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Developing a Communications Plan for Public Outreach. Wendy Madsen Legislative Information Officer Wyoming Legislative Service Office. Why do you need to develop a communications plan?. “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity”. - Seneca, Roman philosopher.

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Developing a communications plan for public outreach l.jpg
Developing a Communications Plan for Public Outreach

  • Wendy Madsen

  • Legislative Information Officer

  • Wyoming Legislative Service Office

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Why do you need to develop a communications plan?

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Communications Plan Template

  • You can use this template to create your own communications plan

  • Focus on the elements of the plan throughout the workshop

  • Use template to help focus outreach

  • Delete gray capitalized “help” text*** MARK FOR DELETION***

  • Template provides click boxes in brackets [text] for you to complete

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Components of a Communications Plan

  • SWOT Analysis

  • Audience Identification

  • Goals and Objectives

  • Communications Tools and Strategies

  • Key Messages

  • Branding and Identity

  • Crisis Communications

  • Plan Measurement and Timeline

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Section 1 Executive Summary

  • Provides an overview of your plan

  • Limit to one page

  • Helps you focus on overall priorities

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Section 2 SWOT Analysis

  • Strengths

  • Weaknesses

  • Opportunities

  • Threats

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SWOT AnalysisExamples of Strengths

  • Passion for the institution

  • Strong print media ties

  • Understanding of new technology

  • What are your communications strengths?

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SWOT AnalysisExamples of Weaknesses

  • Limited staff

  • Limited financial resources

  • Weak media ties

  • What are your communications weaknesses?

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SWOT AnalysisExamples of Opportunities

  • Public believes that more should be done to teach young people about representative democracy

  • Constituents in my district have expressed interest in being more involved in their government

  • There is a renewed interest in covering legislative proceedings by broadcast media

  • What are your communications opportunities?

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SWOT AnalysisExamples of Threats

  • Other organizations are overshadowing our messages and we are not being heard

  • Turnover of members is reducing the organization’s institutional memory

  • Print media has reduced the amount of government coverage in its newspapers

  • What are your communications threats?

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Section 3 Audience Identification

Who are you trying to reach with your communications?

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Primary AudienceExamples

  • Youth ages 13 to 18

  • National print media

  • Local business leaders

Identify three audiences that you will target with directed communications efforts

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Secondary AudienceExamples

  • Educational institutions and teachers

  • Local print media

  • Local civic leaders

Identify three audiences that will benefit from targeted activities to your primary audiences

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Other StakeholderExamples

  • Political party leadership

  • Parliamentary leadership

  • Parliamentary staff

Who needs to support your plan for you to implement your communications objectives?

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Section 4 Goals and Objectives

What do you want to accomplish through your communications plan?

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Quebec National Assembly Communication Objectives

  • The Assembly wants to increase the percentage of citizens who are familiar with its mission

  • The Assembly wants to help people better understand the work and role of members

  • The Assembly wants to promote increased citizen participation in its parliamentary proceedings and activities

Develop three communications objectives that you would like to accomplish this year

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Section 5 Strategies and Tools

What specific strategies will you use to achieve your goals?

What tasks do you need to complete as part of your strategies?

What tools are available to help you meet your goals?

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SMART Goals and Strategies






Instead of: Do better at communicating with media

Try: Conduct two briefings for reporters each month

Instead of: Meet with my constituents

Try: Hold 10 town meetings throughout district in 2008

Instead of: Get 100 percent of voters to click on Web site

Try: Increase Web site hits by 10 percent in 2008

Instead of: Use all methods of technology to communicate

Try: Develop and promote blog to inform constituents

Instead of: Produce annual report for constituents

Try: Distribute annual report one month after adjourning

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Examples of Communications Tools

  • Direct mail

  • Flyers/posters

  • Brochures

  • Annual reports

  • Speaking engagements

  • Community meetings

  • Focus groups

  • Newsletters

  • News releases

  • News conferences

  • Newspaper columns

  • Mass E-mail updates

  • Web sites

  • Blogs

  • Podcasts/webcasts

  • Text message blasts

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Communications Tools

  • Remember your audience when you think about what tools to use.

  • Does your audience have the technology to use your preferred tools?

  • Low-tech communications tools can be just as effective, if not more effective, than high-tech tools!

Develop strategies and tools to meet your goals and objectives outlined in Section 4

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Section 6 Key Messages

What messages do you want to communicate?

Why do you need key messages?

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“Someone is going to edit what you say. It might as well be you.”

  • - Gerard Braud, media trainer

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What is a key message? be you.”

  • Clearly and concisely tells who you are, what you do, and why they should care

  • Helps organize your thoughts and avoid rambling

  • Helps you stay “on message” and remember your supporting points

  • Answers questions you wish you had been asked

  • Should be no longer than two sentences

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Key Message be you.”Examples

  • Imagine a university that changes people’s lives for the better

  • Every day in coastal Louisiana, 33 football fields of land disappear

  • NCSL is the forum for America’s ideas

Develop no more than three key messages for each topic that you want to include in your plan

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How to Use be you.”Key Messages

  • Repeat your key messages in all of your communications (print, broadcast, online)

  • Control the direction of conversation by bridging back to your key messages

  • When at a loss for words, go back to your key messages … they are your safe harbor

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Section 7 be you.”Branding and Identity

Does the public know who you are?

Do they instantly recognize information you provide?

What image do you convey to the public and is it what you want?

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Section 7 be you.”Branding and Identity

Just do it.

The Uncola.

Don’t leave home without it.

It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.

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Section 7 be you.”Branding and Identity

  • Official logo of the Wyoming Legislature

  • Used in all print and online resources

  • Includes font and color standards

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Section 8 be you.”Crisis Communications

When a crisis happens, how do you plan to restore public confidence?

Can you ensure that the public receives timely and accurate information in a crisis?

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A Crisis Can Come be you.”in All Shapes and Sizes

A crisis is defined as an emergency or situation that can affect the integrity, reputation, public confidence of (the institution, party, member) and/or that has the potential to disrupt the normal course of business.

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A Crisis Can Come be you.”in All Shapes and Sizes

What qualifies as a crisis?

Can you provide some examples?

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Crisis Communications be you.”

  • Create a crisis planning team

  • Identify potential crises and develop action plans

  • Periodically practice, evaluate and revise the plan

Develop a couple of crisis scenarios and an action plan to go along with each scenario

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It’s Called a Crisis be you.”for a Reason

  • Can be picked up by anyone in your organization and used in a crisis in case you are not available

  • Has detailed information, including all possible phone numbers, contact lists, and easy-to-follow procedures

  • Is available offsite, even on a separate server, and it should also be available in paper form

Structure your action plan so that it:

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Section 9 be you.”Plan Measurement

  • “What gets measured gets done” - Tom Peters

  • “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results” - Milton Friedman

  • “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted” - Albert Einstein

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Examples of Plan Measurement Tools be you.”

  • Internal surveys

  • Online surveys

  • Web hits

  • Newspaper clippings

  • Number of news releases

How do you plan to measure whether or not you are achieving your communications goals?

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Section 10 be you.”Plan Timeline

“Goals are dreams with deadlines” 

- Diana Scharf Hunt

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“In the field be you.”of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind”- Louis Pasteur

Why plan?

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Thank you for be you.”this opportunity to share ideas

  • Wendy Madsen

  • Legislative Information Officer

  • Wyoming Legislative Service Office

  • 213 State Capitol

  • Cheyenne, WY, USA 82002

  • E-mail:

  • Telephone: (307) 777-7881