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communications
Building a Communications Plan

Getting the right message to the right people will be crucial to the success of your policy initiative and its programs. Identifying key audiences and developing strategic messages tailor-made for them will help you reach your goal of building and sustaining child development and prevention approaches.

Planning and implementing communications involves looking at your connections and partners, your knowledge of the policy environment, your mapped assets, and the successes of programs in communities, and making strategic decisions on the best way to use that information to advance your goal. You will need to continuously assess your efforts and adjust your messages and strategies as the legislative environment changes, your visibility increases, and the overall effort proceeds.

The communication strategies outlined in this section take a different approach from those typically used in this area, for they:

  • Focus on the people you want to reach, how programs have helped or can help your policy audiences achieve their goals, and on the positive changes the programs have made to date;
  • Recommend an optimistic view of the programs and the opportunities that can be produced by integrating them more effectively;
  • Present these components in a unified vision
  • Encourage you to understand your audience rather than developing sympathy for the recipients of the programs.

Demonstrating shared goals with the policymakers you want to reach is essential for fortifying the other three components of the Action Guide. This does not detract from your desire to help those who benefit from the programs; rather, it frames the discussion in a more effective, impactful way.

It may also be useful to employ a communications professional, but be aware that “communications” is broad and varied and can include such activities as press releases and media coverage, public speaking events, blogs, social media, advertising, public opinion polls and promotion, newspaper or journal articles, so be specific about the type of assistance you would like.

See the Tools and Resources section for tips and examples to help you develop your communications plans.

Guiding Questions
  • Is there someone on your team with the skills and resources to oversee your communications? Who else can you identify to help with communications planning and strategy?
  • What stage is your initiative in: conceptualizing, educating, expanding, or defending against opposition?
  • Who are the key audiences you should connect with to reach your goal? What is the best way to reach them and what are their priorities? Are you going to communicate one-on-one, in small groups, in a public forum, through social media, e-mail, or other means? Are there obstacles to reaching them and how can they be overcome?
  • What terms and phrases do you think will gain the most traction with your audience?
  • What general messages do you want your audiences to understand? You won’t be able to tell everything, so pick what is most relevant to the interests and priorities of your audience.
  • What evidence exists to support your approach or solution?
  • Who are your strongest champions or partners?
  • Why are you contacting the people you’ve selected and what do you want them to do? A clearly defined “ask” is important to know before you go into the conversation. What action do you want your individual listener or legislative staffer or group audience to take?
  • What additional materials would be useful to have available? Would a fact sheet or report that demonstrate how the initiatives help support the priorities of your target audience be useful? Think creatively about things that both appeal to your audience and present the image you want.
Key Actions
  • Identify your audiences and some of the best ways to reach them
  • Develop core messages and talking points, including “asks” for different audiences
  • Figure out who in your Action Team and Allies will be the best messengers for each communications activity
  • Regularly assess the impact of your communications

Updated June 2015

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