Core Competency: Communication and Marketing

Communication comes into play at every step of your grant effort. To involve stakeholders and get community buy-in, you need to communicate your program goals and how they relate to local priorities. Many grantees develop social marketing or awareness campaigns during their grant to promote help seeking among youth or to obtain support from friends and family.  

As you gather evaluation data, you will want to communicate your program successes to supporters, community members, and potential funders to keep the momentum for suicide prevention going. You even use communication to implement your project, engaging with partners and staff to convey your work plan and their respective roles.  

Communication can be a powerful tool, but only if it is planned carefully. As you develop your communications efforts, think about whom you want to reach, and what you want them to do differently after seeing your campaign. Then, tailor your messages to appeal to that audience’s perspectives and priorities.  

For instance, a message asking school faculty to reach out to students in distress may be very different from a message encouraging students to seek help. Don’t assume you know what will work for your audience—be sure to pretest your messages before you launch your campaign. Work with your evaluator or your Prevention Specialist from the beginning to plan how you will evaluate your efforts so you can be sure you are having the intended effect.  

It’s also important to consider how your communication efforts can support and link to other elements of your program. For example, you may want to market your gatekeeper training or promote your website as a way to learn more about warning signs and referral resources. Communication alone can only accomplish so much, so think of your communication efforts as a part of your overall program, rather than a separate component. 

Some suicide prevention messages may be unsafe for people who are already thinking about suicide, so be sure to follow safe messaging guidelines as you develop your materials. In your work with local and regional news media, you can also support their safe reporting of suicide-related stories. See the Safe and Effective Messaging and Reporting section for more. 

Core Competencies 

  • Your communication efforts support and connect to your broader program. 
  • Your program’s communication and marketing efforts focus on specific audiences and the concrete action(s) you want them to take. 
  • When possible, you pretest communication materials and messages with the people you want to reach. 
  • You and your staff understand the safety guidelines in the Framework for Successful Messaging and use them to ensure your messages and materials are safe. 
  • You explore and identify the most effective ways to reach your audiences (e.g., social media, print materials, public service announcements) in your communication plan. 
  • You have a plan for evaluating whether your communication efforts are successful. 
  • You have a plan for reaching out to local news media to promote your efforts and encourage safe reporting
  • You have a plan for communicating your successes and progress to partners and stakeholders in ways that matter to them. 

How Your SPRC Prevention Specialist Can Help 

Your Prevention Specialist can: 

  • Provide you with a number of tools and resources to help you plan your communication efforts and also coach you through the planning process 
  • Support you in figuring out what you want to accomplish with your campaign, thinking through your evaluation strategy, and developing your communication plan 
  • Offer tips on pretesting your messages and materials 
  • Review your initial drafts and designs and give feedback 
  • Provide access to campaign examples and research articles on what has and hasn’t worked in suicide prevention communication 
  • Help you interpret and apply the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Framework for Successful Messaging, including its safety guidelines. You may also want to check out SPRC’s Grantee Private Pages to see examples of what other grantees have done 
  • Offer tools and strategies to help you effectively communicate with program partners and stakeholders