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Tuesday 19 October 2010
From the Gateshead programme.....Communications Working Group update

The following article by David Growns, who is leading the communications review, appeared in the programme for the Gateshead game on 16 October 2010.

The last review of the club’s communications was completed and presented to the Dons Trust board (DTB) two years ago. Since then, many of the review’s recommendations have been implemented. However, strategies need to be re-evaluated and updated on a regular basis or they can become overtaken by developments. At the end of last season, I agreed to take the lead on this on behalf of the DTB.

Why do we need a new communications strategy? You don’t need me to tell you that the club and the trust are now in the spotlight more than ever. We attract attention through our history, the events that led to our re-formation, our continuing success on the pitch and the discussions about where our new stadium should be. This presents many opportunities, but also a few dangers. Our current overwhelmingly positive image needs to be nurtured, and our reputation protected and promoted.

So first of all, what is a communications strategy and how is it going to be developed? The first task is to identify all the stakeholders -- groups of organisations and individuals that the club interacts with, such as Dons Trust members, the wider fanbase, employees, sponsors, the media, the community and politicians. The next step is to define a set of essential messages that we consistently need to get across to these groups. Finally, the strategy will define how we will communicate with these groups, how frequently, how pro-active we need to be, and the best methods to use for each (such as email, the official website and newsletters). Once the strategy has been accepted by the DTB, we will go on to devise a set of indicators against which we can measure how we are doing and where we need to suggest improvement.

A Communications Working Group (CWG) has been established, consisting of 20 volunteer trust members with a mix of skills and experience including journalism, publishing, business analysis, marketing and PR. The first job for the group was to create terms of reference, which have now been agreed with the DTB. This was followed by an action plan setting out how the CWG will tackle the task, what it will deliver and when.

The CWG is now meeting every three weeks to discuss progress. It is important to note that producing the strategy is not something that can be accomplished very quickly, given that the CWG are all volunteers. To address this, each meeting begins with a look at possible quick wins -- things which we can propose for rapid implementation, before we move on to consider the longer term.

Some of the quick wins we have identified have already been implemented. For example, as far as the DTB is concerned, meeting agendas are now published in advance, a short report of each meeting is now once again being promptly published on the official website after the meeting, and the DTB is now reviewing minutes by email to enable faster publication. Currently, we are looking at the processes behind updating the official website.

On the long-haul side, one group on the CWG has been identifying groups of stakeholders, another is looking at frequency of communication and a third is looking at methods of communication. Others groups are focusing on Dons Trust communications, the official website and relations with the media. We have also identified volunteers and the community as two areas to which we need to give special attention. The CWG is gearing up to send its first progress report to the DTB in around two months’ time.

Please continue to send me your communication ideas, to david.growns@thedonstrust.org. Every one of them will be acknowledged, and I will let you know how your idea has been taken forward (or why not).