How to Build Partnerships That Amplify Your Impact

Following is an excerpt from Cecily N. Dumas’ article appearing in the October 2023 O’Dwyer’s Magazine Healthcare Issue. Read the full article for more examples and ideas to help you cultivate and maintain strong partnerships.

Every day, we’re bombarded with information: whether we’re online or offline, when we’re at work or off the clock, while we’re using our discerning minds or enjoying mindless entertainment. We need to quickly decide what we believe is true, relevant to us, and worth acting on. So, how do we decide?

When faced with a barrage of messaging, the information source becomes a cue we use to determine whether to believe and give weight to what we are being told. This is just one reason that engaging trusted voices and organizations is critical to the success of health communications programs.

As health communicators, we have to figure out what will reinforce the credibility of our programs and motivate audiences to adopt our calls to action. Robust, meaningful partnerships are an essential strategy to this end. And if done effectively, partnerships can also help us enhance our programs, expand reach and engagement among audiences, maximize resources, and improve program sustainability. Below are four approaches to help ensure that everyone—including you and your partners—get the most out of your partnerships.

  1. Understand your audiences and engage the partners that are most credible to them

Our unique experiences—our culture, community, social circles, and countless other factors—impact what we view as credible, relatable sources of information. Use formative research to identify whom your audiences trust and look to for information. Then place those trusted sources and the organizations that serve them among your priority partners. By engaging trusted partners to disseminate your messages and align their name with your program, you can increase the likelihood that your audiences will pay attention to and act on your messages. 

  1. Engage partners early and often

Bring partners to the table as early as possible in your program planning. This goes a long way to cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship, as the partner feels—and rightly so—that their own interests are being considered. It also can be a huge boon to your planning, because it helps you uncover areas for collaboration, address gaps, and reduce redundancies with what your partners are already doing. Then, once you have partners at the table, keep them there with regular contact. Give them opportunities to share with you and other program partners their team’s impact and present their best practices. Partners who see themselves and their goals reflected in your program are more likely to give their own time to further your impact.

  1. Apply the Golden Rule to your partnerships

The strongest and most enduring partnerships are mutually beneficial. Don’t enter any partner conversations with only asks. Be prepared to share what your partners will gain by collaborating with you. Take care to consider what the organization may find valuable and tailor your offerings accordingly. 

  1. Tailor your outreach and asks to the individual partner

Not all partners are created equal. And thank goodness! Do your homework and customize your collaboration ideas based on the capacity and goals of the partner. If you activate your partners in the ways that best fit their own capabilities and interests, they’ll see that you recognize the unique value they bring to the program and feel galvanized to continue supporting you.

These four approaches are just the beginning when it comes to building robust, lasting, and mutually beneficial partnerships. Though it takes time and care, partnership development brings great value to our health communications efforts. We’re stronger together, and together with partners, we can amplify our impact and achieve wonderful things.