In 2007, Reputation worked pro bono with the Asthma Foundation NSW (AFNSW) to develop the first ever communication strategy used by AFNSW. Reputation’s role extended beyond the development of the initial strategy to educate and mentor staff, share knowledge, skills and ideas, and provide a new approach to communication activities.
Communication activities in the past had been conducted on an ad-hoc basis and were driven by specific events, such as Bubble Day or World Asthma Day, rather than as part of a broader communication strategy. Other key issues facing the AFNSW included: trying to do too much with limited resources, volunteer and staff fatigue and vying for attention in a crowded ‘charity market’.
The communication strategy is a living document, comprehensive enough to form the basis of all future communication activities, while maintaining flexibility to be opportunistic.
Overall, the communication strategy and mentoring and guidance provided by Reputation has led to:
- Strategic prioritisation of resources
- Improved internal communications in the organisation
- AFNSW becoming a widely used source of asthma information, with both the media and other state based Asthma organisations
- Improved community awareness of Asthma and fundraising efforts
- Government alliances being established.
AFNSW is a registered charity committed to helping people in NSW understand and manage asthma, including people with asthma, their families and carers, asthma educators and allied health professionals.
Like many not-for-profit organisations, the combination of a competitive ‘charity market’ and limited resources meant achieving its communication goals and addressing the varying interests of numerous stakeholder groups was a continual challenge.
Other communication challenges that AFNSW faced included:
- Building consistency of message and delivery while tailoring communication approaches to the specific nuances and issues of interest for each target audience
- Desire to refine focus of AFNSW but also reach a wider group of people
- Reaching a balance between ensuring that communication materials are relevant to stakeholders and easily understood without compromising the integrity of, for example, complex research reports
- Challenging existing perceptions about the foundation, for example, its role and purpose in relation to other state based and national asthma organisations
- Potential resistance from staff, current supporters and other stakeholders who may be hesitant to try new communications tactics
- Measurability of the communication initiatives
In addition, communication activities in the past had been conducted on an ad-hoc basis and were driven by specific events, such as Bubble Day or World Asthma Day, rather than as part of a broader communication strategy.
AFNSW and Reputation recognised the opportunity to create a communication strategy that would bring together all of the communication goals and objectives, and tactics for achieving them. (see Appendix A.1)
As a first step, Reputation reviewed the Foundation’s 2007 – 2009 Strategic Plan and Marketing Plan.
We then facilitated a communication strategy planning session with key members of the broader AFNSW group, including Board members, CEO, Marketing Manager and the Marketing and Communications Coordinator. This allowed Reputation to get a sense of where AFNSW was currently at, their priorities, relevant stakeholders, past successes, failures and opportunities.
Reputation then conducted further research which included:
- Facilitating a corporate positioning exercise to gauge how the organisation viewed itself and how it would like to be viewed. The attendees at the corporate positioning exercise included the AFNSW Programs Manager, Chief Executive Officer, Consumer Information and Consumer Engagement Coordinators, Media Coordinator, Information Line Manager, Community Programs Manager and Marketing team.
- Using its proprietary methodology, known as the Reputation Ladder, to evaluate the relationships AFNSW had with each stakeholder group and what those stakeholders thought about AFNSW compared to what the foundation wanted those relationships and perceptions to look like;
- Desktop research of key stakeholder groups and influencers such as media, government, education institutions, health professionals and their networks and other asthma groups across Australia.
As the first ever communication strategy developed for AFNSW, the major target audiences can be defined as AFNSW staff who would be the key users of the strategy, namely:
- Chief Executive Officer
- Marketing Manager and Marketing and Communications Co-ordinator
- Board Members
- Volunteer staff
Secondary target audiences were identified as those stakeholders who would benefit from AFNSW implementing the strategic communications plan:
|People with Asthma
Carers and family of people with asthma
|Research||Researchers funded by Asthma Foundation NSW
Respiratory research organisations and networks
|Health Network||Healthcare providers
Regulatory health bodies
Local/state/ federal government
Professional education bodies
Universities and TAFEs
|Childcare Industry||Community based organisations
|Community Organisations||Sporting bodies
Journalists/ media contacts
Trusts and Foundations
|Members + Staff||Members
The long term success and reputation of AFNSW will be built on the relationships the organisation has with its key stakeholders and the opinions they hold. In approaching this project Reputation therefore focused on stakeholder engagement as the key platform of the communication strategy.
Secondly, taking into consideration the Foundation’s limited resources and previous ad-hoc implementation of communication activities it was important the strategy provided the framework for AFNSW to prioritise communication activities and measure their impact. This would enable AFNSW to achieve more effective outcomes for all stakeholders.
Using the research outlined above, Reputation compiled a comprehensive living communication strategy – the first ever created and used by the organisation - that outlined communication objectives, challenges, and recommended the strategy and tactics required to engage the support of all key stakeholders of AFNSW.
A draft of the communication strategy was developed and distributed to the CEO, Marketing Manager and Marketing and Communication Coordinator of the AFNSW for their review.
The key planks of the communication strategy were:
- Positioning AFNSW as the trusted source for everything related to asthma and for the foundation to be known as ‘the Voice of Asthma in NSW’
- Increasing the awareness of asthma as a serious condition affecting a great number of Australians without seeming sensational
- Positioning AFNSW as a not-for-profit run like a business
- Being a thought leader on asthma related topics
- Broadening the focus of AFNSW to include all target groups
- Tapping into other information providing sources and collaborating, not competing
- Achieving quality rather than quantity
- Demonstrate and quantify the difference that AFNSW is making to the lives of people with asthma
- Anticipating, planning for and managing potential reputation risks
The strategy document outlined recommendations across the following five areas, which link back to the key result areas identified in the Foundation’s 2007-2009 Strategic Plan:
- Consumer engagement
Within each of these five areas, Reputation recommended a number of targeted activities to ensure consistent and regular communication with each of the stakeholder groups.
As initially planned, the AFNSW team has been responsible for the implementation of the strategy on a day to day basis. Reputation functions as an extension of the AFNSW team, providing ongoing advice, mentoring via phone calls and email communication and implementation assistance where required. In particular, we work closely with the Communications Coordinator to ensure all communications are aligned and well coordinated and executed, making best use of available resources.
In addition, regular meetings are held with AFNSW to evaluate the previous month’s activities, discuss upcoming opportunities and strategic issues and to evolve the plan if required.
“Reputation’s ongoing interest and commitment to AFNSW in implementing the communication strategy continues to ensure the organisation is a competitor in the health and not for profit sector. Their accessibility and willingness to continue to be involved reflects their thoroughness and commitment to the longevity of successful projects”, Lauren Errington, AFNSW Marketing and Communications Coordinator.
Designed as a living document, the AFNSW is continuing to use the strategy as a guide for all communication activities. The communication strategy and mentoring and guidance provided by Reputation has led to vastly improved internal communications in the organisation, and more strategic external communications, capitalising
on current opportunities and strategically prioritising the Foundation’s resources and efforts.
Specific results/achievements to date include:
- An established communications team which meets regularly to review and discuss communication opportunities for AFNSW. The outcomes of these meetings are then made available to all staff via the Intranet and an update on communication activities is distributed to staff. This approach has contributed greatly to staff learning from each other, greater awareness of cross organisational activities, and collaboration of resources for specified activities
- The Foundation has initiated a Stakeholder Consultation Project. This project is currently underway and aims to obtain key insights about AFNSW’s communication and relationships from qualitative research with stakeholders. As part of this project, Reputation will be conducting research with key media and government stakeholders for AFNSW
- AFNSW is trialling a blog with one of its key community fundraisers – Michael Cowan – www.pennyfarthingchallenge.blogspot.com
- Graham Ross, from Channel Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens, has become one of AFNSW most valuable ambassadors. At Opera in the Domain 2008, Graham Ross Represented AFNSW and spoke to the crowd about the importance of understanding and managing asthma. (see Appendix A.2)
- During National Asthma Week 2007 AFNSW staff and volunteers offered free asthma testing for people in Pitt St Mall, Sydney. (see Appendix A.3)
- AFNSW is increasingly becoming the source for asthma information for the media on issues like air pollution and medications, with recent media opportunities with National Nine News, Mornings with Kerri-Anne, and numerous other media outlets
- The Foundation recently conducted the largest ever quantitative study of people with asthma in NSW, and has developed a communications plan for the study’s release in September. The study is also being used in communications with key stakeholders and policy makers, particularly in regard to the recent review of the National Asthma Strategy.
- AFNSW designed and distributed the “Not the Annual Report” brochure to key stakeholders. This report outlined the history, goals, and mission of AFNSW and also presented a call to action for stakeholders in the ‘Can you help section?’ (see Appendix A.4)
- AFNSW designed and distributed a Christmas e-greeting card to donors to show their appreciation of their support throughout 2007 and to remind them of the great work AFNSW is doing to help people living with Asthma in NSW. (see Appendix A.5)
- AFNSW is also currently progressing in a number of other areas recommended by Reputation, such as building a story library and developing position statements on key asthma issues
There is a well known Chinese proverb that states “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” Reputation applied the same principle when developing the communication strategy for AFNSW.
The high morale that resulted from the communication strategy project has seen confidence at the Foundation grow. AFNSW has recognised that a strategic communication plan, rather than extra funding, is the key to improving their communications activities and goals.
Significantly, AFNSW is increasingly becoming the source for asthma information, with both the media and other state based Asthma organisations approaching the Foundation and using their materials.
Community awareness of Asthma and subsequently fundraising has also improved. For instance, the inclusion of a donation coupon, linked with a research story, in the winter edition of Asthma Matters, drew a remarkable amount of donations.
Furthermore, AFNSW is establishing alliances with the Government, and is currently partnering with the Department of Environment and Climate Change NSW. A significant result of this partnership was the attendance of Verity Firth, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, at the AFNSW 2008 Research Program Awards night. (see Appendix A.6)
“Reputation have always treated Asthma Foundation NSW as one of its key clients, and their generosity in providing probono services to the organisation has led Asthma Foundation NSW to new opportunities, networks and resources which would otherwise have not been available.” Lauren Errington, AFNSW Marketing and Communications Coordinator