Ep 13: Extraordinary Nonprofit Communications – with guest Sean Gibbons

nonprofits are messyMy guest this week is Sean Gibbons, the Executive Director of The Communications Network, which supports foundations and nonprofits to improve lives through the power of smart communications.

Before recording this episode, Sean Gibbons and I had never met. But within minutes, it became clear we’re kindred spirits.

Yes, we both made the leap from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector, and from the media business in particular. But more than that, we both believe deeply in the power of extraordinary communications to transform nonprofits.

We talk about the importance of nonprofit communications, regardless of the size of the organization. Sean believes, and I agree, that everyone at your organization is in the communications department.

Sean explains why organizations that do communications well are smarter, stronger, and vastly more effective than those that don’t.

Prior to joining The Communications Network, Sean held a series of leadership roles at Third Way, a public policy think tank in Washington. D.C. He designed and built the organization’s data-driven communications and marketing departments. He also had a stint as the Director of Media Strategy at the Center for American Progress.

Before his career in public policy, Gibbons was an award-winning producer at CNN. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences recognized him for his role in the network’s live coverage of the September 11th attacks. He also did stints at ABC News, World News Tonight, and Nightline.


  • Four things that nonprofits must have in place to “kill it” with their communications
  • The key to having an extraordinary communications shop – regardless of the number of communications staff members you have
  • The percentage of budget some organizations spend on communications
  • Whether it still makes sense to focus on press releases
  • How networks supercharge the capacity of communications professionals
  • How to deal with Stockholm Syndrome or the “Curse of Knowledge”.
  • Why your ideas need to leave your organization
  • Why communications is so much more than just marketing and PR
  • The intersection of communication strategy and social media
  • Is your organization Helen Mirren?


Joan Garry
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Joan Garry

Widely known as the "Dear Abby" of nonprofit leadership, Joan works with board and staff as a strategic advisor, crisis manager, change agent and strategic planner. Joan also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on nonprofit communications and leadership.
Joan Garry
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  • Tricia Baker

    This is an excellent discussion; we all need to hear this!