Effective communication is a key part of making your project a success. It will save you time by cutting down on misunderstandings, make working with the wider community easier, it might minimise disagreements and it could even help you reach more funders.
Know your audience. Different audiences need to know different information, respond best to different communication methods and styles and will require different levels of contact.
Older people are less likely to want to be communicated with through social media accounts, funders will want detailed and technical information whereas community members might want a poster that sets out what is happening in a clear and concise way.
It’s a two-way activity. There is a place for simply presenting information but most good communication is a two-way process. Finding ways to listen is just as important as telling people what is going on. This can be as simple as having a chat but could also include meetings and online surveys.
Meetings are going to be one of the main tools you use so we’ve dedicated a whole page to getting the most out of meetings here.
Flyers and posters
Despite the growth of the web and social media these are still the mainstay of community communications and are great for reaching people in a local area.
A few things to bear in mind:
- Try to write the content in as clear and concise a way as possible avoiding jargon
- When choosing your font avoid fonts that are hard to read or make you look unprofessional – you’re trying to convince people that the project is in safe hands so it’s probably best to avoid Comic Sans, Bradley Hand or Papyrus for example
- If you’re working with partners take care with their logo, most will have rules about how you should use their logo
- Try to minimise the environmental impact by clearing away old posters when they are no longer needed and use recycled paper if you can
- White space is your friend, don’t be afraid to leave space around your elements on the page it make things easier to read and feel less cluttered.
Tools like a Facebook page or Twitter account can be a great and free way to keep people up to date. They are also a good way to have a dialogue with people and seek feedback. Even more challenging posts from unhappy community members can be a useful indicator of something you might need to address. It is also a helpful way to talk to funders and journalists (especially Twitter).
Where possible use images on your posts as these have been shown to get more attention.
Think before setting up a social media account. They are a useful communication tool but require a commitment of time and work best if you respond quickly and post often if possible. Social media tends to be a high speed medium with content coming and going quickly. For example if your Facebook page hasn’t posted for a while people will start to think the project is off.
Social media is best when it’s social. If you can it’s best to try to have a conversation with people rather than simply posting updates.
These days if someone is looking for information the first thing they will do is search online so it’s good to have a website. However, it can be tricky to set up, a burden to maintain and a full website might be overkill.
A good compromise is to create a very simple site using a tool that doesn’t require and coding or web design skills.
There are now lots of these tools available, often for free.
For a very simple site a blogging tool like Tumblr could be a good choice, as creating a basic site is very simple and updating it is as easy as doing an update on Facebook. Other options include WordPress or Google’s Blogger.
If you want a more complex site or more creative control Weebly, Wix and Go Daddy offer free websites that you build using drag and drop tools rather than code. Squarespace also has very nice templates but there is fee to make the site live.
Email can be a good way to keep in touch with people but bear in mind that the number of people that actually read an email can be quite low. If you want to send a proper email newsletter MailChimp comes with easy to use templates and is free if you are only sending a few bulletins.
To find out more information surveys are a very handy tool. You can either do them in person or use an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey.
Don’t overlook the benefits of talking to people face-to-face. Setting up a table in the park on a summer day or knocking on the doors of people living nearby can be a great way to get people involved. For example on a recent project the Friends of Group partnered with the Police Community Support Officers who then knocked on people’s doors. This worked really well as most people were willing to open their door and talk to a PCSO.
Talking to your local paper can be a great way to get your message out and build the profile of your project. We’ve created a whole page dedicated to working with the press.
Important note: The links on this page are provided as a guide and should not be seen as an endorsement by Groundwork of the companies featured.