Key Questions for Online Communication Strategies

A contributed checklist

This document was produced by Nick Buxton, Website Development Manager, as part of an exercise at CAFOD. Originally written 2009 (?), so needs updating re social media etc.


–          who are the key audiences/stakeholders you want to reach on the internet?

–          What are their needs? How well does your online communications currently serve their needs? What do they want from the website/email communication? What information are they currently using or which pages are they visiting most often? Have you asked them what they want/would like?

–          How will you seek to answer their needs?


–          what is the core content you need for addressing your audience/constituency?  Is it currently there on the website or will some material need to be produced/redone? Will you have capacity to deliver the key essential first parts of this by the end of November?

–          Does your core content speak to both people new to the organisation but also encourage deeper involvement by those already signed up?

–          Could putting some targeted content on your website help minimise the number of requests you receive?

–          What do you want to update regularly? How often? How will it be resourced?  Are there things that you already produce that could be adapted to be more relevant for the web/email?

–          How will your online communications work with your other communications? What is the best medium for each of your communications? How can you make sure your online communications complement other communications and does not unnecessarily duplicate?


–          Is email an effective way to communicate with your constituency?

–          What groups/lists of emails would be useful for your section’s communications – based on occupation (eg student, teacher), based on geography, based on interests/issues etc.

–          How many people would you expect to join the elist over 1 year/3years?  Would the list be public?

–          How often do you imagine sending out emails to groups? Who would be in charge of doing this?

–          Would you want to send html emails (ie look like web pages in your inbox but not accessible to everyone) or text-only emails?

–          How would you recruit for the groups? Through your other channels (eg magazines), through the website, by other means?

–          How do you want your email groups to be linked to your other communications such as mail-outs/web pages? Do you want emails to replace mailings for some people, to be an additional communication which strengthens your mailings? Do you want your mailings to be accessible on the web so that people can refer to old messages at a later stage?

–          How will you ensure your emails are relevant to the audiences you go to?  Would you want to personalise emails (by name, content)? Would you want to monitor whether they open their emails/visit certain web pages/forward it to their friends?  Would you run occasional surveys of your list? Would you want the egroup to be linked to other data we hold about that person eg how much money they have given, what other groups they belong to, plus other information stored on the supporter database?

–          Would it be a discussion or announcement/broadcast list? (ie one where all members can post information to the list, or one where only you or someone in your organisation can post to the list).


–          How would you encourage your audience/stakeholder to engage with your communication?  What options would you give for them to feedback?

–          Would it benefit your work if your audience/stakeholders could communicate with each other or with other groups directly (eg by email groups/web discussion boards, chatrooms)?

–          What options would you like to explore?  What options are your audience most likely to use and benefit from? What issues/resources/skills are your audience most likely to want to focus on?

–          How would you build and nurture the community interaction?

Learning from best practice

–          Have you looked at other websites covering a similar field to yours?  What do they do well/ what do they not do well? What lessons do they provide for your organisation’s strategic development?

–          What other sites are your key audience/stakeholders using?


–          What training might you need in your section in order to use the internet more efficiently for your communications?


–          How will you promote and market the internet communications you are providing?


–          What would you want to be able to monitor in terms of usage of your web material?

–          What processes will you set up to ensure evaluation of internet usage feeds into ongoing and future work on the web?


–          Are there ways you could integrate online communication into your work (eg include on agenda of team meetings, attend awareness courses etc)

–          How do you see your online communications developing in the long-term?

–          Are there things we could be doing to generate income from your online communications?

Text © Copyright – CAFOD

Getting your Message Across

Communication skills, press contacts and cuttings, community media etc.

or: Dealing with Media and PR

Communicating the issues

Communication skills are a much under-rated area, whether used for managing staff or getting a response from the public. Knowing your intended audience and how to reach them is important, but so is remembering that others outside those you are targeting are likely to come across what you are saying too. Do you, for instance, want to convey to health professionals the urgency of some concern, without creating wider panic? Is a contingency plan necessary, in case the message gets scrambled by the media?

Most of this page is about the mass media, but presentations (at events, conferences) can be a way of getting to key people.

Public speaking really needs to be practised if you want to improve your skills. While reading up on techniques and common problems may help you identify what needs improving, there is nothing like a live demonstration, practice and feedback offered in good courses. There are quite a few around – check out the Management Centre, DSC etc. on our Training page. Our Media Services page has some sources of technical training and advice, as well as ‘handling the media’ stuff.

Communication Resources

See Comms and Campaigning support/networking organisations, on the Functional Support page.

Clarity and access

The 1999 Plain English Awards demonstrated that complex research findings do not have to be explained in a complicated way. Using a magazine format that combines clear language and pictures with audio tapes, the University of Bristol series of ‘Plain Facts’ publications makes research messages accessible to people with learning and literacy difficulties. The topics covered include employment, training, welfare benefits, housing, and crime. Launched in 1997, magazines and tapes are published jointly by the Norah Fry Research Centre in Bristol and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. See Plain English Campaign website.

On the web

Social Media

Online communication outlets such as Twitter and Facebook develop and change quickly. A generalist site like VolResource can really only signpost to likely useful material – do check that it is still current.

Making Contact with the Media

Finding the right person, address, even title for a publication you want to target to cover your message, can be tricky.

You may know all your local publications, but no harm in checking at the library – getting the right person, job title and a feel for what stories they are interested in will pay dividends. The specialist trade press, such as Farmers Weekly or Nursing Today, are good places to start researching an industry, for relevant organisations to contact or watch.

While nothing can beat personal contacts, there are a number of ‘press guides’, with all types of media contacts indexed in different ways:

  • Brad Insight Media Planning is designed to help research, plan and buy UK media effectively.
  • Check Local Media Works for regional/local press info. Part of News Media Association (a merger between the Newspaper Society and Newspaper Publishers Association, Nov. 2014) .
  • Periodical Publishers Association has a links page for magazines on the net (published by members).
  • PR Newswire UK Media Directory, bi-monthly. Also publishes UK Media Town by Town, European Media Directory. PR Newswire Europe, Communications House, 210 Old St, London, EC1V 9UN, phone 020 7490 8111, email:
  • Vuelio’s Media Database Incorporates Willings, Cision, Benn’s? National and regional press, trade and consumer publications, broadcast and freelance writers.

Magazines, newspapers, radio and TV with an online presence are all on the ‘independent online media directory’ (previously Media UK).

Press Resources

Before sending out a press release, make sure you have asked yourself ‘why (and when) is this news?’, ‘who might be interested and what will they want to know?’, ‘what media do they look at/listen to?’, ‘how do we make contact there?’. A scatter-gun approach may yield results if you have a really hot issue, but otherwise background research helps. A good hook, correctly baited and in the right place, should catch the fish you want!

Press Releases, photos, newspaper sites

PRNewswire has an archive of press releases under various topics (don’t just look under Charity). May provide some useful pointers and background for your own releases. Check out PRWeb too – they can distribute your press release via the net for free (but it is US based).

Press Association/PA Media is the main national news agency for UK and Ireland. Check their Mediapoint newswire services.

Media UK reckons it can get you to any section of an online newspaper in 4 clicks.

Also check out the Press Guide websites listed above, such as Pims, for the additional services they are increasingly providing.

Press Cuttings and Media Monitoring

Press Cuttings Bureaux usually work on searching for key words (often your organisation’s name but it can be whatever you specify). Some charge for a period, others for a set number of items found.

  • Durrants, now part of Gorkana. Press, internet, newswire and broadcast monitoring. Discovery House, 28-42 Banner Street, London, EC1Y 8QE, phone 020 7674 0200.
  • International Press Cutting Bureau, 224 Walworth Road, London, SE17, phone 020 7708 2113.
  • Vuelio (was Romeike) Also offer international monitoring, express monitoring, digital delivery, summaries & translations and a range of media evaluation and analysis services.

Press Association Library, 85 Fleet Street, London, EC4P 4BE, phone 020 7353 7440. Holds over 14 million news cuttings, starting from 1926!


PR Week is the trade mag for Public Relations people, which covers charities and public sector in amongst the rest.

Chartered Institute of Public Relations is the professional body, providing training, PR toolkit and other relevant publications.

See Media Services for some specialist agencies.

Specialist Media Outlets

AskCharity is a database of charity contacts (run by CharityComms) to help journalists contact appropriate sector sources of expertise and knowledge for breaking news.

Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (an independent voice for media reform) can offer advice on the ‘right of reply’. Phone 020 8521 5932.

The BBC is well-known for Charity Broadcasts (not just disaster appeals).

Together TV has taken over from Community Channel – it exists “to motivate people to do more in their lives, and for the lives of others.”

Sector support bodies may have websites which accept press releases or other news and events from members or the wider voluntary sector, for example Community NI in Northern Ireland. How well this is then picked up by the wider media will vary – you may want to check who else is/has used the service – but any cost should be low.

Charity Today website carries news submitted by UK charities. Other such sites come and go occasionally.

Also see Campaign Resources page.

Alternative and Community Media

Community Media

Full-time ‘Third tier’ community radio stations licences have been issued in stages from 2005. See Ofcom for information on the process – also details of the Community Radio Fund, designed to help such stations get going. To contact community radio stations, try Commedia.

Commedia – Community Media Association. News, information, services and a gateway to community media organisations in the UK and worldwide, especially community radio and webcasts. Community television and film too.


Check out Undercurrents – Video Activism.

AlterNet is US based – may be of interest to journalists.

INK is a ‘trade association of independent periodicals which tackle issues of social, political and personal change, … helping its members in areas like distribution and publicity’. Links to member sites and there should also be access to the publications too (still being developed?).

Indymedia UK ‘is a network of individuals, independent and alternative media activists and organisations, offering grassroots, non-corporate, non-commercial coverage of important social and political issues’.



The 4 Ps – Price, Place, Promotion, Product

This is part of your marketing mix – these elements all have their part to play, but which is most important in your activity? They usually have to be translated in the voluntary world e.g. Promotion might mean how do service users get to hear about your service (Product) or how do you lobby your local council to provide initial funding. Place is where you provide the service/product – a high street location will make your marketing task a lot different from being in a shed out of town! Price often translates into cost with vol orgs, but perhaps could include non-financial transactions (e.g. volunteer time) when selling the product to a funder.

For Services, there are 3 more Ps: People (attitude and behaviour of staff or volunteers), Process (how the service is delivered), Physical evidence (of quality). 2 more have been suggested: Philosophy (particularly for charities) and Perception.

Ansoff Matrix

ansoff matrix

Here the idea is that you should a) be aware of the relative risk of options and b) ideally have your developments spread amongst these four – high risk is doubly so if there are no low risk ventures to fall back on. Of course many charities are very risk averse – they don’t want to endanger their core operation or even think risk isn’t allowed by law! But the no risk option probably doesn’t exist (staying still often means stagnation, few aspirations or challenges for staff, poor motivation …). In a changing world, change (and therefore risk) is ever present and needs to be managed if the core is to be protected.

Boston Matrix

Boston Consulting came up with the amazing insight of dividing business activities into:
– cash cows – the products or services which make money
– (rising) stars – take up a lot of money to develop/run, bring in matching money only
– dogs – low cost, low income
– problem children – low income, high expenditure (drain on resources)
We haven’t done the diagram for you, but imagine it within the 4 squares shown in Ansoff.

Again organisations are likely to have a mixture of these, with the key being to identify which is which and how to move them into a more positive category (or get rid of them – not so easy in the voluntary sector as you cant just sell off a ‘under-performing’ activity). You may want to turn the purely financial assessment into ‘do they come up with valued services in respect to the time and/or money cost?’


Some other terms you might come across:

AIDA Awareness (or attention), Interest, Decision (or desire), Action. The stages of attracting someone to purchase or take some other action in an advertising campaign.

Cause related marketing (CRM – see below too!) A tie-in with a commercial company’s promotion which is intended to add value to both organisations. The cause/organisation gains from exposure while the business gets more sales (it hopes). There can be downsides e.g. if the commercial partner gets bad press or has other activities which upset members or other stakeholders.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) One of those buzzwords (or rather phrases) which often appears to promise a lot and delivers little. Usually means building up a database of information on customers – their purchasing habits, interests as well as address details – so promotions can be better targeted and enquiries dealt with with greater focus on customer needs. Membership/ donor management software and systems are broadly comparable in voluntary sector marketing. Keep an eye out for what can be gleaned from commercial CRM developments, and hope that the software firms learn too.

KISS Keep it Short and Simple. General advice on getting a message across in most environments.

Viral marketing Using others (customers, contacts, ‘opinion formers’ etc) to relay your message to friends, colleagues. This has been particularly used in web or email approaches, trying to get page views by creating a ‘cool’ site.


Market Research Society ‘The world’s largest professional body for individuals employed in market research or with an interest in it’. 15 Northburgh Street, London, EC1V 0JR, phone 020 7490 4911.


Crossbow Research is a consultancy specialising in voluntary organisations, recommended in various places. Shawley House, 5 Shawley Way, Epsom, Surrey, KT18 5NZ, phone 01737 358 077, email:

Functional Support

Support and development bodies for specific internal sector functions – admin, comms, tech etc.

Function specific (professional) support and development organisations for charities and other voluntary organisations.

Also see: general national bodies, issue-based support.

Finance, Legal and Admin

For Community Accountancy projects dotted around the country, see Accountancy Services page.


  • Association of Charitable Foundations Exists to promote and support the work of UK grant-making trusts and foundations, membership open to all such bodies and some administrative trustees. Web site has guidance notes available for both funders and applicants, and alphabetical list and web links (with basic info) to ACF members. Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London, WC1H 0AE, phone 020 7255 4499.
  • Community Fundraisers’ Forum (started 2007) designed for fundraisers in smaller charities who are working by themselves and need a bit of support. This may be the same as the IoF special interest group.
  • Chartered Institute of Fundraising Park Place, 12 Lawn Lane, London, SW8 1UD, phone 020 7840 1000. Has various national, regional and special interest groups.
  • Institute of Legacy Management promotes professional standards in legacy administration and provides consultancy, training and support services to its members.
  • London Funders is “open to all London-based local authorities, public, independent and corporate funders and to all charitable funders and investors in the capital’s voluntary and community sector”.

Information, Research, Impact

Communications and Campaigning



  • Charity Retail Association (was Association of Charity Shops). Brings together over 300 member charities which have about 7,000 charity shops between them. Aims to help member organisations through the sharing of information and representing their interests by lobbying and informing. Has developed kitemark scheme. 5th Floor, Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London, WC1H 0AE, phone 020 7255 4470.
  • Community Transport Promotes safe and efficient use of community and accessible transport.