QMAP Resource Corner: Diversified Communications Planning

November 12, 2013

Findings from the Quality Mentoring Assessment Path (QMAP®) process provide MPM with in-depth information about challenges that mentoring program staff face in balancing program development with managing the day-to-day program functions. From data gathered through QMAP assessments of Minnesota mentoring programs during 2012, communications planning emerged as an area in which program staff would like more information, guidance and support.

For many mentoring programs, communications efforts are scattered or disjointed. Smaller programs may struggle to find the time or person power to devote to consistent strategies, while those that are part of larger organizations may find that their messages are crowded out by other programs or not coordinated with the overall organization’s purpose. From what MPM has seen, it is rare that youth mentoring programs are able to create and execute multilevel communications plans that can effectively reach all possible audiences programs would like to connect with – potential mentors, funders, referral sources, policy-makers, youth and families, and other community stakeholders.

It is for this reason that MPM was so pleased to be selected as a 2013 “Making a Difference” pro bono project client by Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm with offices in Minneapolis. Weber Shandwick and MPM staff partnered to develop a practical, hands-on PR Toolkit designed to assist mentoring program staff with understanding the complete public relations landscape and leveraging effective media strategies for their cause. With this toolkit, it doesn’t matter how large or small a program is, or how much (or little) experience you may have working with the media.  The toolkit provides access to the expertise you need to tell your story, as well as easy-to-use resources to help launch new outreach efforts on behalf of your program.

The PR Toolkit is divided into four main sections:
Introduction to Media Relations, including an overview of the ins and outs of various media outlets, and how to position items for each medium
Media Outreach, focusing on how to develop and deliver the key messages you want to get across
Social Media, providing an inventory of popular platforms, and ideas for making the most of new (and newly-emerging) communication methods
Tools and Templates, offering key resources, such as a press release, that you can re-purpose for your own use.

Sprinkled throughout the Toolkit, you will find useful tips and examples for translating the concepts presented into day-to-day practices. One example of such a tip comes from the Media Outreach section, where the practice of creating easily grasped “infobytes” of key information from larger data sets is illustrated. Putting tips like these into action, as well as reviewing the entire toolkit for comprehensive approaches and new strategies, can revitalize ongoing public relations efforts or give a new mentoring program a strong base for starting its communications plan.

You can learn more about the PR Toolkit and other ways to increase your public relations and communications savvy by participating in the November 21st session of the Collaborative Mentoring Webinar Series, titled “Leveraging National Mentoring Month.” In this session, you will learn about way to use the annual National Mentoring Month (NMM) celebration of mentoring in January 2014 to support ongoing efforts from recruitment to local awareness in your community. The webinar will feature broad-based public relations training by Mai-Anh Kapanke, MPM Associate Director, who will share resources from the PR Toolkit, as well as staff from MENTOR, the National Mentoring Partnership, who will provide an overview of the communications and advocacy resources available in the NMM campaign toolkit. NMM themes are intended for year-round use, so this is also a chance to pick up new tools and ideas to tie your local efforts to a strong national public awareness platform, as well as one more way to upgrade and diversify your own communications planning.