Developing a Communication Strategy

A communication strategy is an important tool when a project team identifies a lack of knowledge, lack of awareness, or unfavorable attitudes that are affecting conservation goals. It is designed to influence people’s knowledge, attitudes, and actions. Developing a communication strategy involves specifying clearly defined communication objectives and developing a set of coordinated messages, activities, and products to achieve them.

Communication Tip

For a communication strategy to be most effective, it is important to have someone with communication experience as a member of the project team or assigned to support the team. If this is not available, it may be necessary to seek external support.

In order to determine whether a communication strategy is needed, it is important to consider the extent to which lack of knowledge or unfavorable attitudes are contributing to the overall problem. If the contribution is minor, it may not make sense to develop a communication strategy.

Although large-scale communication campaigns can be expensive and labor intensive, communication planning does not necessarily require thousands of dollars, or take months to complete. The investment put into communication planning at the start of a project will lead to better results. A communication strategy includes the following components:

  1. The main issue of concern and the goals and objectives of the strategy: For a communication strategy related to coral reef conservation, the priority issues might include coral bleaching, management effectiveness, general reef health, or coral reef resilience. One goal might be to increase knowledge of the concept of resilience among key stakeholder groups. An objective might be to change the behavior of a specific resource user group so that the threats to reefs are reduced
  2. A plan for pre-testing with a segment of the target audience—including audience research on messages and products—to assess effectiveness
  3. Target audience: The main group(s) of people a manager is trying to reach
  4. Key messages and a call to action to engage the target audience and get them to act
  5. The best methods of communication: Including which methods, products, activities or materials will be used for communicating with the target audience
  6. Resources and needs: Funding, access to experts, presenters, venues or presentation materials that can be used to accomplish a communication strategy
  7. Timeline: The specific steps and timing for completion of each step to accomplish the communication strategy
  8. Evaluation to examine if the message and strategy have had the intended impact on the target audience

A simple communication strategy does not take a long time to develop and can help a manager think through various aspects of communication that might not have been considered otherwise.

Click here for a step-by-step Communication Strategy worksheet (doc, 205k) developed to help guide managers through the process of creating a communication strategy specific to coral reef resilience.

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Last updated July 8, 2015

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