What is a Nonprofit Communications Director anyway?
In the comments on my recent blog post, "My Communications Director is an Idiot," several people mentioned that program staff didn't really understand what the communications director's role was. Maybe some of these substitute titles are better descriptions of your job - not necessarily for your business card, but in discussions about what you do.
Nonprofit communications directors have to take what’s going on in their organizations, regardless of how complicated, wonky, boring, or private it may be, and translate that into words and images that people outside the organization can relate to.
It’s also your job to do the reverse: to translate what’s happening outside your organization and make it meaningful for your programmatic staff. They may be hearing buzzwords like social media engagement and metrics like click-through and bounce rates and not have the foggiest idea what those mean and how they are relevant to the success of your organization. Translating why engagement matters and why you care about the metrics that you do is another important part of your job.
In today’s media environment, your organization has to make choices about which communications channels you’ll emphasize and which ones you’ll leave alone (at least for now). But to make those decisions intelligently, your leadership needs someone to help them navigate through all those choices. That's part of your job too. If you need a visual aid, just hold up one of the infographics that show all the social media channels available today, and say, “I’ll navigate us through this mess.”
The people you are communicating with -- your participants and supporters -- also need you to help them navigate your organization. Are you mapping out the path so they know how to get more involved with your organization? Are you connecting the dots for them, so they see how their personal action, from a $25 donation or participation in your event, leads to much bigger collective change that makes the world a better place?
With the sheer amount of content that you need to create and the number of communications channels that you need to manage, you really can’t do it alone. One approach is to serve as the gatekeeper, where all content goes through you before it gets published. If basic standards of good communications are not being met, you may need to play that role early on, or with certain staff members. Same goes for larger organizations – because of the sheer amount of content that could be posted daily to your Facebook Page, for example, someone has to play the gatekeeper role.
But ultimately, you want to transition your role into being more of a coach. You should help program staff learn about the best ways to produce content about their programs for the best results. You should work with fundraisers to see how they can expand and repurpose their donor communications. You’ll be more successful if everyone on the team is contributing, with your coaching. Even if you do remain in a gatekeeping role, the content that meets you at the gate will be of much higher quality.
What are some additional one-word titles that describe your job as a nonprofit communications or marketing director? Share in the discussion on Facebook.