Creating a communications plan for a campaign (or for your organization) is a lot of work. It’s tempting to just start writing and emailing (or Tweeting) for your campaign as soon as you have identified it. But for groups with limited resources, you can’t spend time or money on strategies that won’t get you closer to your goals. The less money and time you have, the more you need a communications plan.

Before you send out a media advisory to your media list, or your latest action alert to your email list, you want to make sure you know the answers to these questions:

  • Who am I talking to? The good news: you’re never talking to the whole world, also known as “the general public” But who are you talking to? Age, race, the type of work they do, what their family looks like, all these things matter when it comes to figuring out who your “key audiences” are. 
  • Why am I communicating with them? With your limited resources, are you focused on reaching people who are likely to take the action you need, and who can actually influence a specific decision-maker on your issue? What’s the point of the email alert or the news story you’re working on? If you don’t know… neither will anybody else.
  • What am I saying that will matter to them? Our campaign messages have to be as short as possible while still being clear, specific, and inspiring. People want to glance at something quickly and decide if it will have some impact on their life. Knowing a person’s values and what they already know about the issue is essential to crafting communications that grab attention. This is especially true when you’re getting quoted in the media — when you only have one sentence in an article, make that one sentence count!
  • How am I trying to reach people? (Have I selected the right medium?) Luckily, you don’t need to try every new thing that comes along. You need to use the medium that works for the folks you have identified are critical to your campaign. This can be printed materials, radio, the web, social media (such as Facebook). It all depends on where your audience is.

When you can answer those four questions for all or most of your communications, then you are moving into the realm of strategic communications. Strategic communications = reaching the right people with the right message at the right time and place, to move your organization and audiences towards your short- and long-term goals.

Strategic communications = effective communications.

I wish I could say that setting up a strategic communications plan is a matter of answering only the four questions above. But underneath these four questions are about 20 more. It takes time and creativity to ask your leaders all the essential questions and come up with useful, realistic answers that lead to effective communications.

Luckily, there are resources on the web for you if you want to teach yourself how to create an effective communications plan for your group. Check out the related post: Tools to Help You Develop Your Communications Plan

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