Guy Arceneaux

Guest blogger Guy Arceneaux is Director of Marketing and Communications at Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland

My last Meals on Wheels communications case study touched on the advantages of communicating and fundraising for a smaller nonprofit. Today, I’d like to share one of the greatest challenges—Many smaller organizations, like mine, don’t have an explicit, documented process for creative workflow.

Perhaps these organizations’ smaller staff size creates the illusion that a process is not needed. I’m not sure. But what I do know is that most of my career successes were built on the foundation of a documented creative workflow. Here’s how to put a creative brief to work:

Document Your Outreach: Two Examples
My colleagues were thrilled with this Brief I created for an event last spring. The Brief saved me time explaining to partners and colleagues the what, why, when, and how of that outreach event. Most importantly, it boosted my colleagues’ understanding of what was going on and how they could help, which made them feel smart, respected, and involved.

A week later, I created this Media Brief for a drive time radio interview with our Executive Director and me. This simple three-page document quickly gave the reporter a comprehensive overview of our organization and its mission, plus talking points for our interview segment. Our Executive Director appreciated that we had a “script” going into the spot.

Be Ready to Pounce When Opportunity Knocks
Just two weeks later, during Baltimore’s unrest in April 2015, we had another great media opportunity.

We had made a considered decision to suspend meal deliveries to ensure safety during this tense time. Nonetheless, some staff members and volunteers continued delivering meals, as their commitment to clients trumped personal safety concerns.

As you can imagine, the team’s dedication was a stark contrast to the tension and distress of the main news story. Reporter Paul Gessler, of Baltimore’s Fox45 News, called me, eager to cover the story.

We quickly issued a Media Brief including an overview of the meal delivery route, and contact info for relevant volunteers and staff members. This Brief saved me an enormous amount of time in preparing for the interview, served as a quick way to get colleagues up to speed on the coming filming, and ensured that Gessler focused on the messages important to our organization and the community. It worked, as you can see from this volunteer’s quote featured in the story:

“I just felt like I was empowered. I was empowered by having that sign that said, ‘Volunteer for Meals on Wheels delivery,” Stanley said. “If I saw anybody–police or national guard–‘Oh, no you can’t come here.’ I was gonna say, ‘Oh, no. I’m bringing food to the people. I wasn’t gonna take no for an answer.”

We couldn’t have been happier with Gessler’s story, which doubles as a compelling volunteer recruitment piece.

Try a Creative Brief for Your Next Event or Media Op
I urge you to put together a creative brief for your events and media opportunities. Your clear, written brief will make it easier for your colleagues and the media to “get it,” while boosting the probability that the event or media coverage will do the most for your organization.

Providing short-form guides will strengthen your relationships with media contacts—often scrambling to shoot, interview, and edit on tight deadlines—and colleagues. Also, your briefs serve as a playbook for communications and fundraising activities going forward.

Everything to gain, nothing to lose. Try it.

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