Crisis comms out/not out. Now what?


How many weeks are we into this crisis now? I don’t know, but it feels like forever. I’ve cut my own hair twice. It’s the only source of time keeping I have now. That and the clapping.

Absolutely everything has changed, from where (and if) we work, how we work, how we operate as families, communities, and as a society. It’s a lot to digest.

But as I have said in previous blogs, and to anyone that follows me on social, I’ve been amazed at what we have achieved. How we have pulled together, leaned in, supported each other, and still managed to get work done, some of it brilliant. Our sector has shone.

Humanity is alive and well

Key insight coming back from those that got emergency appeals out in time show that response across the board has been strong. Despite people’s individual worries, collectively we are giving. We care. We are doing what we can to help the causes that we already support, as well as new ones. In fact, many people are drastically rethinking which orgs they give to, because of their relevance to the crisis. That in itself is a massive shift in donors’ mindsets, and one we must all remember.

The ‘Colonel Tom Effect’ threw this into sharp relief. There was a vacuum for our collective humanity. We were trapped indoors against a backdrop of fear and confusion. We wanted (and needed) to do something. To connect. So we channelled that humanity into a story that was getting slight media traction, and because of that, it got a lot more media traction. Boom. Controversially, this shows more about us than it does Colonel Tom. People power is astonishing.

The future may be more about moments than journeys

It also highlights that the future, and importantly the power of individual giving going forward may be more about moments than it is about journeys. Our role as fundraisers may be more about how we harness those moments, and maximise them. But that’s a discussion for another time.

What this crisis has shown, is that relevance is everything. It’s driving communications, fundraising, brand, and importantly, purpose. I for one am very happy about that development.

Exhaustion. Overcompensating. Panic. Guilt. Let’s give ourselves a break

Despite this upsurge in relevance and innovation, people are really feeling the pressure. This constant emergency mode is not sustainable long term. Crisis, crisis, crisis. Red alert every moment of the day. Back to back Zoom meetings. Overcompensating because you are working from home. Guilt if you haven’t been furloughed. Guilt if you have been furloughed. It’s exhausting.

Let’s all knock it down a gear, yeah?

What we must do now is focus on the medium term, but also knock it down a gear, for our wellbeing, and to focus our productivity.

We need to pivot our storytelling for the next 6 months, and constantly showcase our relevance. Work out what we need to enable us to tell that story in that expanded timeframe, and what we need to drop/restructure to make sure this is our number one priority.

Strategically focus on relevance and real time reporting for the next 6 months

A few thoughts on how you can do that, from many, many discussions over the last couple of weeks:

  • I said recently in a presentation for the awesome Fundraising Everywhere that you don’t need a strategy during this crisis. Actually, you do, but it’s a simple, agile strategy created to help agile delivery. I don’t believe in ‘The New Normal’, but I do believe that looser strategies, to enable constantly agile working is the only way forward
  • Our campaigning colleagues have this nailed. Treat the crisis as a campaign. An unfolding, long term story with peaks and troughs, with you at the centre of it, reporting from the field
  • You can’t map out your comms for 6 months, but you can nail the expectation that this will be at least a 6-month story and create the internal manpower, capacity and resources to help tell that story. Push it to the top of your priority list.
  • Most of the work we are doing now at Audience is what we call ‘Phase 2’ of the crisis. The longer-term story arc. Breaking this down into phases really helps when faced with an uncertain future
  • Tell your/the story from different angles, as close to real time as possible and constantly keeping your audiences up to date. Balance reportage with 2-way engagement. Its not easy, but it’s what people want and need. That’s why you need to focus on resourcing it, above everything else
  • Remember that perfection is the enemy of consistent messaging. Get rid of those sign off processes and get busy. People want to hear from you. Today.
  • To do this you need to clear the decks, commit to this agile strategy, and deliver. Your strategy will change weekly (maybe daily) but if it’s built with agility in mind, it will adapt and flex. Embrace this.
  • But as I said, knock the pace down a bit. Think of your wellbeing as well as what you can actually achieve in the time you are working. Be kind to yourself, your teams, and your boss

Embrace the uncertainty, strategically

Recently a CEO asked me to look at their 40-page organisational strategy and condense it down to a couple of pages to help give focus to the Senior Leadership Team during this period. I managed to get it to fit on the back of a business card.  Frame this against the backdrop of committing to telling a longer-term story throughout the ongoing uncertainty of the crisis. Hopefully it makes sense:

  1. Meet daily
  2. Strip out everything non-essential
  3. What have we learned from yesterday?
  4. What will we achieve today?
  5. What do we hope to achieve this week?
  6. Take a full hour for lunch

You may think that this is not having a strategy, but it’s actually having a crystal clear one. Its agile and will lead to agile delivery. Apply that sort of strategic simplicity to your comms for the next 6 months, knock it down a gear and breathe.

We’re here if you need us.

Wayne Murray

Strategy Director

Audience Fundraising and Communications



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