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Back to basics: Simple communications in a confusing climate

26 August 2021 at 7:00 am
Lex La Sala
In a media landscape that’s anything but simple, it’s imperative that our communications are. Fifty Acres founder and CEO Jo Scard stresses the importance of consistent messaging, well-researched communication plans, and back-to-basics PR. 

Lex La Sala | 26 August 2021 at 7:00 am


Back to basics: Simple communications in a confusing climate
26 August 2021 at 7:00 am

In a media landscape that’s anything but simple, it’s imperative that our communications are. Fifty Acres founder and CEO Jo Scard stresses the importance of consistent messaging, well-researched communication plans, and back-to-basics PR. 

As a fallout of the pandemic, we’ve watched on as local, state, and federal governments wrestle with the consequences of inconsistent messaging. 

Most recently, the vaccination ad campaign was met with backlash, while the government’s communication methods for the vaccine rollout have been criticised as confusing, complex and ever-changing. Not to mention the overcomplication of NSW Health advice, which has led to confusion among NSW residents, with almost all major online publications trying to decode and share the restrictions in simpler terms. 

Throughout these political tussles and campaign failures, we’ve been quickly reminded of a basic PR rule: keep it simple

We’re living in an era where the media cycle is undeniably cluttered, audiences are fatigued, and times are – we hate to say it – unprecedented. In turn, it is crucial that our messaging is clear, consistent, and properly aligned with a wider strategy. 

Here are some ways to do it. 

1. Strip it back 

Somewhere along the way, we forgot what works in the land of PR, and some of the most effective approaches to communications have been muddled. In an environment where everybody is trying to scramble to the top, it pays off to keep it simple and go back to your communication basics.

This means opting for traditional news sources, pinpointing newsworthy hooks in all of your pitches, collaborating with journalists that align with your views, and finding ways to authentically connect with your target audience. Consider your tone of voice, assess what kind of outlets you want to appear in, map out key stakeholders, and, most crucially, flesh out a clear plan of attack. 

2. Know your stuff

It sounds obvious, but you should never underestimate the power of a well-researched, super refined and triple-checked communication strategy. Before you make any PR moves, embark on a research journey. Get to know your audience, assess their needs, understand what media environments they frequent, and consider where you should communicate with them.

Your planned activities should be an outcome of clever research, the strategic use of available resources and tools and, most importantly, keeping your goals, objectives and audience top of mind. 

3. Be flexible in your approach  

The ability to pivot your PR and communication plans to respond to a crisis is what sets certain organisations ahead during these challenging times. Staying abreast of social issues that affect your audience can help work out the right time to implement your activities and tactics.

An organisation’s reaction to a social crisis is increasingly valued by consumers and can make or break a brand’s reputation. Consider the risks of rolling out with a planned strategy when an unexpected event or collective crisis strikes – do you need to reconsider? Can you authentically respond to the crisis through your communications? Have you planned key messages in the case of X, Y or Z? 

4. Don’t confuse your audience 

Don’t overcomplicate things by using passive or vague language that is up for interpretation. To help with this, ensure you are clear on your organisation’s intentions and messaging before you share it with your audience. If your messaging does change, that’s okay – we’re all on a journey of progressive thought. 

Be honest with your audience and be clear in what actions you are taking to align with what you are saying. Make every word count – consumers are tired of having to seek out information to ensure what they are reading is real. 

5. Be socially responsible 

Misinformation and “fake news” thrive off the digitalisation of news consumption as we find ourselves in the midst of an infodemic. Social media continues to blur the lines between fact and fiction, and with mixed messaging, polarised side-taking and misinformed posts filling our feeds, it’s no wonder general concern about false or misleading online information is high. Yet despite these concerns, social media continues to rise in popularity as a platform to seek out news. 

Therefore, it is integral that your organisation’s PR strategy takes social media into account. When used ethically, social media can provide a great platform to raise voices and share stories. Make it clear when you’re sharing an opinion, a feeling, or a fact. When making big claims, back them up with the facts and stats, and share further reading in the form of credible sources. 

6. Prioritise diversity and inclusion

For years, Australians have celebrated our country as one that is vibrantly multicultural. According to the 2016 Census, 45 per cent of Australians were either born overseas or had one or both parents who were. We are a culturally and linguistically diverse nation and, therefore, it is essential that our messages are reaching CALD communities. When sharing your key messages, consider targeting different languages. 

To expect everyone in Australia to be able to properly decipher your messages is a very easily avoidable oversight. Targeting these communities can come in many different forms – from using relevant social media influencers or prominent voices in their community, to partnering with language-based radio stations or newspapers. 


If you need help with your strategic communications planning, media outreach, or government engagement – we’re here to help. We have award-winning expertise and experience in helping not for profits and community-based organisations to tell their stories. We really care about what we do, and we do extraordinary things. Get in touch today at 

Lex La Sala  |  @ProBonoNews

Lex La Sala is an account director at Fifty Acres.

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