Sustaining a NORC Program
Guiding Principle # 4
A NORC program communicates its goals and accomplishments to the broader community in order to secure buy-in and a lasting commitment.
Actions and Considerations
Develop your communications strategy. To communicate effectively about your NORC program, you need to figure out who will tell your story, what will be said, and how the information will be disseminated. Include communications in your work plan and be sure you have the resources in place to get it done.
Effective communication strategies:
- Know the needs of the audience and tailor their messages to reflect them.
- Involve senior residents and other partners as storytellers.
- Include formal and informal methods, such as newsletters (print and electronic), e-mail, community speaking engagements, and customized outreach.
- Use real stories to bring the human side of your program to life, and statistics to document its effectiveness.
- Tell the audience what happens next.
Build communications planning into ongoing work. At the end of each event or meeting, ask:
- “What are the key points here?
- “Are there stories here that should be captured?”
- Who will we follow up with?”
Tell a consistent story about your progress over time. Review your mission statement and work plan to reaffirm your programmatic intent and approach (for more on mission, see Partnering with the Community, Guiding Principle #2; for more on work plan, see Designing and Implementing a NORC Program, Guiding Principle #5). Your story should track closely to your goals, explicitly linking cause to effect, resource use to outcome, and future aspirations to resource requests and initiatives.
Prepare an elevator speech. You never know who you will meet in an elevator or when you will have a two-minute opportunity to get someone excited about your program. Put together a short and compelling summary of what you are doing, how it is transforming the lives of seniors and the community in which they live, and what resources you need to move forward.
Inspire your team by communicating success. Setting targets, measuring outcomes, and showing results build pride and reinforce the spirit of a partnership. These steps also allow you to identify gaps, opportunities for improvement, and ways to engage new partners or re-energize existing ones.
Communicating results can also be used to:
- Recruit and retain talented staff.
- Retain or increase funding.
- Garner support for other innovative efforts.
- Enlist and motivate volunteers.
- Gain favorable public recognition in the community.
Ask for help. Involving your partners in support of your communication efforts reinforces their commitment and brings in fresh voices. This support runs in both directions—your partners may in turn ask you to feature some of their work in relevant publications and projects. Communications offers you an opportunity to be inclusive while extending your reach.
Keep in Mind
Partners, funders, and other stakeholders like to support winning teams. When your evaluation shows that your work is valued by senior residents and is having an impact on the community (see Evaluating the Projects of a NORC Program), let everyone know.
Your results will not speak for themselves. To be heard, you need to tell a story over and over, in many voices, and from many angles. Frame results in a larger context, explaining how they fit within the overall mission of the NORC program.
Keep your message fresh by periodically reviewing and updating your publications and rewriting your presentations. The big-picture story stays the same, but the way in which it is presented needs to change so that people keep listening. Continue to Guiding Principle #5