What does communicating on a tight budget mean for organisations?

Whether you’re Global Megacorp plc, a charity or an SME, its highly unlikely that the communications and marketing budget for 2011/12 is going to be bottomless, or that a budget will even exist, in some cases.

shoestring in the shape of pound currency symbol

You can still make money using shoestring. Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/128Rrb

(And if you do know of an organisation with a bottomless budget, please let me know. I have lots of recommendations and referrals to make!)

In the week that the future of the UK Government’s direct communications was announced, budgets are still the focus of many public sector communications teams too.

I spoke to contacts who run independent publishing and research agencies, as well as thought about some of the projects happening closer to home including these examples. This is a summary of what I heard.

Shoestring communications means:

1. Being more creative ourselves – instead of commissioning creativity, we need to learn to write, edit and design content ourselves. This means being confident about our own abilities, and the organisations we work for need to give people the freedom to be publishers and not just ‘drafters’.

2. Using the tools and channels we already have, and making them work harder. For example, turning a simple blog platform into a discussion forum, or building on relationships with stakeholders and partners to make better use of their platforms.

3. Using existing low-cost tools like Facebook, email, Youtube and RSS instead of building a new channel for each project.

4. Planning communications by audience (i.e. children or motorists), rather than product, to consolidate plans that target the same audiences and enable economies of scale.

5. Making all our content easy to share. We need to leverage people’s offline and social networks so that they can print, cut out, post, Tweet and forward our posters, leaflets, images, video and other content.

This will seem obvious to many, but its amazing how many organisations of all types still seem to be creating custom, expensive, channels or failing to even offer basic social bookmarking.

I’m not going to name-and-shame here, because for those businesses without any in-house technical knowledge, or who have a conventional approach to communications that is perceived to be successful, there’s quite a journey to travel.

These are my thoughts so far – what have I missed?