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Building a Communications Plan

Communications is integral to each prong in Partner Build Grow and crucial to advancing both your overarching and short-term goals. Who you communicate with, how you communicate, what you communicate, and why you are communicating should be strategic and linked to your course of action for sustaining the initiative. This applies whether the task is approaching individual policymakers to ask for their support or igniting the community to voice their approval.

One of the earliest steps your team takes should be making sure that all members have a common understanding of the concepts and terminology you will use and a broad-based, unified vision/mission that each team member and organization agrees reflects the goals of the initiative and can be supported by their individual organizations.

This vision/mission will be the basis for core messages that will be adapted to communicate with each discrete audience you decide to target. Such internal communications decisions will be the foundation for your communications plans and will make your coalition more effective in conveying the value of your initiative.

Planning and implementing effective communications starts with reviewing how you plan to meet your goals and making strategic decisions on who you need to reach to most effectively influence your desired outcome(s). A communications plan consists of who you want to reach (your target audience), how you plan to communication with them, and what you want them to do (your ask). Getting the right message to the right people by identifying key audiences and then developing strategic statements tailor-made for them is essential.

Begin by learning about your selected audiences: what are their priorities and how do they get their information. Decide how to tailor your core message, what you are asking, and how you will reach each audience, making sure these decisions reflect what you learned is important to them. Look at your connections and partners, your knowledge of the policy environment, your mapped assets, and the successes of programs in your community and others to inform your plans. This information will also be used as evidence to support your message.

Most important, your message should be strengths-based, focusing on the benefits the initiative has brought to date and its potential.

Continuously assess your efforts and adjust your targeted messages and strategies as the political environment changes, your visibility increases, and the overall effort proceeds.


Guiding Questions
  • Do you have a shared vision for the team? Have you created a vision and/or mission statement? What do you want to do? This is the foundation for the message and the concepts that you will adapt to reach your target audiences.
  • Does your team have a shared understanding of the concepts and terms you are promoting? Have you addressed the “internal communications” within your team so people from different sectors and fields of study/practice can effectively communicate? Do you have a shared vision for the team?
  • At what stage is your initiative: just starting out, educating others to engage them, expanding the coalition, or defending against opposition?
  • Who are the key audiences you should reach to advance your goal?  Identify why each is a key audience and what you want them to do? Try to be specific about how each can help.
  • What do you know about your key audiences? What is important to them and what is the best way to reach them?
  • What evidence can you use to demonstrate that your initiative should be built and then sustained? Does it speak to the priorities of your key audiences? Do you need additional data or stories?
  • Who are your strongest champions or partners and how can they be helpful in communicating your message?
  • Who is the best messenger to deliver your message to each of the audiences you’ve identified as important to reach? How are you going to reach them?
  • What additional materials would be useful to have available? Would a fact sheet or report that demonstrates how the initiative helps 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.
  • 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? Is there a neutral entity who can help guide the team to a common vision/mission and address potential communication challenges within the team?
Key Actions
  • Develop a vision and mission for the initiative, and a common understanding of the main concepts and terms.
  • Create a communications plan that is integrated with your overall goals and objectives.
  • Develop support from different constituents and audiences.
  • Identify your key audiences and some of the best ways to reach them.
  • Adapt your message, your “ask,” and your communication vehicle to resonate with each target audience.
  • Use multiple delivery methods, such as meetings, flyers, social media, and public hearings.
  • Listen to constituents, address concerns, and adjust strategies as necessary.
  • Create strengths-based, positive messaging.
  • Regularly assess the impact of your communications.

Updated March 2018

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