Strategy Step 1: Determine Where You Are Now

So, you want to dive in and create a communications strategy for your organization. Great! 

Now what?

Your first step is to take a step back and figure out where you are now. You are looking to develop a comprehensive picture of all the various ways your organization is communicating about itself. You may not have materials that fit into all of these categories; pull together what you do have and ignore the rest.

  • Print Collateral | Sometimes it makes sense to clear off a space and just start piling samples of materials that represent your communications tactics. Start a pile of all of the brochures, flyers, newsletters, information sheets, and whatever else you're putting out there to represent your organization. It can be very useful to see all of these things in one place.
  • Environmental | Take some photos of any banners, signage, posters, or any other external/environmental collateral that you produce (or, if feasible, drag these things in too) and add them to your pile.
  • Advertising | Look at your latest advertising efforts and pull together details and examples from recent campaigns. Make a list at all of the venues you are working with and compile a quick overview of your advertising budget.
  • Public Relations | What does your recent public/media relations look like? Have you gotten any recent press? What coverage has worked well/not so well? What has been the results and impact of your recent PR efforts? What are the expenses associated with your media outreach? Draft a short report to summarize your current PR situation.
  • Digital Outreach | Print out a few recent email newsletters and screenshots of your social media profiles. This is also a great opportunity to pull together all of the stats/analytics for your digital landscape so that you have a sense of how they're working together, what audiences you're connecting with, where you have some potential for growth, and what might not be working as well any more.
  • Website | This is also a great opportunity to conduct a website audit. That's a topic for a future blog post (I will link back here once it's published), but in a nutshell: start an Excel doc. Every row is a page on your website. Add columns for section, content, and any other relevant info. This can give you a very useful snapshot of how your website is organized and allows you to start to think about how you might better organize, connect, and showcase that content--and also shows you what might be redundant or missing.
  • Blog | If you have a blog, take a look at the specific metrics for that channel and think about what content seems to be resonating with your audience. Create a summary of the last twelve months (or more) that indicates how often you've been posting, what general categories your posts fall into, and how you're distributing this content through your other channels.
  • Analytics | Compile all of your latest website analytics and reports. Take a look at how your site is performing over time, what's driving your traffic, how your calls to action are performing, and any other key metrics for your site.
  • Events and Network | Start a document or sit down at a whiteboard and make a list of all of the other methods you reach out to your audiences. What key events do you host? What connections do your leaders have that may impact your outreach? What are the drivers of word of mouth about your organization, and have been some recent key influencers for your audience? Think about and capture ways that you are "communicating" beyond the tactics outlined above.

The best way to sum this up and move on is going to be unique to your organization, but it's a good idea to compile all of this into one place as a report, or slide deck--but keep it simple. Don't get bogged-down in step one. The idea is to pull this all together so that it's easy to reference and refer to these metrics and materials as you work toward building your strategy.

Now that you have a clear picture of where you are now, you are ready to move on to Step 2: Survey the Landscape.

Check out all of the posts in the
Communications Strategy Roadmap Series:

Communications Strategy Roadmap: 5 Steps to Success
Step 1: Determine Where You Are Now
Step 2: Survey the Landscape
Step 3: Figure Out Where You Want to Go
Step 4: Map Out Your Best Route
Step 5: Get On the Road