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 Sustainable Development Communications Network

Engaging Internal and External Audiences Through Communications Tools

By Marijke Hallo de Wolf, Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano
May 2001

To implement a communications strategy it is necessary to identify the communications tools that will most effectively engage internal and external audiences in satisfying the overall strategy goals. Depending on the size of an organization, a few considerations to make are:

For internal audiences:

  • Identifying internal communication needs, such as: (a) creating a deeper understanding of other existing projects and how they fit in the overall organization's objectives; (b) identifying common issues and experiences and how they were handled; (c) avoiding duplication of work, d) keeping board members and "top management" informed of progress and obstacles in projects; (d) identifying areas of internal collaboration; and (e) enhancing communication with external audiences.
  • Identifying the tools that would improve internal communications, such as: an internal e-mail system, an intranet system where staff members can upload information on their projects, an internal electronic newsletter, personalized e-mail addresses to use with external audiences, electronic discussion groups for specific project and subject areas, weekly staff meetings reviewing project progress and support needs.
  • Building awareness of the importance of using internal and external communication tools for improving the work of the organization.

Organizations may want to try different communication tools until they identify the one that effectively engages the staff in better internal and external communication practices.

For external audiences:

  • Identifying external communication needs according to your different audiences and in different contexts. For instance, a project may involve the participation and coordination of various other organizations that need a permanent communication system to work together in organizing events or developing and sharing documents related to the events. Another project may involve posting a survey on the Web site that needs to be simple and straightforward to entice the audience to respond immediately and seek future results. Engaging the board of directors in a more active role in the strategic planning of the organization may also require a special communication set-up that would facilitate sharing documents, receiving feedback and having virtual meetings to finalize decisions.
  • Identifying the tools that would effectively engage external audiences in a two or multi-way communication practice with the organization, as related to a specific project or to an organizational objective. For the first case mentioned above, setting an electronic discussion group for a specific project and setting up a private site to share documents would facilitate the communication and coordination among all the actors involved in it. For the third case, you may want to setup a private site where the board of directors can look at financial statements and strategic plans, send their comments on specific issues to the rest of the board, and coordinate a virtual meeting to discuss critical issues and finalize decisions and recommendations regarding the organization.
  • Building awareness of external audiences in engaging in a two or multi-way communication system that will improve the execution of specific projects or achieve specific goals related to the organization.

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