I was Director of communication at CIPPEC, a leading think tank in Latin America, for almost eight years. When I joined the organization, the area did not exist and, when I left last May, five people working full time and a couple of volunteers were part of the team.
During that time I had many successes, but also countless mistakes, both of strategy and implementation. We always read successful stories and best practices, but people rarely share with us what did not work, does not work and probably will never work. Here is one such example.
Organizations, think tanks and research institutes often adapt their agendas to funding possibilities and thus investigate topics and carry out projects that are not necessarily related to their actual mission. In such cases, I strongly recommend to avoid generating new communication channels and developing regular dissemination tools that in case of being successful, will create demand for content that will only be available while the duration of the funding.
These tools or channels – that some considered key to win the calls – have changed over the years: instead of creating and disseminating newsletters (which had the healthy result of updating contact databases) we started to spend time in developing web sites; then data bases and blogs with online forums became fashionable; later, Twitter accounts or fan pages on Facebook became must-haves.
Resist the temptation. It is not useful. Reasons arise quickly if you think about it.
People do not appropriate or easily participate in those kinds of spaces. It is not worth investing in human resources and in regular and new channels for communications that we all – except for, sometimes, our funders – know that are not central to our agendas. Newsletters with four or five editions and then discontinued, web sites that are no longer updated but still appear in search engines, databases with information from two or more years ago, blogs with old entries without comments and social network accounts without followers or friends or rich exchanges are all terrible windows to the organization. In CIPPEC we have examples of the whole list.
Instead, invest brains, hands and money in developing good infographics which visually tell what you want to convey about the project, produce a short video that summarizes the findings of what you did, publish some articles in the press with the conclusions or organize a discussion in social networks, a Skype conference, a workshop or a breakfast meeting with stakeholders to share the results of the initiative. Surely, they will be less expensive and much more useful.