Here you can find resources on the subject of communications. If you have any questions or request for other resources, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing your Communications is a key activity for International Development and Fair Trade groups and organisations.
Such activities can range from strategic communications plans to managing your social media or taking photos of your work.
The information on this page aims to provide you with some useful links and tools that can help you manage and develop your communications effectively. There are also some useful tools highlighted by this article from BOND.
The way we talk about international development and our partners has a huge impact.
Traditionally, Southern Partners are portrayed as helpless souls in desperate need of a (white) saviour from the West/Global North to save them from poverty and underdevelopment.
Research suggests that not only is this morally wrong and disrespectful to our partners, but also worsens public attitudes to international development.
Organisations in our sector have invested time and resources to change the narrative. The Narrative Project, out of the United States of America, have created this useful video presentation on changing the narrative and shifting public support.
You may not think that your organisation could be featured in the press – however, journalists are often looking for stories featuring non-profit organisations that are making a difference worldwide, and your organisation may be able to offer a story that nobody else can give.
Building relationships with the press, writing press releases and pitching to journalists are all ways that you can build your organisation’s profile and get recognised for your work.
Writing a press release
If you have some news from your organisation that you think should be featured in the press, writing a press release is the best way to get noticed and get the right information to journalists quickly.
Press releases are short, factual news stories, written in the third person and given to journalists to allow them to easily and quickly turn into a news story or feature without too much additional writing.
The release can be about anything, but to be effective, it should be newsworthy. For example:
- The launch of a new programme
- Significant update to your existing programme or services
- Opening a new office or rebranding
- Introducing a new partner or donor
- A big fundraising event, or fundraising milestone
- Receiving an award
- A tie-in with a national event, such as International Women’s Day
Most journalists are bombarded with dozens of press releases every day. Because of this, you should take care that your release is in the right format, and is clear and easy to understand.
Write a great headline
A journalist will scan this first and make a snap judgement on whether to keep reading. Your headline should grab attention and distil your story into one sentence. It should sum up the story and keep people interested.
Think to yourself – what about this headline will make people want to read more? Keep it under 140 characters if you can.
For example, instead of “Welsh non-profit turns ten”
“Welsh non-profit celebrates milestone birthday by supporting ten schools in Africa to access clean water”
Think about your hook
For your story to get featured in the press, it has to be of interest to the public. When writing your release, always ask yourself, ‘why is this interesting to someone outside my organisation?’. If it’s not, consider changing the angle so that it is.
Sum up the story in the first paragraph
Get to the point quickly, and use each subsequent paragraph to add in detail. Use additional paragraphs towards the end of the release to talk about who you are as an organisation, and what you do.
Include a quote
This will help bring the story to life, and make it easier for the journalist to write as they may not need to then contact you for a quote. For example, if you are holding an event, ask your board or figurehead for a quote to include about what the event hopes to achieve.
Keep it short and to-the-point
Ensure your press release stays on topic and doesn’t have too much unnecessary information. Keeping it to one side of A4 is a good way of staying on track.
Do you have access to a case study that can help your story come to life? Or images that could be used with the story? Is your founder available for interview? Create a ‘Notes for Editors’ section at the end of the press release and give details of anything additional you can offer that would persuade a journalist to cover the story.
Cover the 5 ‘W’s and 1 ‘H’
Your press release should be a complete story – remember to cover the 5 ‘W’s and 1 ‘H’:
- Who is the press release about?
- What is the story?
- Why is there a press release about this subject?
- Where is the story based?
- When is the story happening?
- How does this story add value to the reader?
Tweak the release depending on where you are sending it
Take the time to edit your release slightly based on where you are planning on sending it. If you’re targeting local press, increase the mention of the local angle, and why it is of interest for local people. If you’re sending it to a national paper, review the language used to make sure the angle is applicable to everyone nationally.
Pitching a release to press
Taking the time to build a relationship with key journalists is something that will make your press release more likely to be used. Reaching out and asking what they are working on, and if there is anything you can do to help (for example, providing case studies) can help get your organisation on their radar.
Look up the key contacts at different newspapers and news websites, including newsdesk, events and local reporters. If they aren’t listed online, call the general newsdesk or switchboard and ask who the most relevant contacts are for different sections.
Send a personalised email with the release to each contact, and make sure you quickly explain what the release is about and why it is of interest to their readers. Make your email short, friendly and to-the-point. Include contact details in case they have any questions.
For important releases, consider following up your email with a phone call a day later, to see if there is any interest and if there’s any more information they would like.
If you would like to discuss any specific communications needs or arrange for some tailored communications support, please email: email@example.com
The APJD is an initiative powered by the World Press Photo Foundation and Everyday Africa with the objective to connect African visual journalists with the global industry and encourage a more diverse representation of the continent. We hope that this list will bring you new professional collaborations.
Please note that there are two different tabs at the bottom: one for experienced photographers and one for emerging photographers, make sure to check both tabs.
Social media is a key tool for getting your message out there, and building your profile. However, it can also be confusing and requires some detailed knowledge to use effectively. Simply having a social profile for your organisation may not help you achieve your goals – using it in the right way can however help you gain new followers, raise the profile of your organisation, and even develop fundraising opportunities.
So how can you make sure you are making the most of your social media activity?
Work out the platform that’s right for you
Facebook is a great tool for speaking to individuals who use it in a personal capacity. Posting videos, setting up Facebook Groups to engage a group of people around a topic, or using a small amount of budget to boost important posts so that more people see them are all ways you can make the most of Facebook. Find out more about getting started with Facebook and scheduling posts.
Instagram is a fantastic way to tell your story visually. If you have access to lots of great photography, setting up an Instagram account can be a good way to show off what you have been up to. The Story function is also useful for sharing your latest news. Use plenty of hashtags in your content to get your posts in front of the right people. Find out how to use Instagram as a non-profit here.
Twitter is ideal for short, regular updates aimed at connecting with individuals, organisations and official bodies, and building relationships with these accounts with the aim of raising your profile and increasing your following. Twitter doesn’t follow an algorithm as Facebook and Instagram do, so your content is more likely to be seen by more people. Find out how to use Twitter as a non-profit, and some examples of good non-profit use of the platform.
Do you want to showcase your journey and story in a professional manner, to help increase job applications or build connections in a professional capacity? LinkedIn could be right for this objective. Find out how to use LinkedIn as a non-profit here.
If you have access to lots of video content, then starting a YouTube channel is a good way of storing it and organising it by category. You can reach new audiences by making sure you are tagging it with the right keywords that people will be using to search the platform. Find out more information about using YouTube here.
There are many other new platforms emerging rapidly, and it’s worth keeping up with which ones could be useful for speaking to the audience you want to target. For example, Snapchat and TikTok are great if you want to connect with young people. Keep up with the latest social media news here.
By using scheduling tools, you can be more efficient with your use of social media and free up time to use elsewhere. Although it is important to check in on your accounts daily, in order to answer any questions that may have been posted and catch up with news from your sector, scheduling content in advance is more efficient and means you can plan content ahead of time.
Using tools like Buffer, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to schedule in your content ahead of time also means you can post at times of the day when your audience is online, but you may not be. Some scheduling tools have a free version, or a paid-for version with more features. It is worth trialling several to see which one suits your organisation best.
Use a variety of different content types to keep things interesting, but make sure that the content you are using suits the platform you are posting it on.
For example, videos are best on Facebook because the platform will prioritise them over images as part of the algorithm that decides what to show in people’s feeds. Square images work best on Instagram, and GIFs grab attention on Twitter.
Take a look at this article that will help you find the perfect image dimensions for each platform.
Always try and post with an image or video, and not text only, as on all platforms text-only content tends to reach less people and get less engagement.
Want to make your own images? Online editors like Canva or Piktochart can help you create professional-looking images quickly using templates, and there are free and paid versions available to help you create posters, graphics, infographics and even animated videos.
In order to grow your following and increase awareness around your organisation, you need to dedicate time daily to social media. Posting, responding to comments and questions, finding new accounts to follow and interact with, and planning out what you’re going to be doing in the next few weeks are all important things to do in order to keep your social media pages active and attractive for visitors to hopefully decide to follow you.
Taking ten minutes at the start and end of each day to check in on your social pages is an easy way to keep on top of things. You may want to introduce a rota within your team, or allocate different team members a different social channel or responsibility to look after.
Evaluate what you’re doing
Being active on social media and putting in the work can achieve great results, but if you’re not monitoring how it is going and learning from what you are doing, you may not be being as efficient as you could be.
Take the time to look at the analytics section of each platform you are active on – keeping up with the statistics in this section will help you identify what posts have performed the best, allowing you to replicate those results again. For example, you might learn that your audience like it best when you ask lots of direct questions, or prefer to interact with video content over images. Taking time each month to check in on the analytics section could help you to get better results in the future.
Many platforms will allow you to get results for the month at-a-glance, making it even easier to see what is and isn’t working.
Find out more on social media analytics here.
We can help your organisation access training and advice on social media marketing. To find out more and get tailored advice, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Developing a strategy for your communications is a great way to help you stay on track and keep your communications focused, so that they are always helping you to work towards your overall organisational objectives.
A comms strategy sets out how you plan to use different communications tools, such as social media, blogs, press releases, your website and email marketing to work towards achieving your goals. It’s used so that all people working within your organisation are aware of how comms will work for you.
Here’s a short list of how you can develop and implement a communications strategy for your organisation:
Create a statement of purpose
In order for comms to help you achieve your goals, it helps to set out in one paragraph what it is your organisation is looking to achieve by creating a comms strategy. By clearly setting this out in the document, you have something to refer back to when developing ideas, and serves as a reminder for others in your team who may be assisting with communications in future.
Outline your organisational objectives
By clearly outlining your organisational goals, you will then be able to suggest how comms will help you achieve these. As part of this section, think about 4-5 key messages that you would want to convey about your organisation’s goals, purpose and activities, and refer back to these in all your comms activity.
Work out who you are speaking to
You may be looking to connect with a wide range of people through your comms – other organisations, partners, the public, politicians and public figures, or institutions. Once you have mapped out the different audiences you want to connect with, think about and set out what messages you want to send to them.
Work out where you are speaking to them
It’s worth thinking about and setting out how you plan to connect with these different audiences through different comms streams. For example, will you be looking to speak to partners through email marketing, and the general public through PR? You can then add this to your plan, so it is clear to you who you are speaking to, what you are saying to them, and where you are connecting with them.
Plan out how you will use each comms channel in more detail
You’ll have already thought about who you are targeting with each comms channel, but set out in more detail here how you plan to use them. For example, is email and web going to be your primary channel? Will you only use PR when you have a really big event, or will you try and think of other ways to get into the press across the year?
Create a calendar
As part of your plan, map out all your key dates for the next six months to a year, looking at your internal milestones and key dates as well as any relevant external ones, such as World Health Day, or Christmas. Set out where and when you will have spikes of comms activity, and any recurring dates, such as monthly email bulletins, along with a rough idea of where you’ll be allocating any comms budget.
It’s very important to include evaluation in your comms plan – what does success look like, and what objectives do you want to meet for the year? Setting out what you want to achieve, and how you will monitor and evaluate your activity against these objectives, is key to ensuring you are working towards your goals. This could be simple (setting the number of email opens you’d like to achieve for the year) or complex (have you raised your organisations profile by being featured in certain publications?). Include here how often you are going to check in on progress, whether that’s weekly, monthly or quarterly.
If you would like to discuss any specific communications needs or arrange for some tailored communications support, please email: email@example.com.
It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words – getting images that reflect your values and work are essential in illustrating the impact you make. Taking time to get this right is very worthwhile, particularly as they can be used in many ways, from press releases and social media to reporting your work or to support fundraising activities.
The Narrative Project offers suggestions of how to take and use images for your communications channels – we’ve summarised them here. The Hub Cymru Africa photo guidance downloadable sheet has this guidance in PDF form.
What kind of pictures work best?
These themes were tested to explore which visual ideas make people more likely to support development, from most likely to least likely to gain support.
Theme 1: Potential
Photographs showing that development programmes help people reach their human potential were found to be persuasive with members of the Engaged Public. This type of image also supports the idea that development helps people achieve independence over the long term.
Theme 2: Progress
“Before and after” images showing tangible changes in local communities make it clear that development programmes make a real difference in the world.
Theme 3: Empower
Images showing that people in developing countries share our goals—such as earning an education or providing for their family—create human connections and convey the idea that development helps people build the foundations of independence.
Theme 4: Pity
While images that invoke pity create emotional reactions in some people, they do not advance the idea that people in developing countries are active partners in development.
Theme 5: Hope
Images of people that do not show the context in which they live were least effective at building support for development. People feel good seeing pictures of happy children, but it doesn’t have the same impact as photos with the themes of potential of progress.
What are the basic principles of taking photos?
Rule of Thirds
The most important elements are placed on or around the lines and points of intersection. Imagine that your image is divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines. Try to position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect. Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.
Placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the ‘weight’ of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.
When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey ‘through’ the scene.
Symmetry and Patterns
We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made, and they can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected.
Before photographing your subject, take time to think about where you will shoot it from. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.
How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? Look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject.
Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to convey the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background.
The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world.
By cropping in tightly on the eye, the viewer’s attention is focused fully on it. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background ‘noise’, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.
Editing your images
Sometimes, you take a good picture but need to crop it or brighten it a little just to bring it to life. There are many different online picture editors and software out there that can help to elevate your images. Online editors such as Pixlr Express are useful, as are editing apps for your phone such as Snapseed.
If you would like to discuss any specific communications needs or arrange for some tailored communications support, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.