Many non-profit organizations take a shotgun approach to communications, mostly because communications is not often top of the to-do list. Programs have to be set up, staff managed, grants written, crises dealt with. The urgent leaves precious little time for getting the message out.

The question then comes, “Where should we start?” Here are my suggestions:

With the end in mind  Start by taking some time to think through what you want to accomplish with your communications efforts. Set out some tangible and realistic goals that will act as both a baseline measurement and a target.

Understand your audience  Organizations talk to a number of different audiences. List them. Write down what they already know and what they need to know about you. Figure out the best channels for communicating with each one of your audiences.

Articulate your key messages  You have a very limited time to grab people’s attention for the most important information you need them to know and act on. Refine your top level messages and set them as the framework for all you send out.

Implement  This usually means making sure your website is up-to-speed first of all—good design, intuitive flow, interactive and dynamic. It’s the home base for all of your other communication and marketing efforts. Following that, set an editorial calendar and develop content that can be used in other ongoing channels such as print, email and social media.

Live and learn  There are so many ways to monitor and analyze digital channels of communications.  Develop the discipline of looking at them regularly. Compare them with each other and with their own performance over time. The numbers have stories to tell that you’ll want to listen to. Listen carefully.

Then start at the top and do it again …