Your organization and its communication style is unique. Defining it will consolidate expertise, build confidence, and help you and your co-communicators hone an effective voice. Here are some things you might like to include in your own communications guide.
Cherry pick the ideas you think are most important to your organization. For example, using clear language, articulating a supporter-focussed theory of change, creating personal connection, writing strong headlines, etc.
Who are you communicating to? Define the profile of your archetypal supporter. What is meaningful to them? How would you characterize the relationship they have with your organization (or the relationship you want them to have)? How can your messaging and language nurture this relationship?
Also consider how you want your messaging to shift in relation to different audience profiles. For example, consider ways to make messaging more inclusive and accessible when communicating to ‘colder’ audiences and the general public.
Highlight how you want to navigate language that unconsciously reinforces speciesism and other prejudices. For example, you may want to point out that individual animals should always be referred to as ‘he’ or ‘she’—not ‘it’; and list industry euphemisms to avoid, such as ‘processing’ or ‘harvesting’ when referring to killing; etc. How else do you want intentional language to support advocacy and inclusivity?
Are there basic standards you want to set for SEO and keyword optimization? Content formatting? Or list-building expectations?
Reflect on what type of voice represents your organization’s ‘personality’. Define the limits of what you will and won’t say—and where the scope lies for individual voices within your organization.
Where do you draw the line on graphic content? Do you want to offer supporters the option to avoid upsetting visuals? Are there circumstances in which you would bend that rule?
Will you strive to never gratuitously share upsetting content unless it can be connected to a meaningful, positive action?
Consider how your values can be expressed through the way you communicate. For example, you may want to remind audiences about what you’re for, not just what you’re against. Or, you might practice integrity by committing to never over-inflate the health benefits of plant-based diets, etc.
Your Comms Guide will only be as useful as it is ... used. This isn’t something that should be written once and then set in stone. Think of it as a living document. Keep it current and relevant. Reflect on the changing shape of public discourse and make a habit of reviewing it at least yearly.
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