Course Code: COMM3
This course provides guidelines for public speaking when needing to face a crisis. It also provides guidelines for effective communication among NGOs. And finally you will find out more about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and positioning strategies to help build your organisation´s presence on the Internet.
Duration: 45 m.
Author/Source: REVEAL Staff
Tags: communication, courses, training, volunteering
Starting: 21/11/2012 Ending: 01/01/2014
Communication guidelines in public speaking during crisis management
Crisis communication can have a lasting impact on institutional reputation and public support
. How well you convey your message to the public greatly depends on what is reported to the news media. This is especially true in a crisis, during which the news media is the primary means of communication to constituencies.
Because of the emotions that usually accompany crises, images formed from crisis reporting are especially important in shaping long-lasting public impressions of the institution. The most important goal for this type of communication is to communicate with the public in ways that build, maintain or restore trust.
In the event of a major crisis, it is essential that an effective communication plan be put into effect to release timely, accurate information and to ensure that inquiries are routed to the appropriate sources. The priority will be on maintaining timely and open communications with the media, providing complete and accurate information that has been confirmed about the emergency situation and the NGO’s response to the crisis at hand. Communications with the media will be frequent throughout the duration of the emergency situation. Have a crisis communication spokesperson(s) identified and a plan in place before the possibility of a crisis happening.
When we face a crisis we need to take into account a number of factors: that it occurs unexpectedly; it may not be in the organization’s control; it requires an immediate response; and it may cause harm to the organization’s reputation, image, or viability. The content, form, and timing of the communication can help reduce and contain the harm, or make the situation worse. Crisis may also imply lack of control by the involved organizations. To reduce the psychological impact of a crisis, the public must feel empowered to take actions that will help reduce their risk of harm. Physical and mental preparation may help relieve anxiety. An action message can provide people with the belief that they can take specific steps to improve a situation.
People may receive, interpret, and act on information during an emergency in a different way compared to a normal period. In general, the public wants to access as much information as possible. While in some cases too much information may be problematic or too little enhances the psychological stress. If information is incomplete or not present at all during a crisis, this will increase anxiety and potentially lower trust in the organization.
The role of the spokesperson in crisis communication is to deliver information taking into account the public wants or needs. This information should empower people, build trust and reduce the level of harm. This includes short-term and long-term psychological and physical harm. The spokesperson should provide information according to who, what, where, when, why, and how. Also, he/she must establish an appropriate level of concern and empathy; remain calm while acknowledging uncertainty and avoiding the tendency to over-reassure; show competence and consistency in responding to help build confidence and trust; demonstrate openness and transparency. Spokespersons don’t just read a statement: they are the statement.
Before communicating facts and recommendations for action, you must lessen the audience’s psychological barriers by openly acknowledging people’s concerns. Show that you are concerned for what others are going through in a crisis. This will increase the likelihood that the audience will listen to and act upon your message. But don’t over-reassure: the objective is not to placate but to elicit accurate, calm concern.
The following factors can help you process information during a crisis:
Simplify messages. Under intense stress and possible information overload, we tend to miss the messages by not fully hearing information and by not remembering as much of the information as we should. Use simple short sentences and avoid technical vocabulary. Use positive or neutral terms.
Speed up your response. Tell it, and tell it early. During a crisis, the speed of a response can be an important factor in reducing harm. In the absence of information, we begin to speculate and fill in the blanks. This often results in rumors. Commitment and dedication are vital: state the organization’s goal for the crisis response.
Credibility and consistency. Make sure you are transparent and as accurate as you can be, otherwise people will not trust you. Use supporting papers and data. Acknowledge uncertainty if it is the case. Your message should be repeated from multiple credible sources and it should be specific to the emergency being experienced.
Acknowledge people’s fears: Don’t tell people they shouldn’t be afraid. They are afraid, and they have a right to be so.
Acknowledge the shared misery: Some people will be less frightened than they are miserable, feeling hopeless and defeated. Be willing to address the “what if” questions: these are the questions that everyone is thinking about, and to which they want expert answers. Although it’s often impractical to fuel “what ifs” when the crisis is contained and not likely to affect large numbers of people, it is reasonable to answer “what ifs” if the “what ifs” could happen and people need to be emotionally prepared for them.
Give people things to do and give them a range of responses: a minimum response, a maximum response, and a recommended middle response.
Limit jargon and acronyms: Jargon impedes communication and may imply arrogance.
Use humor with caution: Humor is a minefield during a crisis. Soft, self-deprecating humor may be disarming for a hostile audience, but, in general, efforts to be funny during a crisis are likely to be misinterpreted.
Avoid one-liners, clichés, and off-the-cuff comments: Any statement that trivializes the experience by saying something like, “There are no guarantees in life,” reduces your credibility and rapport.
Don’t let reporters put words in your mouth. The reporter may use inflammatory or emotional words. Avoid repeating them and use your own words. If the question contains leading or loaded language, reframe the question to eliminate the language and then answer. Sometimes it’s helpful to restate the question in neutral terms. Break down multiple-part questions and answer each part separately. Always assume the microphone is on! Understand there is no such thing as “off the record.”
In general, comments should be limited to what is known. Keep personal opinions to a minimum. Your work with the media during a crisis situation will involve building strong, positive relationships, having clear and concise printed material prepared beforehand, and having a skilled and well-prepared spokesperson.
Communication with external organizations
Guidelines for effective communication among NGOs
The growth of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) is one of the most significant phenomenons of recent years in international cooperation. The most important international institutions - World Bank, European Union, among others - have strengthened their relationships with NGOs by co-financing their projects or by seeking their help in ongoing projects.
This is due to the speed of NGOs to mobilize resources and to reach the neediest sectors of the population. Another important factor is the high level of motivation of staff working in these organizations.
Forward-looking nonprofit leaders recognize that marketing is essential. Strengthening your position — defending your organization’s reputation, the one irreplaceable asset of any nonprofit — is the essence of branding. The essential idea is being disciplined in articulating the distinctive set of attributes that collectively define an organization’s position in the marketplace for funding, ideas, and influence.
Building a brand can be difficult and very expensive, and the results are typically hard to measure or not immediately apparent. As a result, NGOs often find it difficult to invest the necessary resources to secure top-flight marketing talent, to produce outstanding marketing materials, to engage the media, to implement a consistent and appropriate visual identity system, and to do all the other supporting activities that fall under the heading of “branding.” But it is better to take the initiative and define yourself, before one of your competitors tries to define you.
The primary objectives are to define and then defend an organization’s position, and move it closer to success in its mission.
Marketing answers the following questions: How is our program distinctive? What do we want to be known for? Why is our work relevant? These are absolutely critical considerations for every NGO.
Effective marketing generally starts from the point of view of the audience, or customer, and seeks to anticipate and address their needs. That is why lots of marketing pieces tend to start with the word “you.” Marketing appeals to the heart.
Communications, on the other hand, typically appeal to the head. Representing the institutional perspective, sentences in communications materials usually start with the word “we” or the organization’s name; look at any NGO annual report for a case in point.
Ideally, NGOs combine the best aspects of both these approaches, and appeal to both the heart and the head. Don’t just communicate. Market. The marketing and communications functions can play an important role in helping to execute a comprehensive fundraising plan, and the marketing/communications venue can produce stuff to help raise money. Generally, NGOs produce many annual reports, magazines, newsletters, case statements, working papers and brochures targeted at givers of every sort. But many don´t conduct assessments of the costs and benefits of producing all this fundraising material. In order for a message to be effective it must respond to the following questions: What is your target audience and what do you know about them? Why do you believe this is the best way to reach that person? What is the shelf life of this piece? What else could you spend this money on?
It makes life easier for fundraisers if they have attractive, compelling material that reinforces the institution’s key messages. Good marketing material can be expensive, and you should be prepared to pay to get the kind of products that will send the right message to your donors. At the same time, you can often mitigate the budgetary impact by substituting quality for quantity. Make sure your fundraising material translates into more money raised.
The real guts of a high-quality marketing and communications plan follow directly from the goal. As long as it’s aimed at a measurable result, the formula “audience, message, vehicle” is effective for good communication among NGOs.
Audience: Which individuals or institutions do you need to reach and/or influence to achieve your goal? Can they be identified according to demographic, geographic, personality or lifestyle characteristics? Are they already aware of your issues and organization? And remember: there is no such thing as the “general public”. NGO marketing often aims at behavior change, and social marketing was made to do just this. But in order to make your audience react, first of all you have to catch their attention by knowing who they are and what they like. This means that your mission and audience should drive your marketing.
Message: What message will motivate each of your target audiences to take the desired actions? NGOs often believe that the message should be about them. But it most definitely is not: messages should be designed to motivate people to go beyond awareness and take action. Messages have to speak directly to the needs, desires, and aspirations of the audience, and they should be short and simple.
Vehicle: What is the best means of delivering the message to the target audience? What combination of tools and channels work best? While personal meetings, printed material, media and advertising remain important in many cases, increasingly the core of an effective marketing strategy is no longer offline, but online. The best web sites have evolved from being simple online brochures to gateways to larger networks. Blogs offer an opportunity to send and receive more sophisticated messages, especially to those who interested in and follow your issues. And email systems are becoming so cost effective that organizations can now do the sort of differentiated marketing and information exchanges with large groups.
The networked nature of the Internet is at the core of a small democratic revolution in the creation and distribution of information. Put the right message in the right vehicle and let it fly.
Basic use of IT in communication
SEO and Positioning strategies for the volunteering field.
Website positioning or Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of modifying elements of a website to achieve optimal rankings within search engines for specifically selected keywords and search phrases. There is no single independent element of Search Engine Optimization that really makes a website rank higher, but rather the combined effect of many elements working together. Good website positioning is key to increasing your website traffic, online lead generation and/or sales.
This process is complex and time intensive but leads to better search engine rankings and dominant positions in search results. While there are many methods out there for building a profitable website, from banner ads to email campaigns, by far the most cost effective over time has proven repeatedly to be search engine positioning. The major advantage that search engine positioning has over other methods of producing revenue online is that once high rankings are attained- and provided that the tactics used were ethical and that continued efforts are made to keep them- they can essentially hold and provide targeted traffic indefinitely.
Here are the some steps to improve your search engine positioning:
Choosing Keywords: You must choose your keywords. This is perhaps the most important step of the process as incorrectly targeting phrases can result in traffic that is not interested in your product. Keyword density or frequency should be around 2-6% of total text, but natural writing is the best way to go, as search engines have got much better at identifying unnatural writing patterns and factoring in the words that are typically associated to a topic/keyword. Constructively and proactively use keywords in your home page content; make sure it reflects the content.
Site Content: Even before starting optimizing websites get a good deal of new content, since it can be helpful in that it can reveal potential additions to your website that you may not have considered (a forum or blog for example).
Site Structure: A solid site structure is very important. Creating a site that is easily read and traversed by the search engines is crucial. To adequately structure your website you must "think like a search engine spider" which is not as difficult as it may sound. A search engine spider reads your web page like you would read a book. It starts at the top left, reads across, and then moves down. Priority must be given then, to what you place near the top of your page.
Metatags: Metatags are located in the HTML source code of a web page that detail administrative information about a web site/page. Some information is also scanned by portals, directories, and search engines and is also listed in the web site´s description, such as < title > and < description >
Title metatag: Displayed in the top line of a browser, and often duplicated in listings of search engines, etc.
Description metatag: Employs keywords thet reflect content. It should be consistent for all submissions, including: directories, search engines, portals. It should also be descriptive, not hyped: the Open Directory Project (ODP) rejects sites with promotional descriptions.
Keyword metatag: Generally obsolete but still necessary: Google does not index the metatag for keywords.
Add metadata to images: with the < alt > tag and include/reinforce keywords.
Optimization: Once you have your keyword targets, your content created and your site structure established you must now move on to the most obvious step, the optimization of your content. As noted above, a spider places importance on what it reads highest on the page and so beginning with a sentence that includes your targeted phrase only makes sense. That said, stuffing in keywords in the hope that it will add weight to your page generally doesn´t work. The term "keyword density" refers to the percentage of your content that is made up of your targeted keywords. The rule is: put your keywords in the content as much as you can while keeping it readable to a human visitor. Moreover, at the beginning of your content you have the opportunity to use the < h1 > tag to specify the heading of your content. This tag is given extra weight and is also an indicator to the search engine of where your actual content starts. Make sure to use your keywords in the heading but don´t shy away from also adding additional words (though not too many).
Internal Linking: To ensure that your website gets fully indexed you have to make sure that the spiders have an easy path through your website. Text links make the best choice as the anchor text (the actual words used to link to a specific page). Add relevancy to that page for the words used to link to it. Make sure you create a sitemap to all your internal pages and link to it from your homepage in order to increase indexing.
Human Testing: So now you have your site, it´s optimized and you have your navigation in place. The next step is to put it past someone who has never seen your site. What part of your content is valuable to your audience? Ask them to find specific information and see how long it takes. Ask someone else to just surf your site and watch which links they click and ask them why they chose those ones.
Create intuitive and obvious navigation, by doing the following:
- enable multiple topical "entry points"
- clearly present current content, published research and items of interest
- establish credibility with the credentials of authors and list awards
- include a few items of personal interest (humanize)
- remove gimmicks or gratuitous technology or distracting graphics that have no purpose to that of the website
- facilitate contacts and feedback
- make it simple!
Submissions: Submit to directories (both general and topic-specific) and to a few topical search engines but most important of all submit to Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Bing, and the other major search engines. Even though major search engines are spidering search engines, which means they will follow links to wherever they go. Simply having sites that are spidered by the major search engines linking to you will get your site found.
Link Building: All of the major search engines give credit to sites that have quality links pointing to them. The first place to seek links is with general and topic-specific directories. After that you may find websites that you believe your site visitors would genuinely be interested in and you´ve probably found a good link partner. You want to find links from sites that are related to yours.
Monitoring: You will have to monitor the major search engines for your targeted phrases. Also, you will need to review your stats to see where your traffic is coming from and what search terms are being used to find you.
Reward Yourself: So you´ve done it. It´s taken many hours of work but your rankings are doing well. What you´ve created is a solid position that will stand the test of time provided that you continually revisit the above noted steps and ensure that your website is always one step ahead of your competition. You´ve got a lot of work to do to maintain and build on these rankings but the hardest part is over. Congratulations!
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