20 Aug Communication Happens Full Circle at Vail Place
Vail Place is not unique in that we need to report progress to a diverse set of people from our Clubhouse members, to our board, government liaisons, donors, the media…sometimes I have to admit it feels just a little bit overwhelming. Not only that, the communications landscape has changed dramatically as well. These days, creating great content is also part of our job.
Effective, frequent communication is not only important; it’s a critical success factor for our organization. In the past several months we’ve spent a lot of time reviewing how, when and to whom we communicate our most important information. To that end, we’ve adopted five practices that ensure strong communication to those we serve, and our partners in government, the media and our industry. Here is a quick summary of these practices, and the ways they help us do our jobs more effectively through stronger communication:
• We develop focused, consistent messaging via our own media assets. Our website includes a blog that is updated with news from the organization, plus curated, relevant information from our industry and community at large. We also review our website content frequently to reflect ongoing improvements in the organization as well as current events. We post on social media according to a consistent schedule, and seek to engage others via not only Facebook, but also LinkedIn and Twitter. We’re also in the process of creating and training a social media or “Brand Ambassador” team from within our members to help further our communication from within the actual member base.
• We are creating core messages and translating those messages appropriately for each audience. We realize that our key audiences have different, even disparate, preferences in terms of the information they desire and how they wish to receive that information. The Vail Place leadership team and communications staff are working to create strong messages that are consistent across all mediums, yet tailored to suit the audience to whom they are delivered.
• We are providing ongoing communications training for staff and members. Everyone connected with Vail Place – from our board, to our members, to our staff – is a valuable messenger for the mission of the organization. We not only try to keep our media assets up to date, we are scheduling internal key message training and communication training. This helps keep our message consistent not only in our materials, but through our best assets as well – our members and our staff.
• We reach out to important media partners, even when events and news are not happening. Our leadership understands that our credibility is partly based on how the media perceives and reports on the organization. Vail Place is determined to have a voice in the overall conversation regarding those with mental health issues in the state of Minnesota. We make our staff available for expert commentary on relevant, ongoing stories and try to offer creative story ideas that feature our members in a positive and uplifting light. A StarTribune story earlier this year is a great example.
• We have made a strong commitment to events that showcase Vail Place and its mission. We cannot survive without the generous support of our donors. We’ve found that supporting a schedule of recurring events builds on that foundation and also provides a steady stream of activities that place us front and center in our community. Events like the Dr. Vail Hour and the Tour de Vail have helped create a core group of dedicated participants and trusted donors that grows with every year.
Vicky Couillard is the Executive Director of Vail Place, a provider of community-based mental health recovery services in Minnesota.