During the past 18 months, a national reorganization has dramatically changed everything within the American Red Cross. Though it looks very different than it once did, the organization remains true to its mission and core values.
Those of us who are proud to work as Red Cross communicators have experienced significant shifts in our roles and responsibilities. To help us navigate these changes, my co-worker—Jamie Dierking—and I just completed a communications plan.
The planning process at times felt like giving birth (something I’ve never done), yet it was probably more valuable than the actual document itself. I’m reminded of what General Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
Our planning process spanned several weeks, interrupted by deploying to a national disaster, responding to increased inquiries from the local news media and handling our everyday work in communications. Our process consisted of asking ourselves the following questions:
- Where do things currently stand? Following the reorganization, what is our niche? Answering those questions resulted in the creation of the situation analysis portion of the plan.
- Why does our department exist? What real purpose do we serve within the Red Cross? As we articulated those answers, our mission statement came into much better focus.
- What impact do we really have? What difference do we make in the overall success of the organization? Answering those questions helped us form our vision statement.
- What do we actually do? As the dust settles after the national reorganization, what is our role? Also, what do we no longer do that we once did?
- What are our internal strengths and weaknesses? Externally, what opportunities await us, and what threats confront us? Although not included in the final document, four separate SWOT charts were developed for a) the communications department in general and then for our roles in b) media relations, c) disaster public affairs and d) social engagement.
- Having thought through all of this, what are we actually going to do? What do we intend to achieve during the coming year? What is our plan of action for media relations? For disaster public affairs? For social engagement? Within each of these categories we developed specific goals.
We fully understand that our work must focus on creating content and producing results. Because this is a transitional year, however, many of the items contained in the plan focus on process rather than outcomes.
Above all, though, we know that our ultimate goal as communicators is to continue making a significant difference in the success of the Red Cross. We are eager to continue doing that.