On Working with Communications Staff

One program officer put it this way: ”‘Spin’ and ‘messaging’ can sometimes make it feel like the nuance is lost. The story gets too simplified.” A common tension around communications for program officers lies in the winnowing of content that communications officers often seek in an effort to make a message simpler and more compelling; program staff may feel that complex problems can only be reduced so much. On a more personal level, program officers may also feel that communications professionals undervalue their programmatic expertise and experience.

Communications officers and consultants know how to get a message across; they’re knowledgeable about how a message is going to be received and how to make adjustments that make it more effective. It’s not just that they know how to create a soundbite or have good contacts with the media. Imagine their frustration when an excellent piece of research is delivered to its intended audience in a form that fails to make it accessible, clear, relevant, or compelling. Communications officers don’t often have the comprehensive issue expertise that program staff do, but they are personally and professionally committed to solving the same social problems as their program colleagues. Both parties bring essential expertise to the challenge of communicating effectively. “Our roles differ a lot,” said a program officer regarding her colleagues in the foundation’s communications office, “but we’re working on the same initiatives and have the same goals” for the foundation and its grantees.

Takeaways are critical, bite-sized resources either excerpted from our guides or written by Candid Learning for Funders using the guide's research data or themes post-publication. Attribution is given if the takeaway is a quotation.

This takeaway was derived from Communicating For Impact.