why do we need this? Who’s it going to serve? Why is it important? What happens if we don’t? All of this is done strategy-wise. 

That way, she knows it’s important enough to give it to me before it comes to me. They help me to set goals. How do you know if you’ve accomplished anything? If you don’t know what you’re setting out to accomplish?

We’ll talk a lot more about goals. They help show the value of marketing and communications. You are going to share this plan with the higher-ups and other departments. The plan shows how communications in your department help to reach your organizational goals. That is important. We’re going to talk a lot about the value of marketing, and the way you show your value is to show how you are helping your organization reach its top-level goals. It helps you to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing.

They have to be agreed upon. And it’s easy for people to go, “okay, this sounds good,” but when they know why you’re trying to do something, they’re a little bit more bought in. They help you say, “no, I know this is complicated.” I know not every organization has a culture where you are empowered to say no.

However, when you have a plan, and you share it with the other departments or your higher-ups. They have said, “yep, that sounds good. That ladders up to our organizational goals.” When they want you to come to do something else for them later that takes you off track, it’s easier to tell them that it doesn’t line up with our goals or if it’s a good idea. 

What are we not going to do that we already agreed to do? Because unless you’re getting more staffing, more money, more resources, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be able to do everything. This gives you the power, maybe the authority, to say, no, it still does this. 

Nicole: Rachel does this to me. I often find that because I’m out and about, and I have these ideas. “Oh, this would be great.” I just heard this hot topic. Can we build this new podcast or this new blog article or whatever it is that I need? And she says, “Okay, well, let’s look at our plan. Is it really going to help us achieve those results? Is this something that’s going to make a difference? Can we fit it into our schedule? If not, what can we get rid of? What are you willing to sacrifice for this?”

And she makes me think. And we make that decision together. So it’s really about camaraderie and having consensus from the very start of the year that this is the plan that we’re going to work on and if anything that comes against that, not to say we can’t do it, but we’re going to evaluate it and see how it will fit.

Yeah. So last year we were planning to do an in-person event. And luckily for us, it was in the fall of 2020. When we figured out we couldn’t do that, there were other ideas we could surface up. So sometimes that can happen to you. 

We kind of had the opposite effect. I can now say yes. 

Nicole: She said yes to the last two things I’ve asked her for. I’m just going to put that up. So lookout. 

Rachel: Yeah. It’s about time for no, Nicole. 

Rachel: It helps you build a budget. If you don’t know what you’re doing, how do you know how much money to invest in it? So we’ll talk more about that as well. Tt helps you to align marketing with other departments. So that is key. It helps them see how you’re going to support them and might also help them see what you’re going to need from them throughout the year.

And then, of course, it gets the team moving in sync. And when I say the team, I do mean other departments as well, but mostly, I mean, your team. Some of you are going to be solo departments, but a lot of you do have team members, and it just keeps everybody moving in sync. 

Ownership of the Plan

Let’s talk about ownership of the plan. Your senior-most communications staff member leads it. That is because they are the one that has the big picture over everything. They’re the ones that should be talking to leadership about organizational goals and know what’s coming.

They’re the ones that are more plugged in, so they will draft the initial plan. Then they will solicit ideas from others. First, I always start with my team. So I have three of us on the internal marketing team at Mighty Citizen. So I go, “Hey guys, here’s the plan. Give me feedback on things I’m missing? What have we talked about that’s not in here? Are there any new ideas you have that we want to talk about?”

We get that sort of locked within the marketing department, and then we share it with the sales team and then my boss. And so we then share it up the ladder and make sure people see that their goals are getting met through our work. That’s really important. 

For some of you that might be an exec team. You might be sharing it with a committee, a board committee, perhaps. There are lots of different groups you might need to share it with. But that always lives with that senior-most comms person.

Rachel: The worst-case scenario is you don't share it with them. They don't know it exists six months later, they're asking you for something, and they really don't understand why you can't do it. It does set you up to be able to make those arguments later. 

One of the ways that we think about our plan is by gathering ideas and having an initial brainstorming session to walkthrough. What's going to be in the plan? It's November, and if we're trying to get our plan done by the end of the year, that may or may not happen. But we've got a lot of time.

One way to start is to think, what have we talked about doing for Mighty Citizen? We keep a running log and marketing ideas, and we keep it throughout the year. This is just a spreadsheet basically that anybody can add ideas to. 

And when we go to do our planning, we kind of come through here and go, “What is an idea that might make sense for next year based on our goals?” Some of them are easy once a quarter, revising our thinking on an old blog post. That's pretty easy for us to do. It's not a heavy lift. Creating a marketing maturity scale? That's a heavy lift. 

PS, that's a sneak peek. We are launching a marketing maturity index model in early 2022. So that's one that got a yes last year. You'll see that they go in and out if you say, “No,” it doesn't mean that it was a bad idea. It just means that it isn't a priority. 

So the only thing that gets a yes is something you're prioritizing. 

Nicole: Yep. And I use this tool a lot. As I mentioned, I'm the one that's out at events that is talking with association leaders, and I'm hearing the topics coming back. So, often, as I come back or on my morning coffee, as the topic comes up, I'll go into the tool, fill it out, and Rachel will look at it in her monthly content planning meetings. If it's something that can be done in the meantime, she'll add it to it or swap out content. But if it's a bigger lift, that might be something that gets tabled for the next year, depending on what it is. But At least it's a great tool to be collaborative. And it's really easy. So I don't lose the thought of that idea either. I access this all year long.

Rachel: And it makes it easy because we aren't getting an email every time someone has an idea. So it's been nice for that reason. We have to keep reminding people that it exists because they forget. You know, they forget, but I'll also add here that we keep this running for the year we plan for the year.

So we're going to plan for 2022. We're in the middle of it right now, but our content is only planned quarterly. So that way, we can be more nimble when it comes to our content versus our ongoing planning. 

Okay. Bree has shared this link in the chat, and I think she also shared a direct link.

But if you want to go grab it as we're about to go into the sections of this template, it is an editable word doc. We use it in Google docs so that we can all edit it. So I highly recommend that, and it is completely customizable. If you've got sections that we don't have, go ahead and add them in there if they serve your needs. Or, if something we have in there doesn't fit your needs, go ahead and delete it. It can be yours.

Nicole: There are questions here because people have to fill out the information to download it. Can you explain a little bit how that information is used?

Rachel: Yes. Well, you signed up for this webinar as well, so the same thing. You're going to get monthly insights, emails. There is a monthly newsletter. It gives you information about upcoming events, articles we've written in the last month, and tools, and they're all super valuable.

Nicole: We've gotten really good feedback on them. 

What Goes Into A Communications Plan

Rachel: Okay, great. Let's talk about what goes into a communications plan. Nicole, you're up. 

Nicole; Let's do it. So, a dear association industry leader, John Graham, has been known to say that if you've seen one association, you've seen one association. In my history and working with all of the organizations I've worked with, I feel that that same concept applies to nonprofits, universities, and government entities.

Each organization is very, very unique. If you've seen one, you've visited one. They all face a lot of the same challenges, and they might be similar, but they have different industries and different communication needs depending on those audiences. So, it's really essential that we understand best practices across communications but that we really do the work to create a strategy that's going to really speak to the audiences of that particular organization. So we're going to help you walk through that today. And to help do that, Rachel and I work for Mighty Citizen. We don't have the privilege of sharing our client's communications plans with you today. For fun and to help create a relevant example for this particular session, we created the fictitious “International Association of Mighty Citizens.”

Again, this is a fictitious organization, but we're going to showcase a couple of examples, and we will reference this organization as we go through this session. I also want to use this as a shout out to the many Mighty Citizens in our industry that are on this webinar or that are doing great work and that's you guys today. So thanks for being here. 

So with every campaign, every plan that we do, anything, any initiative that Mighty Citizen has, we go through this checklist, and it defines the organizational summary, the market analysis, the audiences, and the goals. And Rachel is going to kick this off and take you through the organizational summary. 

Organizational Summary

Rachel: Yeah. So if you happen to have that plan in front of you, you'll see this as in the table of contents, this is the order that the plan follows and that we're going to follow today. And the first section is called the Organizational Summary. The first piece within that section is an executive summary.

So you're probably pretty used to this. It's just kind of a short and succinct view of the plan for your executives, including your overarching goals. So what are your big plans for the year? Basically, you're giving anyone insight into what all is in this potentially 10 to 20-page document. 

You don't want your leadership or your execs reading the full document that they don't have time for. They don't need the details of that. So you're going to give them an executive summary, one to two pages, that just tells them what you're going to do for the year.

It is an opportunity to showcase your vision. In broad terms, what's in that plan? You do write it last. If you were to sit there and try to write your executive summary, you would stall and be unable to do it. You're going to fill out everything else first, then come back and write that executive summary once you've been living and breathing your document to get it written succinctly. Also included in this section is your vision. What would the world look like when your work is done? Your mission statement, what do you do every day to accomplish that vision? Those two elements, you probably already have. They are very standards, especially in mission-driven organizations—no need to rewrite them unless they need to relook. Most of you will not need to rewrite them. That's the easiest part of the plan, copy and paste them right in there. And the reason for that is it just reminds people why you're doing anything related to this plan, to begin with. You know, what's the “why” behind everything. You're also going to list your products and services.

What do you offer to people? And what are those things called? Is that what everyone calls them? We'll give you an example. So using the international association, Mighty Citizens, here's what our products and services look like. We have a membership. We have certifications. We have education. We have event advocacy. We even have a foundation. So go ahead and list your products and services along with like, what are the outcomes of those products and services? So that everyone within your organization calls them the same thing. For example, one organization says that they have advocacy. Another organization might say our legislative efforts. So, it doesn't matter what you call it; it needs to be geared toward your organization as long as everybody's speaking the same thing. 

This is an effort to make you think about what you're offering people and ensure that everybody calls it the same thing. And then whatever you decide to call it, those things show up on your website. If you're going to have a section on advocacy, then call it advocacy. So it all ends up across the board.

Go ahead and also list your communications personnel. I saw in the chat, some of you were like, “oh my gosh, I wish I had a comms person.” Well, if you're not a comms person, but you're living the life and having to build a plan as if you're a comms person—put yourself on that list; you belong there. In our dream scenario, the International Association of Mighty Citizens has five people in our marketing department. Well, why not? Why not be bigger when you're dreaming? And so this list includes the titles. You don't need to put someone's name. You can. We happen to do that in ours, but you also don't have to. You can list their title and then list their overarching responsibilities. That's a good practice in general, especially when you're hiring someone new. What are they going to take off of somebody else's plate?

It's an accountability chart. You're listing what each of these people is responsible for. Each organization's structure is different. I wish it were as easy as “Man, we're three people. My fourth person should be an event coordinator.” It's not that simple. Yours may not include these people or these levels. And that's okay. Also, keep in mind that there may be marketing people that are not in your department. So, if you're on the comms team and there's an events team, and they have an event coordinator that handles some of the marketing, you might list them over here because they are doing marketing for the organization.

All right, budget. We talked about value. So if you're not familiar with Peter Drucker, he's a pioneer of 20th-century business thinking, a fantastic person. He has this great quote that says, “The business enterprise has two and only two basic functions, marketing and innovation.”

Drucker says that “marketing and innovation produce results and everything else in the business is cost. Marketing is the distinct, unique function of the business.” What he's really saying here is that marketing is an investment. If you think of it as a cost, it's time to change your thinking. Marketing absolutely provides a return on investment.

If it doesn't, you've got a new goal for 2022 to figure out how it's providing a return on investment. And if it's not, you have to shake things up. So, if you're not thinking of it this way, start there. And then you've got to make sure that your leadership thinks of marketing this way as well. Overall, marketing should be just like stock and increase in value long-term. If your leadership team is not asking you what value you are returning, it's time to think about having those conversations. They absolutely should see your value.

Nicole: Absolutely. And this communications plan and how you communicate it, which we'll get into later, is really going to give you the ammunition you need to make some of those choices and to help leadership understand the value of it. You know, Rachel, I look at this quote and think back that if I had a great new product that I just built in my garage, but I don't tell anybody about it, is anyone going to buy it? 

If you don't tell people, they're never going to come. If you don't ask, they're never going to donate. If you don't show your value and communicate that to them, they will never join. If they don't know about the event, how can they possibly attend? Marketing is a sales function.

I think my role is more of a personification of marketing versus an actual revenue-generating role. I'm revenue-generating, but you're just as revenue-generating. 

Rachel: Yeah, that's right. I mean, we all lived through 2020. We saw a lot of marketing budgets getting cut. It should be seen as an investment.

Nicole: And there’s a lot of education that can be done in our industries and organizations themselves. And sometimes that takes baby steps too. 

Rachel: Speaking of budget, We all have that link that Brianna has been sharing. We have a new budget tool connected to it. We’re all building our budgets, and there is a marketing and communications budget template available. And again, you can add to it or take things out as you need to, but that’s the budget that we use that we build in. 

Nicole: All right guys, we’re gonna talk a little bit about market analysis, everybody.

Market Analysis

Okay. Mighty Citizen, here in our operation, we cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your audiences and the trends you’re facing in your industry. So I’m going to ask you, “have you completed any market research? Do you need to? Do you know the upcoming trends and challenges that are facing your marketplace?”

If not, you need to do this research. You’re going to look two years, five years, ten years out, and see what’s going to be happening. That foresight will help you in how you communicate and grow the organizations you work with. You can get this information in many different ways.

You can do surveys and ask your members, donors, supporters, and other audiences. Ask other organizations like associations, industry partners, or for-profit companies that often conduct research and read those reports. There are other industry blogs and resources where you can get that information to understand the industry trends.

Do you also need to have a good handle on your market position? Where do you sit in the marketplace, and what makes you especially compelling? Consumer Brands cause this market share. What metrics do you use? How are you comparing yourself to others? Is it locally regional organizations? Nationally? Are you differentiating your market position? Are you doing that based on budget and membership on growth or Google search results? There are a million different ways to measure it, but your organization has to dive in and ask, “How can I find out where I sit in my industry and my market?” So we also need to understand your unique value proposition.

What do you do better than anyone else, and how do you showcase this? And I’m going to make a note here because in 2020, we did a lot of work with organizations on crafting that value proposition. Because there is a often a very big disconnect in what you see as an organization in what you offer versus what your users and your audiences hear. We can often fill that gap by having that outside view take a look at that and really see what they’re hearing and create that messaging that speaks to that value proposition. So that is something that we’ve seen organizations struggled within 2020. 

So, lastly, I want to talk about understanding your competition. What are they doing well? What are their weaknesses? How do you position yourself against them? 

Remember, competitors, aren’t always other associations or nonprofits or universities. It’s who is pulling the attention away from your audiences. My guess is Netflix right now. Any warm day will take my attention away from anything I’m doing for those of us who are dying for warmer weather.

As an example for the International Association of Mighty Citizens, our competition would include other agencies. Educational content coming from associations or industry partners, perhaps even like the American Marketing Association, is what I would see as our competition. But what we’re tasked with as communicators are solving how do to prove to our audience that their time is better spent with us, our resources, our events, and our tools. Using our education, all of this information includes the industry research, the market position, the value proposition, the information on your competitors; all of that will help you fill in the gaps to create that communications plan to address all of those areas.


You guys are complicated entities, but you know this. Even the most simplistic one amongst you has complications. The truth is that you’re speaking to so many different audiences. You have to create communications that speak to each of those in different ways, in many cases, in order to get action from your audiences. Nonprofits are tasked with donors, but they not only have donors, they have individual givers or major donors or corporate giving. You have your funders, your clients, your volunteers or community leaders. Associations, there are so many different types of membership.

You have your prospective members, current members, lapse members, new members, students, associates, and international members. Then you have your chapters and your components, volunteers, donors, legislators, community leaders, and the general public at large. Universities are no less complex.

Students, alumni, donors, parents, faculty, staff, community leaders, and government agencies. It really depends on what project you’re on. I mean, you could be building something for mothers. You could be building something for families. You could be building something for seniors. The general public, federal, and state leaders get buy-in agencies, government employees, and contractors. The audiences are immense, especially when you dig in there. So part of this communications plan is really digging in and finding out who your target audiences are and how you’re going to prioritize them in 2022.

How do you decide who gets the most attention? The audiences as a whole change. This year we might’ve been focused on legislative buy-in and getting some bills passed. Next in 2022, we’re focused on membership and growing and retaining membership. So those are two different focuses. And so from year to year, you have to look at this. You can’t just assume that last year I focused on this as my primary audience. Next year, I’m going to do the same audience. You really have to look at this on an annual basis.

Okay. It is poll time again. So I’m going to ask if you currently have audience personas or user profiles?

So I’m going to define those a little bit for you before you jump in and answer. Both of these are used in similar ways, but a user profile is at a higher level. Overview and deeper dive persona contain demographics, motivations, and pain points, but a persona requires a lot more in-depth research time and budget to create. A user profile is often created based on what we think and what we believe, and what we’ve heard with some minor research to confirm it. So it can often be done in a much quicker process. Both of them are very viable. But I wanted to know who’s using them. 

So let’s see what, let’s give you a little bit of time to answer those results.

33% said they don’t have them. 13%, said not yet, but we plan to this year. 11% said not yet, but we’re in the process. 18% said that they do, and they are written down. 24% said, yes, but they mostly live in my head. About 40% overall who have something. you have something in the chat. 

Great! We’re going to talk a little bit more about personas. 

Okay, so I’m going to work through these examples. But before I do that, I want to kind of further explain personas and dive in a little bit deeper. So again, personas are really concrete representations of your audiences. They include demographic data like age, roles, length of time in the industry, and psychographic information.

Why are they engaging with your organization? What motivates them? What are they hurting? What are their challenges? Personas answer, “what are your users challenged with and what are they trying to do when they engage with you, and why are they turning to you to fix it?” So that answers all of these questions.

And again, all of this information comes from surveys, stakeholders, interviews, focus, group research, and all of that industry data you can obtain. So when you have a persona, you can create a targeted communication plan that speaks to your audience in the place where they find their media and in the language and messaging that they understand.

And that’s essential. I want to caution you, though, that you’ve seen the really big, vast amount of audiences that your organizations are dealing with. There’s a ton of audiences. And you could spend all of 2022 slicing and dicing and creating personas for all the different types of audiences, and that’s going to be way too much, and you’ll never reach your goals because you’ll spend so much time on building personas.

So be really particular and prioritize based on your organizational strategies to define what audiences you’re going to create these personas for and how you’re going to use them. Don’t create them and let them sit. This is something that you want to create to build and strengthen your communications.

Rachel: So you could create for everybody, but you better have a big team on your shoulders to support. 

Nicole: I don’t even think our team of five fictitious, Mighty Citizen communications team members could do that. They could not. 

Rachel: Another thing I’ll add is that if you are thinking about your comms plan for 2022, and we are on this personas section and you’re like, “I do not have this done. Oh my gosh. I don’t have the time or resources to get this done before I do this comms plan.” That is okay. Personas take time. They take resources. You may not have them right now. But you can use what you do know about your audiences to get some idea of who you’re going to talk to this year. We’ve seen that list of all the audiences that we have. We probably can’t give them all equal attention this year. So highlight the ones you are going to focus on as it relates to your goals in that marketing plan; you can say this year, we’re going to focus more on these audiences, these other audiences we’re going to serve with some content or something, but they’re just not as crucial in 2022. So that is okay. Don’t let a lack of personas or user profiles slow down your momentum. 

Nicole: Not at all. And I challenge you if you don’t have personas and don’t have profiles, start that data. Just start collecting the data. What do you know about this one audience type? And then, when you run into that person at a meeting or that type of member in your communications, ask them a couple of questions and dig in a little bit deeper. Even if you come back next year and know three more things about that audience type, that’s a huge success. You can do the small wins. You don’t have to do this big gigantic project. 

So in the case of the International Association of Mighty Citizens, we chose degree two personas. A new member persona, who is Annette, just recently joined. She’s been to a webinar or two and is dipping our toes in the water of “what is membership and why am I here?” She knows she needs something. She’s looking for something. So we’re going to take all the information that we created on her, or we’re going to use all of that to acquire new members and new audiences. Then on the right, we have Steven. Steven is the dream member. He has been highly engaged for many, many years. He even sat on our board. He encourages all of his staff to use our education and even to get certified with our programs. He is the person and the persona that we’re going to use to create all of our renewal and retention marketing—to create more engagement with existing audiences. So that’s how we’re going to use these.

And you can see in each of those samples; there’s different pain points. There are different reasons why they came, why they joined, why they stayed. All of that information is going to help us build our messaging and communications platforms. 

All right. So you have your audiences, you’ve chosen, let’s say, audience types that you’ve created personas for, and that you’re going to target in 2022. And now what we want you to do is actually list out some of your key current members, donors, customers, and audiences. The ones that you really want to target this year. So these are people who are maybe three years in, and you just want them to attend more events or whatever their motivation is. You want them to engage more with your organization. So you’re going to write them down, and you’re going to figure out how you’re going to work that into the communications plan to target them and grow that current membership or that current audience. Then you’re going to list out your prospective members, donors, customers, or audiences. You know who these people are.

These are the people that when you see their name, you’re asking “Why haven’t they joined yet? Why haven’t they donated to my cause? I see they’re right on the cusp, but they just haven’t made it over the finish line here.” Those are the companies that we want you to list in that target prospective member section.

Okay. Then we want you to look at channels. Where are people engaging with you? Is it on social media? And if so, which one is it? LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Snapchat, YouTube. There are so many options. And again, you can’t be everywhere. I’m going to say that you can’t be everywhere and you can’t be everything to everyone. But is it through your emails? Is it through your newsletters or your events? Figure out what channels these individuals, the ones you’ve listed down, are engaging with you. That’s where you want to show up so that this is how you decide how to target them and create that communications plan.


So the personas or profiles you’ve created will help you target and reach those audience members you’re looking for. 

Rachel: All right. Goals are the last section. Y’all, we’re nearing the finish line here. I want you to set three communications goals. Three is about right. And you don’t have to set three, but I have found that three is about the right number. And you want them to be big goals. I’ll give you an example of this in a minute. But they are large. You can’t over-commit. So we have three people on our staff in our department. So I have a general sense of what three people can get done. We’ve been doing that this year. I have some sense of that. What I’m not going to do is try to put too much into the plan. And then we never get to things. People are counting on those things. I try to limit what what we say we can do. We had a question the last time we gave this webinar, and somebody asked, “How do you make room for those things that just come up?” Because truthfully, we can plan today for 2022, but by. May, June, there’s just going to be things that pop up that we didn’t plan for. So I always buffer, I say, okay, “I know three people can get roughly this much done. I’m going to put 85% into the plan. I’m going to leave a little buffer of about 15% for things that I don’t know and can’t anticipate” We know they’re going to come. So I plan for what we can get done at about an 85% level. You’re going to list these goals in order of priority. The first goal is the one that has to get done. The second one is next. It’s in priority order. And the reason for that is when something comes up as it will, you can quickly identify what should get cut because the stuff at the bottom is the stuff that’s just not as important. 

These goals should be broad and strategic. Remember, they are laddering up to organizational goals. If your organization has a goal to increase revenue by 10%, whatever that looks like for your organization next year, you have to have marketing goals that will help reach that 10% revenue number. Your leadership should be able to see their goals in your plan.

This is what our fictitious 2022 goals look like for the International Association of Mighty Citizens. This is where they show up in the executive summary. They also show up in the goals section but remember I told you in the executive summary that you list out your goals. Here’s what that might look like.

So our goals are to retain membership in our fictitious world. We saw an increase in members over 2021, and we want to maintain them in 2022. We also want to increase our revenue through the usage of our products and services. And we’re a new organization as of this meeting, so we are going to increase our brand awareness. You’ll notice that these don’t have metrics when they’re listed in the executive summary. We’re going to get to that next. I’ll show you how to build those in. But just note that in that executive summary, you’re listing the very high level, and you see how they’re big goals again. If our goal is to increase, our organizational goal is to increase revenue by 10%; you can see that showing up in our goals.

Under Goals, you’re going to list activities that are needed in order to reach that goal. This is where your tactics come in. So if the goal is to retain membership, what needs to happen in order to reach that goal? You might have somewhere between one and five activities per goal. For those activities, how will you measure whether those activities are successful?

We’re going to take a look at an example here in a minute. So every goal should have been met, or every activity should have a metric. Make sure you understand how you’re going to measure success. And then what tactics are needed to complete that activity. This is where your little tasks come in. All those little things you get to do every day through the year. The tactics are laddering up to activities and goals. So it’s just a structure now that you make sure those tactics you’re doing are actually leveraging up to something. Here’s an example of what this looks like for the International Association of Mighty Citizens. By taking our number one goal to retain membership, the first activity we need to do is improve our new member onboarding experience. We know that we have to make sure that they have a great experience right out of the gate to retain members. So, we need to have them experience the value of their membership and their benefits right away. And we know that membership is an emotional decision, so we need to connect them to the organization quickly, have them find their people, their local network, and facilitate conversations for them. So, that’s our number one activity. How will we know we’ve been successful? We will see an 80% renewal in year one.

Now you’re, if you’re an association, you have members, your number could be anywhere on the scale of zero to 100 in terms of renewal. For us, we think we can get eight out of 10 people to renew in year one. How do you set your metric? I think this is really important. A lot of times, if we’re doing a new goal, we don’t really know what that metric should be. We don’t have any experience with that goal or any benchmark data for our organization, but there’s usually something that exists to help you set a metric. Whether it’s your own Google Analytics, maybe you’ve got some web data that would help inform what your metrics should be. There may be industry benchmarks; maybe the association that serves your industry has done some research and has bits of information about this. There are also organizations that put out research. For example, say you’re a nonprofit, and you’re going to try digital ads for the first time. There is data out there that says that most nonprofits that run digital ads see this much engagement and have this many likes. Those things you can put in here. Talking to others, that’s really important.

Do you have resources to talk to other people within your industries who maybe have done something like this before? Can they give you an idea of what your metrics should be? It needs to be based on something. At the worst, it’s based on your best gut instinct but really would probably base it on something. Because if you’re guessing, it’s hard to get people to invest in it. 

I will often set a stretch metric. I like to do this because sometimes, what happens is we end up hitting our goal earlier than we expected. And then I’m like, oh. 

Nicole: Rachel’s also an overachiever. If anybody can realize and see that. 

Rachel: I am! Thank you! But yes, I’ll set a stretch metric. Sometimes we hit it, and sometimes we don’t, and that’s totally fine because it’s a stretch. Then you’re going to list your tactics. So what are the things that have to happen in order to improve your new member onboarding experience? In our example, we’re going to work on a welcome kit, both digital and print options, with clear instructions on how to register and access members-only content.

So again, getting them set up right away. We have a Mighty Citizen badge. That’s fun. I like that. And a benefit reminder document. We’re going to send them monthly newsletters and social posts showcasing single benefits. We have a lot of benefits. We’ll make sure they understand them and know the steps on how to use them.

We’re going to have a welcome call, a welcome call from the chapter, and give them a social shout-out on our national organization. We’re thinking big here. Then we’re going to review new member stats and identify trends for inactive members. These are the things; these are the tasks that have to happen. So when I go and figure out what my team needs to do, this is my compass. These are the things you’re going to do to ladder up to that activity, that ladders up that goal.

Nicole: And this is why she says three goals only. They’re going to get big. You know, we want to increase annual meeting attendance. Well, that’s because statistically, our research shows that retained members have attended our annual meetings. So we want those first-year members to get into that annual meeting right away. Rachel, I just want to be conscious of the time here is 3:27, and we have them; this overachieving audience has at least 20 questions in the group.

So we want to move this forward a little bit. 

Rachel: Yeah, we’re good to go. This is the last section. Let’s go ahead and open the poll. 

Nicole: Yep. We’re going to talk about managing the plan. So how often do you think you need to check back in, or how often do you check back in on this plan now? Do you do it more than monthly? Quarterly?

Rachel: I can tell you right now that 42% are saying they don’t have a marketing communications plan. So a lot of people don’t have a regular cadence. That’s the most popular one. The one that 27% say they just don’t really check it back on it in any regularity.

How to Manage the Plan

Nicole: Well, we’re going to make that easy on you here. Okay. Let’s move forward here. So we want you to check the status of the plan, at least monthly. You just want to glance at it, take a look at it, make sure that everything is moving in the right direction. Is it where it should be? Do you need to make any strategic changes? You’re going to go in and do an update every single quarter. And the reason we want you to do that because we want you to make notations in that so that you can report back about it. And you want to capture some metrics at each quarter when you do that. 

So at Mighty Citizen, we use a lot of Google docs. This is a great way for our team to stay collaborative with each other. It’s also a really great way to see updates and history quickly. But taking you back to the example—Rachel had said our top goal is to retain member growth. And as part of that, we’re going to fast forward.

So let’s assume that now, as of September 30th, 2022, we’re looking at this report, and Rachel has said, “Yes, we have, we have hit 85% of that goal. Our plan is working. We’re doing what we need to do. We’re now heading towards that stretch.” This is why we do this because you want to look back, and you should be able to see each quarter and see the updates that are happening here in one place.

And anyone who has access to this document can see it. But you’re also going to share that we’re going to show you how to share that. I want to mention, because going back to the plans that we create may need to be changed. It’s the reality. If we go back to the crazy year, that was 2020—I know we’ve tried to forget it, but we can’t. 

The fact is that once the pandemic hit, we had to scrap our whole entire plan. We decided at that point, do we revise it or do we scrap it? And so much had changed with the world that we said, we’re going to table that one, and we’re going to start fresh with fresh eyes. How do we help our audiences at this point? So you’ll know when it’s time to modify and do a quick change within the document or when it’s time to start from scratch again. So trust your gut on that. In managing the plan, you want to make sure that you share the plan and the updates with the team and keep everyone moving in the right direction. We really suggest that you share with your executives on a quarterly basis. And when I say executives, that could be the board; it could be committees. But it’s especially anyone who’s giving you funds. That’s extremely important. You want to make sure that you’re sharing updates with them at least quarterly and the value of those updates and the values alone.

Rachel: Numbers alone don’t tell the story, especially for people who are not trained in communications. So when you’re sharing numbers with them, make sure you explain to them what those numbers actually mean and how they ladder up to the organizational goals. 

Nicole: It’s almost you’re showing how the comms team is actually helping with the lift of the entire organization. So you also want to share with the, with the full staff, periodically kind of throughout the year at a higher level. But we want them to have some buy-in into what you’re doing and showcase the value of the communications team and how they’re supporting the organization as a whole. So you’re going to do that. Most importantly, anytime you get a new staff member, you want to show them these communications plans that again as part of that onboarding program. From the start, they know what you guys are doing. And if that new employee is a CEO or CFO, you really need to make sure that you showcase not only what you’re doing but how that ladders up to the organizational goals. Sharing this information gives you visibility, which allows you to say, “Hey, I need a new staff member, and here’s what I could get done with this new staff member.” It allows you to do that when they know what’s happening. 

Okay. So we don’t want to over-complicate things or make your lives harder. We know you have a lot to do. We want to make sure that you’re sharing the right bit of information at the right level. And this graphic really narrows that down for you. So we suggest giving a bite-sized bit of information to the full staff on a periodic basis. You’re going to make sure that they’re aware and share your success stories. You want to give a snack size to the executive team on a quarterly basis. Again, what you’re doing, how it ladders up to your, to the goals, statistics, and ROI. Any numbers that you have that group really likes to see. The communications team needs to get a full meal on a continual basis. This is your army on the ground. They are doing the work for this whole entire communications plan to be successful. So they really need to see that full picture. They also need to know where they stand so that they can identify when things need to change so that they can achieve the results that you’ve set forward. If you can create this communication cycle, everyone is going to be aware of where you stand, what successes you had, and the value that the communications department is building.

It can even create an environment where you’re working better together. When they understand why you do some of the things you do, they might have fewer complaints about why they have to go through the communications department when they want to post something on social media or add it to the newsletter or why they have to follow brand guidelines. But they really need to understand what you’re doing and its impact when they do that. And so, keeping that communication line open really helps. It builds trust that the comms team is on task and that we know what we’re doing. 

Summing It All Up

Rachel: Okay. So, to sum it all up, you need a written communications plan. I feel confident you are all going to have this as you head into 2022. Don’t over-commit on your goals, but do think big. It’s important to think big and then go tactical from there, but don’t overdo it and overtax your team. Get buy-in from the team, primarily your leadership. Make sure they’re looking at this and understand the value of it. Set clear metrics on what success looks like, and then track those and report on the quarterly. Brianna’s been sharing the slides and the annual compliment template. Those things can be found on mightycitizen.com/commsplan, along with an editorial content calendar and that marketing and comms budget. Now Bri, I’ll hand it over to you for questions!

 Nicole: As I mentioned, Brianna, I’m going to hand it over to you for questions. 

Brianna: Alrighty. Yeah, we have lots of questions, which is great. There were some that I was trying to consolidate because they were similar. Let me share the link one more time. So there are two recurring things that I thought would be good to answer right off the bat. There are a lot of people that are either one-person teams or a team of very small staff going through the entire template. It’s a bit overwhelming for them. It’s a lot of work. The question is, “Is there a way to still use the info and a smaller capacity? Is there something that’s a little more simplified, or would you recommend it? Or should we go through the plan all the way through? 

There’s part of me that is thinking, “I know it’s going to take a long time, but doing that work on the front end is going to save so much time in the long run.” Thinking of it that way. But Rachel, if you have any suggestions also to maybe trim it down or make it a little easier for smaller teams, that would be great.

Rachel: Yeah. I mean, you can make it what you need it to be. On the organizational summary part, I would definitely keep the mission and vision and the executive summary. Those are pieces that are really important. Maybe you don’t need to list your products and services. Maybe you’ve got a good handle on that already.

Maybe you don’t need to list out the team. It’s just one person. There are definitely things you could cut there. You gotta do your budget. That’s necessary. On the market analysis side, those can be a couple of paragraphs, honestly. You can actually link over to research and say you did some Googling and found a great piece on where your industry’s headed to say, “Hey, we’re going to follow this. We think this is right on.” And here’s a link over to it. That doesn’t have to be your own content necessarily. 

On the audience side, we talked about the need for not necessarily having full-on personas if you don’t have time or resources for that. But do jot down who your audiences are, what the segments are, and which ones you’ll serve. I think that’s really important.  

You’ve got to do the goals. There’s really no cutting that section. 

Nicole: I think I’m going to mention this here because I’m a convert to this type of strategic thinking and the templates that our team has created. I will say that I often get very overwhelmed thinking, “I don’t have this information.” 

But when I sit down and start answering the questions in the template, I know more than I think I know. It’s just literally dedicating a couple of hours to sit down and go through it. And if I don’t have it, I find it or find the organization’s contact who does have it and ask some key questions. It does not have to be perfect, especially in the first year, but you’re putting it on paper and moving towards that more strategic direction.

And you’ve got to pat yourself on the back for that. But if you’re like you and me, you sit there, and you’re thinking, “I don’t have any of this information,” you do have it. It’s inside of you—your audiences, where they are. You might not be perfect, but it’s going to be pretty accurate.

Brianna: So, you had mentioned the audience profiles or personas, and there were a few questions about that. One I thought was really good was asking about how you develop them. So do you develop personas from focus groups or from research, or both? 

 Well, actually, it can be from either or both. Our team tends to build personas by starting a discovery with the internal teams to better understand your current audiences. Then we do an audience survey and some focus groups or stakeholder interviews. We tend to do stakeholder interviews over focus groups because they tend to be less biased. Sometimes you get a heavier voice in the room that kinda commandeers the conversation in a focus group. So we want to make sure that it’s unbiased. And then we confirm some of the hypotheses that we have, or we get blown away with new things that we discover. That’s how we start building it.

We also look at analytics, and we look at the results of what channels they’re coming in on. So it’s an evaluation of what you have available, honestly. And then what are we’re able to obtain. Rachel, do you want to add to that?

Rachel: Yeah. See, someone asked if we had a stakeholder interview template.

We don’t because they’re so custom to the client. But we do have survey information on our website. If you were to go to the website and search for surveys, you’re going to find a webinar on how to do surveys and then also a guide on how to create survey questions. I’ll tell you that when it comes to personas, it’s really easy to bias them. There are not a lot of things where I say you probably should hire somebody to do that, but this is one of them. It can be really easy to get them wrong.

Brianna: Okay. Let’s see. Do you think it would make sense to do an annual communications plan as well as a quarterly comms plan? 

Rachel: I think the reason somebody thinks they might need that is that the annual plan is really big. They think that maybe you need to get more tactical with the quarterly plan. You could definitely do that. For us, I could keep going. If we create an onboarding experience and I create a welcome kit—that welcome kit has 12 tasks, I better write it and edit it and create it. So there, there is a bunch of that, that you could go more narrow quarterly.

Suppose you felt the need to do that. For us, we have a project manager that helps us. So we were able to do that without doing that. 

Brianna: Thank God for those project managers. Okay. Our organization has a well-written comms marketing plan, but some of our staff see it as written in stone and are resistant to adapt to a circumstance when circumstances change, which I assume could be the case for other people.

So how, how can you help move them to be a little more and be less resistant?

Rachel: To be a little more flexible? I think the reason I would try to ask questions like “why can’t we have flexibility is because so much upfront work has already been done that like I’m 70% there. We might as well finish this out.”

I could see that being it. I think you could say, “we could get rid of this and add this instead. What do you think about that?” I think probably the main reason they have a lack of flexibility is that it feels like it is because they’re overwhelmed already. How can you remove overwhelm? 

Brianna: Let’s see. What are your suggestions on how to move your leadership executives to create timely company goals that you can use in your own planning? On that same line, somebody else said, “how do you go about making your own goals when your organization does need to have strategic goals?”

Rachel: Yeah, I did that reaction initially because I actually had to fight Mighty Citizen, who used to set our strategic goals in November. I fought this year and got them in October for this reason. A lot of people don’t have that relationship. 

But how do you ask your leadership to set goals? Maybe you’re not asking all of the leadership to set goals. Maybe you go to your boss and say, “I’ve got to set goals for next year.”

If we’re not setting goals and measuring, how do we know we’re successful? Ask them to work with you, put some time on their calendar, and get some goals set—at least for you. If not for the whole organization. For timeliness, you might just be doing your planning into January. That wouldn’t surprise me.

Nicole: Is there a way to showcase the value of setting those goals early?

Rachel:  I mean, especially if you’re budgeting. Budgeting is the reason you would do the goals early. It’s hard to know what you’re going to budget until you know what your plan is. And usually, our budgets have to be locked.

Brianna: A few people had asked this, and I saw in the chat, they were saying that the senior communications person should be the one that’s managing and leading. Oftentimes there’s not a person like that or where it’s a one-man show. How do you decide who that person is?

Rachel: If you’ve got three people and none of you are comms people, there’s one of you that’s more inclined to understand comms and be thinking about the message. Unfortunately, it’s going to fall to that person, or it’s just not going to get done—but that, of course, is not a good option. 

Brianna: Alright. How do we best discern what is truly valuable out of all the info we are bombarded with? So many things are branded as new or cutting edge, and they’re just being renamed. So what do we do? 

Rachel: Do you think the person’s asking, “how do we know what to prioritize for ourselves or when we’re looking at?

Brianna: I think maybe I kind of read it to be referring to cutting edge things in marketing and maybe things that you want to try or do.

Rachel: So I love to steal. Stealing is one of the best things you can do. As mission-driven organizations, we don’t have money to play around with. Let’s go let everybody else figure out what’s actually going to work now. By that, I don’t mean let’s wait ten years. Let’s be aware of what the cutting edge looks like and what it is. Let’s watch people who are doing it and see if it works for them.  

You and most people in mission-driven organizations are willing to talk to other people in mission-driven organizations. We have hearts. We want to help people out. If I were working at a small nonprofit and I saw the International Rescue Committee was doing something really cool with digital ads retargeting, I’d try to reach out to somebody there and see if I couldn’t talk to them. Even if they’re not going to give you time, but I think stealing is a great idea. See what’s working.

Brianna: Yeah. Somebody said it’s re-purposing, not stealing?

Rachel: Well, I feel like an artist, which was a Picasso.

Brianna: Alright, someone else is asking to share the marketing decisions matrix that was just referenced earlier. I think maybe. 

Rachel: I was just going to have you ask if it was what we’re releasing next year? T

Brianna: Oh no, It was the chart that said yes, no, yes. There you go. So it’s something that we keep all year round, and people just add to it, and then we’ll decide if it’s something that we’re going to do or not do.

Rachel: We go through and look at it yearly. Honestly, you probably should be looking at it quarterly. 

Brianna: Alright, we’re about at time. We do have a lot more questions. If people want to stay on, we can ask a few more. And then maybe just three or four more, I, we still have a decent amount of people on.  

Nicole: There is one I want to challenge Rachel with because I just love this. It says, “I would love to discuss tactics and measurement behind increased brand awareness.”

Rachel: Ooh. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. We recorded a video last week about how you measure brand awareness. So it’s going to be coming out in the next few months, but this one’s really hard. I mean, as long as there have been comms people, we’ve been trying to figure out the answer to this one. I would say there are generally two ways to do this. One is with some sort of research. We always see this with the rebrand. So, if I were going to rebrand, the first question I’m going to ask is, “how do I know it’s successful at the end of the day?”

It costs a lot of money to rebrand, so I would run a survey before I rebranded. I would ask people, “what do you think we do? What do you think our brand means?” I would ask perception questions and like, “how often do you interact with our brand?” So you run the survey, and a year later, after the rebranding, you run another survey to compare the results. 

So that’s one way to measure brand awareness through market awareness type stuff. Another way is through quantitative numbers. This is like how much direct traffic we get to our website. If that number is growing, you probably have growing brand awareness. They’re typing your name directly in the URL box. How much traffic do we have overall? Our revenue is growing. If you’re an association that has education offerings, are people getting more certifications or engaging with my content. Figure out what growth looks like, and then brand awareness usually tracks pretty closely.

Brianna:  Okay, let’s see what else. Okay, “My org has always produced a comms plan and a word doc table with lots of columns, but not a lot of details—mostly a running list. What do you think of this type of plan?”

Rachel: I think that can work. I mean, honestly, the plan that works best is a plan that works for you. Right. If it provides enough information to show value, right? Yeah. 

Brianna: And I think having those goals, if they’re not already in there, is really important. 

Alright, next question. Do you use or have recommendations for implementing a plan through a project management tool? 

Rachel: I think what they might be wondering is the project management software. We use teamwork, but there’s also Asana and all the other ones. We take those tactics, and they become tasks, and then they have sub-tasks. So we do use our project management tool for every project we do, client or otherwise.

They get tasks for them and people and time and all that other stuff.

Nicole: Can I interrupt with one here? So this was asked earlier on, Rachel. You’re a small but mighty marketing communications team for sure. And I’ve seen you do some amazing things, but the question was, “how do you help leadership see the benefit in prioritizing projects?” Sometimes, there can be a perception that everything can be done now and needs to be done now with a small team resource. And I know you, you see this; what advice would you give? 

Rachel: A lot of that comes down to relationships, so it’s sort of hard to answer that question. For me, I just say, “where are my resources?” If you want to do all of that, here’s what it’s going to take. I’m going to need another 20 hours a week from somebody, and I’m going to need this. If not, I’ll need an outside consultant, and here’s what that would cost. As the leader of that department, you have to be the champion for the people that work within it. Nobody’s going to be the voice if you’re not. It seems hard to me that people would think the department wasn’t pulling a hundred percent. We don’t see that in mission-driven organizations. Everybody’s pulling 120%. So it’s just a matter of saying no at that point. You got to get real good at just being a little-bit strong-willed.

Nicole: I will say from my perspective. I’m a little high in the sky. I’ll say, “look what I thought of today. Rachel, can we do this?” You know, I think having the tools and putting this in place and setting those expectations. I mean, Rachel has no problem whatsoever coming to me and saying, “Nicole, great idea, love it. But what are we cutting off the table to make that happen? Does that take priority over this priority?” Saying, “I have this amount of staff. This is how they’re working.” It’s a conversation of, again, that communication with leadership to say, here’s what our capacity is. We can’t possibly do everything. So, where do you prioritize? And I think that communication’s really helped with that. You could also say, “Hey, we have this other big initiative we’re working on. We were set to launch in January. If you want to do this, we’re not gonna launch that until April. How do we get that coming up? I can’t do anything before that big event. How did we get to hire Brianna this year?”

I did a budget that, or it wasn’t a budget. It was more like a list of priorities. And I said I had a column for good, better, and best. Good was Jarrett and me as we stand today. Here’s the things we can get done. If I have Brianna the better option, here are the additional initiatives I can add now that I have Brianna. And then I had the best, which included some interns. Which we didn’t get because you always put the thing you really think you need in the middle. And I said, with interns, we can also do this. And so Nick, our CEO was then able to say, well, that’s really important to me, so I guess what, I better find some money. 

Brianna: Yeah. And we were able to show that we were able to get to better. Yeah. At the end of this year, we’ll have done the things I said we could do with an extra person. 

Nicole: I can’t stress the importance of tracking everything that you do, like really finding what those key performance indicators are and what you’re going to track to showcase the success, which will then give you the ammunition for the things you want in 2023 and 2024.

Brianna: So on that note, I think we’re going to wrap it up cause we went around 10 minutes over. Thank you so much for everyone’s questions. Rachel, Nicole, thank you. It was a great conversation and presentation. As a reminder, the slides recording will be sent out to everyone who registered, and then as you exit the webinar, you’ll be taken to a post-webinar survey. I will love it if you take a minute to tell us what you think. We really take our audience feedback very seriously, for example, like having this webinar as long as we had it today, which is obviously a good thing. We take all your feedback seriously. So thank you so much, everyone. And we will see you next time. 

Nicole; And if y’all have any issues with downloading things, just email us, or if you’re interested in working with Mighty Citizen, reach out to us as well. All right. Have a good day.

If you have any questions about what we talked about today you can always email us at hello@mightycitizen.com. Thanks everyone for attending, have a good rest of your day.