Strategic Communications PlanningStrategic communications is becoming increasingly important for arts and community organizations with limited budgets, time and resources. There are many media outlets and even more communication tools to choose from to make effective use of any of them without a strategic communications plan. Last year, Sun Media launched their UR portal and invited readers to submit stories, photos and videos. At about the same time, CTV launched their MyNews portal and were joined soon thereafter by iNews 880 (CHQT) with the iNews portal and weekly newspapers such as the St. Albert Gazette began to encourage their listeners and readers to upload their own news stories. More recently Metro Edmonton launched their LiveWire initiative to invite people to contribute their news based on ongoing news stories they are developing for publication. On September 29, 2011, the Edmonton Journal is launching their online community newsroom. They are hoping to “make it as easy as possible for the arts and community organizations and their readers to contribute newsworthy events in a meaningful and relevant way on the special area on their website that will have tools for easily sharing stories, photos and videos.” The Edmonton Journal is inviting arts and community organizations to attend training sessions to learn how to use their new online community newsroom on October 18 and 25, 2011 from 10:00am to noon in the media room of the Edmonton Journal. However, there is a vital element missing in order for arts and community organizations in Edmonton to take full advantage of this extraordinary opportunity —  a strategic media communications plan. How do I know this?

The first question the Edmonton Journal asks on the questionnaire I saw circulating at the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Resources while giving a workshop they sponsored called LinkedIn for NonProfit Organizations on September 15, “is your organization currently using social media as part of its strategic communications plan?” This question assumes that every organization has a strategic communications plan and it isn’t so.

The reality is that the majority of arts and community organizations in Alberta do not have a communications plan in place let alone a strategic media communications or a marketing plan.  And, I’m quite sure that the vast majority of them would not yet have a social media plan in place to guide their online activities. They are all too busy responding to the needs of their community or practicing their craft.  Over the past five years, I have given workshops on various elements of effective media communications and social media training to more than 375 organizations and individuals throughout Alberta. Their lack of time and expertise to focus on media communications planning has been the biggest source of frustration for all of us. They soon find out in my workshops that a strategic media communications plan offers them the greatest opportunity to communicate effectively with the media, the public, volunteers, politicians, donors or any of their other constituents online and off. Here’s some of the things they say after the workshop.

To bridge this gap, I am offering three workshops over a period four days — Social Media Communications for for Artists, Authors and Arts Organizations on Wednesday, October 12, Social Media Communications for Not-for-Profit Organizations on Thursday, October 13, and Social Media for Citizen Journalists on Saturday, October 15. All three workshops will run from 10:00 to 4:00pm in the computer room of the the St Albert Youth Centre and cost $275 for one participant with $100 for each additional participant registered at the same time.

Participants will discover innovative ways to capitalize on the opportunity offered by newspapers, radio stations and television stations to contribute to ongoing stories in a way that helps them get their own stories told.  The workshops are designed for anyone with an intesting story to tell the media that’s also of  interest to their audiences. You’ll learn how to plan, prepare and deliver your messages to the right media at the right time with the right ingredients in the right way. What’s online, stays online so it helps to get it right the first time. Participants will save time and money, be more effective and get a higher return on their investment of time and energy.