Communicating your message, last of five blog posts on Surviving a Financial Crisis

This is the final article in a five part series about Surviving a Financial Crisis.  Previous posts discussed scenario planning, coping with cuts, 25 ideas for both boosting revenues and cuts to consider.  This post deals with communicating your message after the Board makes decisions to refashion the budget to deal with any shortfall.

 Your Board will face tough choices as your downtown organization weathers a financial crisis.  Some highly regarded Main Street events might be eliminated, volunteers may have to take on tasks that staff used to undertake or some staff might even be laid off.  Change is inevitable and hard. The Board will consult with the “Brain Trust” teams charged with identifying ways to boost revenue as well as cut costs (this idea was discussed in a previous post in this series). We hope the Board will decide on a mix of cuts and revenue increases.  It might be worthwhile to remind Board members that while these difficult discussions are taking place, the information must remain confidential until the Board is ready to make any announcement.  Once the decisions are announced however, the Board must communicate their decisions to stakeholders, funders and the public.

 In a prepared statement, the Board should acknowledge the tough times the organization is facing due to changes in funding streams, but at the same time acknowledge that the organization has discussed its options and made decisions to address the budget short fall.  The statement should include general references to cuts being made, or shifting responsibilities of staff.  The statement should also acknowledge the plans for increasing revenues especially if the organization intends to invest in some programs or activities that it feels are especially promising. The statement should also acknowledge the hard work of Board, staff and volunteers to address the financial situation and solve it.  Most of the release should be future oriented, showing how local community members can support the organization as it continues to bring well loved community events and traditions to the downtown area. If specific fundraising events or activities are planned, this should be the focus of the prepared statement.  Ideally, the Board chairperson should be the spokesperson for the organization for this announcement.

 This statement in the form of a press release or prepared remarks, can be given to the local press in the form of an interview, a meeting with the local newspaper editorial board or the local beat reporter that covers the downtown.  The organization should also communicate this message to its members, funders and stakeholders immediately after the press statement.  If the news articles are positive, they can also be circulated to the members and friends of the organization.  Use both traditional and social media tools to communicate your plans and put a positive spin on the future. If the organization plans a major push for residential donations for example, then a communication strategy for that effort is needed.  For an in depth discussion of a high quality communication strategy see page 9 of an article “Make Your Case: Triple Your Membership” that I wrote for Main Street Now last year. MakeYourCase MSN SeptOct 2010

 This blog post is the final one in a series of five that discussed surviving a financial crisis. This series of blog posts focused on practical advice for revitalization organizations struggling with financial reverses and steps to take to respond appropriately.  This series comes from a presentation I made at the Main Street New Jersey Downtown Revitalization and Management Institute held in Trenton on February 9, 2011.  You might also want to check out Top Ten Tips on PR for Main Street in the Information Age, a blog post from a few years ago. We hope you found this series useful. Please contact us to learn more about our work and how we can help you.