Uncomplicate Your Communication Strategy | npENGAGE

Uncomplicate Your Communications Strategy

By on Jan 23, 2019


The single greatest threat to effective communications is our inability to identify and prioritize who we’re communicating with. However, in spite of this well-known truth, an easy solution sometimes feels out of reach. Shortcomings cost us valuable opportunities to grow our relationships with key donors, physicians, and other highly-prized stakeholders who can transform healthcare.

This brings us to perhaps the second greatest threat to communications — the belief that a communication strategy is complicated. When things are complicated, we simply won’t ever get to them. As I see it, we have two options: we can continue to operate by the seat-of-our-pants, or we can learn to develop an uncomplicated communication strategy.

Unscramble the Mess

Imagine you’re putting together a thousand-piece puzzle. Now imagine how much more difficult that would be if I dumped in another thousand puzzle pieces that didn’t belong. You’d probably get frustrated and quit. The point I’m trying to make is that sometimes the best way to uncomplicate a problem is to remove the unnecessary elements. In healthcare philanthropy, the extra pieces are the mixing of shareholders. We fail to recognize pieces that belong to other puzzles. Yet, if we’re able to separate our audiences and build mini-strategies tailored to each group of stakeholders individually, suddenly it all comes together.

Once you’ve managed to untangle your audiences, or key stakeholders, and put them into an order of prioritization, they probably look something like this: Major Gift Donors, Internal Staff (Physicians and Nurses), Prospects (Grateful Patient and others), and Community. It won’t take you long to realize that by doing rudimentary segmentation, a few truths come to light. First, you’ll recognize how different the value proposition or messaging should be for each group. Second, you might realize that your efforts are unevenly balanced. For instance, we often take our Major Gift Donors somewhat for granted and fail to invent new ways to keep them engaged. Or, you might be sending them general correspondence that inaccurately suggests they aren’t true insiders to your organization. The last thing you’ll quickly realize is that creating a strategic series of solicitation and non-solicitation touch points just became more intuitive. By timelining communication tactics, you’ll discover that frequency, channels, and content mix are actually a stringing-together of a larger narrative rather than stand-alone engagement tactics.


Often the biggest challenge or opportunity is bringing a strategy to life. However, creating share-worthy communication doesn’t need to be a guessing game. Have you ever participated in a marketing study or focus group? Surely, at the very least, you’ve answered a survey or poll question. Why do these exist? Simple-they work. They help uncover insights or hidden truths about how certain groups of people really feel and think about a person, product, or service. The irony is that many organizations don’t know how to process these insights or convert them into meaningful changes in how they communicate. Instead they are resigned to deem the results inconclusive or neat-to-know, but not ultimately directive. In doing so, you rob yourself of the final pieces to the puzzle. What motivates the stakeholders? How should we interact with them? Which messages resonate with them most? This information is all very achievable.

In our upcoming webinar series, we will address the hidden truths about your healthcare organization’s key stakeholder segments and how you can improve your strategy for communicating with them. Click here for the registration link!


Assuming you have moved through the aforementioned steps, then you are almost ready to talk about and implement creative new ways to engage your stakeholders. The last detail is uncovering budget from less effective initiatives or expired best practices. Without this step, creative efforts will come to an abrupt halt simply because there’s no budget to make them a reality. There are thousands of great ideas still on shelves because budget wasn’t properly addressed. We recommend that you take the remove, reduce, or reuse approach to evaluating communication budget. Consider removing any communication line items that have a negative touch point with your stakeholders – those things that add to donor fatigue or produce almost no engagement. Reduce the frequency of expensive communication efforts if you can reasonably maintain engagement levels. Reuse stories and cases for support that are still relevant, particularly if you received positive feedback. With re-found monetary, time and even personnel resources, you can now explore the newest digital trends, brand videos, and storytelling efforts that align with stakeholder insights and strategy. In the end, you’ll discover that you’ve successfully mapped out a proactive, appropriately messaged, communication strategy for each of your stakeholder audiences.

Help inform the content of the upcoming Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions webinar series: Take a 30 second survey to influence webinar content and receive customized answers.

Hear more from Michael in this sgENGAGE Podcast: Uncomplicate Your Communications.


Michael J. Beall is principal consultant and communications practice leaderfor Accordant Philanthropy®. His unique skill set and approach to healthcare philanthropy is shaped by years of building market strategies, delivering internal and external communications, and implementing creative brand and marketing ideas. His 20-year career includes roles as creative director, vice president of marketing, strategic and brand consultant, and speaker.

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