From Town Hall to Twitter: Do You Have a Comprehensive Communications Plan?

Over the last month or so, I’ve had the chance to teach a handful of workshops on creating a comprehensive communications strategy – one that combines both traditional approaches with the use of social media and mobile engagement activities.

Below is the slide deck from my workshop for the National Conference of State Legislatures‘ Super Professional Development Series (Hat tip to my co-presenter Don Stanley from 3Rhino Media and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Props as well to my colleague Adam Schultz at Pruvop who originally designed and delivered much of this workshop material with me):

The 7 P’s of a Comprehensive Communications Plan

You can see that I’ve packaged the outline of my proposed plan in 7 P’s:

  • Purpose: Why are you communicating with an audience?
  • People: Who are you trying to reach and who will be doing the reaching?
  • Plan: How do your activities integrate in order to achieve your desired outcomes?
  • Produce: What kind of content will you be sharing?
  • Promote: Where are you sharing it?
  • Participate: How will you move from exclaim to exchange?
  • Progress: How will you know how you’re doing and make adjustments?

In many ways, the overall structure of a communications plan probably hasn’t changed much in centuries, but the question of where to share your message has evolved with the availability of new communications vehicles, usually enabled by advances in technology. While I advocated for using social media to reach a broader segment of an organization’s target population, I also acknowledged that social media in isolation is likely not going to be much help without connecting it back to a website or using it as a tool to get people to show up to a good ol’ fashioned town hall meeting.

So I’m curious:

Do you have a comprehensive communications plan?

Do think through these questions as you map out your approach to reaching citizens?

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Profile Photo Deb Green

Beautiful work Andy. Communications plans are key to just about any effort you want people to know about. And oftentimes, communication about the event/thing/program is overlooked, unplanned, and spurious. Worse yet, comms efforts are sometimes disjointed from the rationale and the audience most interested in the event/project/program.

I had a scuba instructor (eons ago) who beat into our brains “Plan your dive, and dive your plan. It will keep your experience positive and keep you alive.”

Comms plans are no different. Plan your comms, and act in line with your plan. It’s better to plan for success than to hope for it.

Looking at it, seems the 7 Ps are just another version of the “5 Ws and an H”, right?

Love it!

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Profile Photo Andrew Krzmarzick

Thanks, Deb. It was fun to get scenarios from participants in real time and walk them through the approach. One group siad they were trying to get a senior leader to allow the use of social media for citizen engagement.:

  • I asked, “What’s his mission? What’s he passionate about?” They said, “preserving the institution.” (Purpose)
  • So I said, “Who is his target audience?” Answer: New legislators. (People)
  • What are you already doing that educates new legislators and how can you get both the senior leader and the new legislators involved?” Answer: How about video interviews with each new member and asking them why the institution is important to them?” (Plan and Produce)
  • How can you share it? Answer: We could distribute it to both new and seasoned legislators…and maybe we could even get this to high school students so that they can learn about the legislative process (Promotion)
  • How can those people have input / feedback on it? A: Give the students a place to comment on it or ask follow-up questions of the legislators. (Participate)
  • How will you know if this has been successful? A: The number of legislators that participate in it, number of schools reached, and the senior leader feels great about the project and sees the value of new media. (Progress)

Why? Who? What? When? Where? How (“How do we do it?” and “How are we doing?”) :-)

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Profile Photo David B. Grinberg

Nice work, Andy!

Yes, I have a comprehensive strategic communications plan that is micro-targeted to various audiences based on the mission of my office/agency. All government communicators would be wise to have some type of communications plan — especially one for crisis communications and/or unplanned media situations.

Even if the plan is not “comprehensive” per se, something is always better than nothing. Start small and keep working it and the plan will become comprehensive in due time.

Moreover, the simply act of writing a plan — putting thoughts into words and potential actions — may help one to further develop and formulate new stratagies and/or share existing ones with others for “brainstorming” purposes. Either way, it’s a win-win.

However, it’s also important to recognize — as you well know — that media inquiries and news events often times dictate the agenda, despite one’s otherwise worthy intentions per the plan . To paraphrase John Steinbeck in the great novel “Of Mice and Men”:

The best laid plans of government communicators often go astray…” — well, you probably know the rest.

Just keeping it real here. Again, super awesome post, Andy! Thanks for sharing

DBG

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Profile Photo Michael Cohen

Andy,

Nice presentation.

However, you should integrate an emerging online communication channel that we call government online public comment forums. They are analogous to conventional government public hearings in that they provide the same order and decorum (to maintain both civility and free speech rights), but these online forums are more accessible to the majority of citizens that don’t have the time or inclination to go to public hearings.

Go to http://www.OpenTownHall.com to see how over 50 government agencies have launched over 800 online public comment forums that have attracted over 87,000 online attendees and have garnered citizen satisfaction ratings of over 96%.

Mike

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Profile Photo Regina

Well, good question. Clearly I could ask a manager.

I’ve asked non-managers none of whom were aware of a communications plan. It seems to me that to have a communications plan and not inform the communicators is just as bad as not having one (and I’m pretty sure we don’t).

The party our leadership belongs to has long said they wanted to reform or do away with my agency. Personally, I think that party is now trying to do it from the inside. They have pretty much scrapped what was once a staple–the 40-year once-monthly employee magazine. If we’re lucky there are two issues a year. That, and other factors, suggest such a tactic.

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