8 tips for great communication

Anyone working in corporate communications would have heard the phrase – oh, you better flag that with comms...<insert eye-rolling here>

In my experience, the majority of the time this phrase gets muttered way to late in the process and the comms person is left to wrangle a pending disaster.

So, what can you do about it? You need to change the way you approach communications and here are our eight tips for getting your communications in great shape.

8. Remember your staff

I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your internal stakeholders up to date. Finding out information about the business you work for via an article in the local paper sucks. If this happens on a regular basis your employee engagement will plummet along with the trust and respect of your most valuable asset – your people.

When it comes to internal communication, there is no such thing as oversharing. Find out how people want to get their information then get it to them often.

Need inspiration? Check out the winners of the 2020 Ragan's Employee Communication Awards

7. Get in early

Think of communications as a risk management tool. Early, effective and ongoing communication can pave the way for a hassle-free project. By treating poor communication as a risk, it becomes part of your standard project planning for the life of the project. Here are some samples to get you thinking of risk from a communications perspective.Stakeholder: Employees and contractors

Risk: Sharing incorrect information about campaign to community members
Mitigation: Provide project information including key messages to staff
Action: Brief staff at all staff team meetings

Risk: Missing out on in-house knowledge being captured and considered
Mitigation: Encourage staff to participate in consultation activities
Actions: Send ‘all staff’ email at start of project with links to activities and further project information; provide staff with key information summary

Stakeholder: Elected representatives

Risk: Lack of awareness about project could lead to negative media coverage which damages service provider’s reputation
Mitigation: Ensure elected representatives and their key staff understand non-negotiables for project engagement process as well as key dates and activities
Actions: Provide briefing note prior to campaign going live, include contact details for lead if further information is required; provide regular reminders via email about project deadlines; provide flyers for MP Office to encourage community participation

6. If you aren't sure how people like to get information, just ask them.

There is no need to guess or assume the best communications channels. Just slow down and ask people how they like to get their information. It might be a phone call or email, it might be twitter, if might be a flyer in the mailbox or it might be Tim at the butcher shop. Take the time to get to know your audience, build trust and watch the effectiveness of your communication soar.

5. Proactive is better than reactive

Nothing makes you lose credibility with your audience than admitting that you knew about an issue/problem and decided not to say anything. Crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is a bad strategy, someone ALWAYS finds out.

When you are planning communications think about the things that are most likely to be of interest and address them directly.

4. Coordinate communications activities

It may seem logical, but I have seen it over and over again – right hand not talking to the left. If you are building a new road, you might want to check that there are no plans to replace cabling under the road in the near future.

Your credibility will be out the window if you have a ribbon cutting with all the fanfare one day and the next day, excavators roll in and dig up all your fine work.

Simple conversations can save your budget and your reputation.

3. The boss isn’t always the best spokesperson

People respond to information by passionate people. If you have someone that has come up with a quirky solution to a challenge, let them talk about it. No one will be as passionate as they are, and they will be able to explain and answer questions on the fly. Don’t be afraid to substitute a CEO or Chairperson for a subject matter expert.

2. Keep it simple

Effective communication doesn’t have to be a complex production with a glossy finish. It just needs to be clear, authentic and genuine. Take a page out of the playbook from former NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

During the 2019/2020 Australian bushfires, he was providing daily masterclasses in effective communication. He was clear in his delivery, he knew the detail, wasn’t afraid of saying he didn’t know the answer and showed empathy both on and off the camera.

1. Technical problems don’t stop projects, people stop projects

What’s the worst-case scenario for an infrastructure project? Being delayed or shelved, not because you can’t find a cost-effective design solution but because a high-profile person speaks out in opposition.

Complaints, protests, negative media coverage – these are all manageable if you have plan. Sure, you won’t be able to make everyone happy but if you are clear in your message and get the information to people that are interested and have influence over your project then you are on your way.

Effective communication isn’t rocket science, you just need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

If you don’t know where to start, give Mara a call – this is our jam!

What else can we help with? Maybe some LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® or,  if things have already gone south, some crisis and issues management advice.

Check out our projects list to see what we have been working one.

Grant writing… it’s an art!

Need help sharpening the grant writing pencil? Here are our tips

Ever wondered how to get those government grants that are up for grabs? 

Generally, it is not just about meeting the criteria. Knowing how to write the grant application is critical to stand out above the other applications.  

Here are our tips to make you stand out from the rest. 

Grant writing tips

Write for your audience1. Write for your audience

Grant writing can be tricky. However, knowing what the priority policy areas of the government agency assessing the application is key.

Ask yourself, "What's in it for them" and write the grant application to meet their expectations. Showing how your project fits the priority areas is essential. Check their website, look for clues in media releases, policy documents, annual reports and of course the funding document.  The grant reviewer will likely have a checklist, looking for examples and key phases of how the application meets the criteria.

Including lots of information about why your project is important to you is great but demonstrating how it is important to them is much more powerful.

Don’t be fooled though, some grant applications require significant supporting documentation. I remember writing one government grant application that was in two volumes and each one was about 10-15 centimetres think! Lots of research, understanding the government priorities and tailoring the response to the person assessing the application took several months to complete.  The hard work paid off though, we secured the funding to complete the extremely popular Fernleigh Track shared pathway built along a disused railway. Total cost $11 million dollars.

2. Be ready to start

Shovel readyYou also need to make sure your project or program is shovel ready! All that means is, if someone turned up with a big fat cheque tomorrow you could get started straight away, not scramble to get the final plans and approvals done.

People want to see workers employed and getting on with construction. Very rarely do governments provide grant funding for feasibility studies, design development or early work on a project. They want to come back in six months’ time for a photo cutting the ribbon.

A recent grant application that I was asked to assist with was no doubt a great idea, but the applicants hadn’t thought through all the issues. Firstly, they would be impacting on another user group, and even though it was minor, it is difficult for any government including a council to support an idea at the detriment of someone else. In this instance, it is important to communicate to other stakeholders and find out if there is a way to work together and minimise the potential impact. Try and come up with a solution that everyone can work with, even a joint application or supporting each other's ideas and grants. Colaboration and partnerships are big hits with funding bodies!

Additionally, the plans  were only concepts and rather than shovel ready drawings they could give to a builder.  Concepts are great for getting buy-in but to secure the funding, detailed designs are likely to be mandatory.

 

3. A picture paints a thousand words

Tell stories through imagesPoliticians love to rock up for photo opps for ready to go projects. So you better have those renders or plans of your super cool community building/economic stimulus/ infrastructure project on hand when the media show up! Images help to explain complex ideas and projects in a way that people can understand and visualise.

For one project where I was seeking both government and corporate support to expand and complete the larges all-abilities playground in Australia, we put together a suite of materials to help tell the story, including a video of the kids and families that were using the first stage of the facility, glossy flyer for private donors and sponsors and organised media exclusives to showcase the amazing facility. It worked! It helped secure the $4.8 million dollars to complete the project ($6.1 million in total).

We use videos and drone footage in our projects where possible. Here is another great example, check out Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation's The Station landscaping project. It has it all, renders, videos, progress shots.

4. Commit to the project

Match fundingAlso make sure you are not asking for 100 per cent of the project funds. Rarely do businesses or governments hand over all the funds. They want to see that you are committed to the project and just need a boost to get it started and delivered.

Think about the administrative costs. Governments often will not pay for the operational costs of the project. For building projects, this could mean any designs, architectural services, specialist advice, surveys or similar. For programs, they want to know if you have funding beyond the grant applied for, that means would the program be sustainable without the funding.

The other key thing is do not ask for everything. If the funding body has $1 million to hand out do not expect to secure the lot OR event the majority. From the donor’s perspective, the more people, and organisations they can help the better! They are more likely to support 10 projects of $100,000 each than one project at $1 million.

5. Demonstrate support for the project

Secure support from othersIf you have a great idea, chances are people will want to know about it and be involved. Think about the funding organisation and identify people or groups that are likely to take notice of.

A letter of support from politician (State or Federal MP, Mayor or Councillors), relevant community groups or likely users. If the grant is related to education – talk to the local school/s or groups that cater to education, for health initiatives – doctors and health professions or sporting associations, even think about how kids can be involved – drawings, letters, photos.

And once you have received the funding, remember, reporting, progress photos, media opportunities and acquittals will be required for government grants. It just takes a little bit of planning and organisation, but it is worth it in the end.

For regular grant and funding updates, including grant writing tips, and opening grant rounds, subscribe to our newsletter.

If you would like assistance with your grant application, contact us for more information.

About the writer:

Kelly Lofberg is responsible for securing funding of more than $60 million from both private and government sectors for community, rail, and road infrastructure projects.

Need help with your next grant, Think pink! Get in touch.

 

Contact Kel

Kelly Lofberg

Kelly Lofberg

Communication & Engagement Specialist

0425 715 536

kelly@maraconsulting.com.au