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Commentary February 17, 2016

Communicating value, point of difference crucial under NDIS

The disability sector is a $22 billion market. It goes without saying that in a sector that big, competition between disability service providers is immense.

That competitiveness is about to be further compounded, with the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) commencing in stages around Australia from last year. The scheme will see consumers granted greater autonomy about where their funding for care will go – which essentially means that in most cases, disability service providers will need to fight much harder for their slice of the consumer pie.

Historically, government funding models have demanded that organisations focus on streamlining expenditure and creating efficiencies to maintain their funding. Good business sense and the ability to remain fiscally frugal have been the key.

However, the rollout of the NDIS heralds an entirely new and hypercompetitive era, where – while business sense is still important – a different skill set will play a significant role in an organisation’s sustainability under the NDIS. We’re talking, of course, about communications.

Organisations that provide disability services are often resource-poor – and the priority, of course, must be the provision of those services to clients. History tells us that one of the first areas within these organisations to be neglected or scrapped altogether, is communications. For organisations affected by the NDIS, when the scheme rolls out in their area, this could be disastrous.

Whether it’s in business, in disability services, in the not for profit sector or otherwise – across the board, the ability to quickly and clearly communicate exactly what it is that you can offer, then demonstrate the value of that offering compared to your competition, plays a pivotal role in consumer choice.

During the NDIS rollout, clever and comprehensive communications that attract and inform potential consumers, their carers and families must be a part of your key objectives.

So in this brave new world of competitiveness, how can organisations ensure their great work is being communicated clearly enough?

Our top five communications tips for disability service providers:

   1. Stay calm, and strategise

The NDIS rollout is likely imminent in your area, and if you’ve made plans about how it might affect your operations, you should definitely have made plans about how it will affect your communications. If you don’t have an overarching communications strategy, you should develop one. Already, many organisations are shifting their branding and messaging as a first step – keep up by looking at what you need to do, and starting to implement it.

   2. Ensure staff across the board are aware of your messaging

If you have communications staff, this is great – but ensuring the entire team is aware of the impact of the NDIS rollout is very important. Your communications must be realised internally and externally; whether you have two staff, or two thousand, they all need to be across your messaging.

   3. Understand your competition

What is your closest competition? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do your strengths and weaknesses compare? How are they positioning themselves in the face of the NDIS? If you don’t at least know the answers to these questions, you need to take the time to develop an analysis of your place in the current market, and create a communications strategy that will get you to your desired place in the market.

   4. Get loud

Many organisations, particularly in the services sector, are reluctant to “self-promote”. Whether this is because of under-resourcing, inexperience, or confusion about the functionality of communications, these reservations need to be put aside in order to survive and thrive in an NDIS-affected marketplace. Websites, social media, brochures, your local newspaper, events and conferences – there are a multitude of channels you could be communicating through. Understand your audience, get your messaging right, and find your voice in the market.

   5. If you’re already communicating, shape up

You might already have a communications strategy, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best strategy for this new competitive environment. How often have you refreshed it? Does it take advantage of up to date digital communications options? Have new staff members come onboard since it was developed, who may not be aware of it, or who have a skill set that could improve it? If you have a strategy, you’re already ahead of much of your competition – but ensuring that strategy is being implemented, evaluated, and regularly updated is the only way to derive maximum value from it.

To help get you started, we’ve created a checklist for a basic communications framework that you can find here.

If you’re a disability service provider interested in a detailed communications strategy and would like some advice, drop us a line at