A Term Heard All Too Often | npENGAGE

A Term Heard All Too Often

By on Mar 2, 2011


Kent Gilliam is the Convio Community Manager. Be sure to follow him and keep in touch with other Community members, download free kits and sign up for free trainings and webinars here (for Convio clients only. You must login to the customer center to access.).

If you’ve had your finger on the pulse of constituent communication recently you know that the big term being thrown around is “integrated marketing/fundraising”. Basically this is the concept of interacting with your constituents both online and offline and everywhere in between wherever that may be.  Sounds pretty simple, right? All you need to do is communicate everything to everyone in every medium you have available. But there is another term that I hear all too often that is actually one of the biggest obstacles to employing a successful integrated program…….. “silo”.

Too many organizations today can’t seem to internally agree on who gets what communication, much less how to communicate to everyone through multiple channels.  You can hear it in the halls and on the calls, “Those are the marketing department’s contacts.” Or, “Those are only event participants and we don’t contact them about anything else.”  Are you certain and if so, how do you know? Have you asked your constituents what they want to know about your organization? Have you asked them more than once for additional information?

Your constituents more often end up in “silos” as the result of an organization’s structure and not what they have or have not told you. As protective of a contact as this approach may sound, the truth is that it is not the most productive. Dave Fleet of davefleet.com shared “Six Ways To Silo-Bust Your Communications.” I have taken the liberty to tweak some of his tips to better apply to the non-profit world.

  1. Where possible, invite people from other communications functions to be in the room when planning your year’s activities. At a minimum, ensure the different functions’ plans are shared. 

  2. Plan to coordinate your activities with those of other functions. If there’s a big campaign or program push in Q1, for example, consider whether other functions should push hard then, too. If not, consider how you’ll try to compensate for the lower activity at other times in the year. 

  3. Ensure you integrate your messaging with other functions. If there’s a campaign focused on a program or event, it makes sense to use other channels too, rather than focusing on something else, right? Remember – repetition begets retention, and retention leads to results. It’s all about “Effective Frequency.”   

  4. Schedule regular update meetings with your colleagues in other departments. If you’re on the marketing/PR side, try to meet or talk regularly with other departments communicating to your contacts. You’ll probably need buy-in (or even pressure) to make this happen, but it’s worth it. 

  5. Next time you launch a campaign, program feature or event, consider well ahead of time whether it could be featured in email blasts, direct mail pieces, advertising creative, news release, speeches etc. Lobby the appropriate people to update your company’s website with links to all of your web properties, and ensure your websites and social media properties link back. 

  6. Do what you can to integrate measurement with other functions. If you’re driving traffic to your website, don’t measure click-throughs; measure conversions. If you’re trying to drive foot traffic to events or facilities, see if you can measure that. Don’t limit your measurement to the first level of proxies on the way to your goal.

The symptoms of the silo effect are easy to recognize: lack of cooperation, internal competition and breakdown in communication. The result is that one department gets pitted against another – head office against operations, marketing against development. Without being integrated internally you cannot successfully be integrated externally to your constituents.

So how do you see your organization? Do all of your organization departments work together in an integrated fashion? Tell us in the blog comments how you’re working to integrate or have already integrated your organization so you can perform a successful integrated communications program.


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