Effective programs use strategic communication to advance their goals. Developing a communication plan should be part of every organization’s planning process. Here are 10 steps to building and using a communications plan:
1. Review your mission and goals
What are you trying to accomplish through you work? Your communication strategy should support these goals.
2. Define your communication goals
Think about how you can use communications to reach your goals. What do people need to learn or believe in order to help us achieve our goals? Who are some key people or organizations that should be involved?
3. Identify your target audiences
Figure out who can help you achieve your goals. Think about important community groups, public officials, or neighborhoods. Learn as much as you can about these people. How much do they know about your group and goals? How much do they care about your issues? What motivates them?
4. Develop your messages
Your messages should inspire your audience to join the process. Develop three simple, short and clear messages to use throughout the process. The messages should explain:
- what the project is.
- what we are aiming for – our overall vision, our goal.
- why it matters (to them).
As you go through this process, you will likely find that different audiences require different messages. Along the way you may need messages for reaching out to funders, recruiting participants, and sharing successes.
5. Brainstorm strategies
Think creatively about ways to reach your audiences. Ask yourselves: Who are they? What do they read? Watch? Listen to? Where do they gather together? How do they learn about the community? How can we engage them so that they are receptive and responsive to our messages?
6. Implement the plan
Identify a small group who commit to implementing the communications plan. It requires focused and consistent attention in order to build momentum.
7. Share your accomplishments, large and small
Report out on how many dialogues you held, people’s experiences, and progress action teams are making.
8. Prepare for the worst
Racial equity work is complex, challenging and can be controversial. Negative media coverage or vocal opposition groups may play a role in your community. Prepare for possible crises so that you can respond appropriately and move on.
9. Look for markers of success
Over time you may see positive media coverage, more discussion of racial equity in the community, expanded support in the community, and more willingness to collaborate by powerful leaders. Capitalize on these successes.
As your group’s work evolves, your communication plan will evolve with it. For example, you may have one set of audiences during the recruitment phase and another during the action. Different strategies will be needed for different audiences.