Treat your website to a content audit

Taking a few hours to do a content audit of your website represents time very well spent. Both the process itself and the document that results can help to identify problems with site structure, inconsistencies in menus, titles, headings and URLs, and outdated or difficult-to-find content.

The word audit might suggest some kind of scary inspection Read more

I’ll be brief…

It’s highly likely that the people you are trying to reach with your message — whatever it may be — lead busy working lives and have to deal with constant interruptions and distractions. Your gift to them should therefore be brevity. Try to tell your story, or at least deliver the essential (for your audience) information, in as few words as possible*. Read more

Communicate sustainably

With a title like that you could be forgiven for thinking this post is about using recycled paper for your flyers and offsetting the emissions generated by your events. In fact, I’m encouraging you to think about sustainability in communications from an entirely different angle. Read more

You should be on Facebook, but don’t waste your time on Facebook

A few years ago I recall reading many articles predicting the death of websites. People would get their information from social networks and would use mobile apps to access and browse content. I believe those predictions have been proved wrong, or at least premature, especially when it comes to niche audiences and interests.

For the small to mid-sized organizations I’ve worked with, the website remains the most important focus for online presence. Read more

Give your conference programme room to breathe

Many organizations are locked into a long-standing pattern of annual events of different kinds that consist of a set of presentations programmed across a day or two, perhaps with a token panel session in an attempt to liven things up a bit. Events like these, often run by over-stretched comms people who fall back on the same template year after year, rarely generate any really interesting discussion or energy in the room. Read more

A tried and tested approach to e-newsletters

Over the past decade or so I’ve worked for four different organizations aiming to engage members in some way. Whether it was technology experts following the work of the DVB Project or the EBU, the staff of EAZA member zoos, or alumni of the International School of Geneva, the common thread was that the organization I worked for was an added extra in the recipients’ busy lives. In each case we were asking them to create space for something beyond their daily professional responsibilities and their personal life.

At all four of those organizations I wrote and sent a monthly e-newsletter, using more or less the same format and approach in each case. Why? Because it works! Read more

You need an About page for your website

You will find this advice in may other places, but it bears repeating: you need an About page for your website.

Websites come in many shapes, sizes and flavours, but no matter how groundbreaking or stylish your site is, there are some basic universal rules you should respect. If the organization’s logo appears somewhere towards the top of the page, clicking on it should take the visitor to the homepage. And somewhere on the page there should be a link containing the word About Read more

Be organized. Or organised. But not both.

Growing up in Ireland, I was taught to write British English. Thus my colours have a ‘u’, my omelettes come with a ‘te’, and the ‘r’ comes before the ‘e’ in my litres. I also, at least until quite recently, realised, organised and finalised things, believing that only in American English are those words spelled with a ‘z’. I was wrong. Read more

In hindsight, it looks like a master plan

In hindsight, it almost looks like it was a master plan: spend two to three years each at different international organizations, building up the skills, experience and network I would need to launch a (hopefully!) successful communications consultancy. In reality, it was more like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where deliberate decisions at specific moments in time have brought me to this weekend and the launch of THAT COMMS GUY.

I surprised myself last May when an afternoon of introspection brought me to the conclusion that the time is right for me to have a go at establishing myself as an independent communications consultant. The plan came together quite quickly once I made the decision (naturally with the full support of Nadine). Thus, as of October, I will reduce my hours and responsibilities at the Ecolint Alumni Office, enabling me to start taking on clients while retaining some guaranteed regular income. (I’m grateful to my boss for facilitating this.)

My high-level concept for this venture is to be the MacGyver of communications for non-profit organizations in the Geneva area. If you are unfamiliar with the aforementioned TV series, let me quote from the Wikipedia article (with some edits to adapt it to my situation):

“Resourceful and possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences [communications techniques], he solves complex problems by making things out of ordinary objects, along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife [Irish good humour]. He prefers non-violent [non-expensive] resolutions and prefers not to handle a gun.”

In practice I’m proposing services in three broad areas: writing and editing copy, event management, and community engagement strategies. I’m focusing on the Geneva region and on non-profit associations, which is not, of course, to say that I would turn down clients that don’t meet one or other of those criteria. However Switzerland’s higher costs make it unlikely that I’ll be a viable option for organizations based elsewhere, and with the majority of my experience having been in the non-profit sector, that’s where I’m hoping to carve out my niche.

My new website will be an important marketing tool for the business. I’ve created six WordPress-based sites before, but this is the first time I’ve worked with a premium (i.e. paid-for) theme. During the development phase I received lots of valuable comments from various friends and relations, which has helped me to bring it to a point where I’m happy to launch it publicly. Further feedback will be most welcome of course!

So, not a master plan, but definitely the result of a set of deliberate decisions, some professional, some personal. It was not pure chance that my switch from EAZA (in Amsterdam) back to the EBU (Geneva) in 2011 coincided with the birth of Robert, nor that I started my current job at Ecolint just as Declan was born in 2014. Robert starts school tomorrow, and it would be fair to say that this next significant milestone was not irrelevant in the decision to try to establish a more flexible professional arrangement.

It’s the end of the beginning for this new adventure. I’m looking forward to the challenge. And if you hear of an organization facing a communications-related challenge, don’t forget to recommend that comms guy; you know… the one with that name you can never remember how to pronounce.

Alumnographics: graphically representing a community using basic software

As social media have become the predominant channel for spreading information and ideas, infographics (which have been around for a long, long time) have become hugely popular for organizations of all kinds. As tools for promotion, advocacy, awareness-raising or marketing they can convey information much more efficiently than blocks of text or tables of figures.

Working at the International School of Geneva’s Alumni Office, I realized the membership database represented a wealth of information that, properly presented, could help us Read more