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Let's talk about communications!

Hands gesticulationg to symbolize communication© Unslash
Communications is a crucial part of the innovation process. However, in a hectic workday, it is often the first thing to be down-prioritized. This article presents some tips on how to make it a priority, and some simple steps on how you can use your communications toolbox strategically to reach your project goals.

Innovation is communication

Innovation and communication are tightly intertwined. When you think about it, the innovation processes itself requires active listening and communication with a diverse set of internal and external stakeholders.

Communications can, and should, be used to actively build a culture for innovation in your organisation. Internal communication is very important both in terms of how you communicate with your project team, and in terms of how you and your team spark engagement about your project to other colleagues. This internal communication can be crucial to ensure buy-in and anchoring in your organisation. Many innovation projects have failed due to the lack of proper internal support, so this should not be underestimated.

Communication is also an important tool to reach external stakeholders and partners. These can be people affected by crises, donors, other humanitarian organisations, private sector partners and so on. When you share knowledge and lessons learned about your innovation process, this may lead to increased support, new partners coming on board, and further adoption and scaling of the innovation. For example, we have a project in our portfolio that were able to partner with another large humanitarian organisation who wanted to adopt their innovation because they read about their innovation project on social media. This highlights the need to spread the word about your projects.

How to get started with your communication strategy

If external communication is not a part of your daily work, it may be hard to know where to start. First, it is important to acknowledge that communication is a vital part of the process and that it needs to be prioritised. Having someone on your project team that is responsible for the communications is a good place to start.

Then, bring your team together to work on a simple communications strategy. This is a good exercise to start reflecting around some important issues. A communications strategy should provide answers to the following questions:

1. What are your communication goals?

This can be engaging end users, attracting investments to the project, sharing knowledge, inspire to adoption, finding new partners and so on.

2. What are the key messages you want to communicate to reach those goals?

When you design your messages, try to focus on WHY, HOW and WHAT. WHY are you doing the innovation project, what are your goals and why should people care? HOW does the project work? And the WHAT refers to a summary of what the project is. Try out various messages and iterate based on the feedback you get.

3. Who is your target audience?

Is it people affected by crises, investors, private companies, other humanitarian actors, governments? Where do they live, and at what time are they active on social media? Defining your target audience will help you to consider which channels to use, what time to post, which hashtags to use and what profiles to tag.

4. What are the most relevant channels to reach them?

Relevant channels can be your own website, social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, newsletters, traditional media, events and so on.

Some of the projects we support have their own websites that are used to share information, tools, blog posts etc. Others use social media actively. This can be through their organisation’s official profiles, or they use their personal accounts. Many of you have very relevant networks on social media, so do not underestimate your personal accounts if you don’t have access to your organisation’s profile.

Communications Strategy Canvas

To help you on your way to create a communications strategy, we have made this Communications Strategy Canvas. The canvas is a tool to kick start your work on a communications strategy for your project. It outlines the most important aspects of a strategy, and it will hopefully be a useful tool you can use together with your team.

We hope this short introduction to communication in innovation projects was useful! Good luck on applying the Communications Strategy Canvas, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

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