Deciding Why We Care; What We Care About

Last weekend I was in Walla Walla, Washington for the Whitman College Alumni Board meeting. We were basically a group of 13 people (graduates from between 1962 and 2007) from across the country joined by a common experience. A group committed to strengthening ties other alumnus have with the school.

Talk focused on finalizing our five-year strategic plan with a vision to create a place alumnus call “home.” We want to strengthen the bonds Whitties have with each other and the school.

It’s important to know the bonds are already pretty strong. We all realize our college experience is different from the experience many others have in college. Around 50 percent of our alums give financially to the school each year. Many more are involved through their volunteer effort. Many of us started the planning process by asking ourselves questions:

  • What do I care most about regarding Whitman?

  • Why do I care? After all it’s been more than 30 years!

  • Who else cares?

  • Why does that matter to me?

  • How can I help those who care?

  • What can I do to make more people to care?

By asking fellow alumni these questions, we’ll be able to create a plan that helps strengthen ties with the school. It’s a long-term project we’re excited about and hope is successful.

In thinking about it, these are great questions for communicators to ask when creating community relations plans. When I look at applying these lessons to clients, the same principles and similar questions apply:

  • What do employees care most about? Why?

  • What are the biggest needs in our community?

  • How can we help strengthen the community?

  • Is there a way our employees can also help through volunteering?

  • What about our customers? Where do they want us to help?

  • What can we do to make more people care about this?

The answers to these and other questions help provide a framework from which a targeted community relations plan can be developed. Like many other aspects of communications, without a plan that includes measurable goals you can’t possibly know if you’re truly been successful.

How do you help your clients make sure their community programs are on target and focus in areas they care about. How do you identify organizations that need your client’s help?

~It sounds simple but it’s really not. 

The Barber Group

Gig Harbor, Washington


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