Plan and carry out communication
When you think about communication, media publicity most likely comes to mind. Publicity is important, and will be a big part of communicating about your program. But communication involves much more. It’s the many ways you create awareness of your program and reach out to different groups in your community. It can involve community relations, advertising, media relations, other forms of publicity, and even fund raising.
Take some time to plan your communication before the demands of your program set in. If you can recruit media or PR sponsors for your dialogue-to-change program, they can lend their expertise to your communication planning. Look for partnerships with the major daily newspaper, a community-minded TV or radio station, a public relations firm, or the PR department of a local business, school district, college or hospital.
Review your program and its goals.
By now, your working group has identified and researched your community problem, discussed the potential of the dialogue-to-change program, and developed program goals. Review this work so that you know and understand the goals of the program. Look over minutes of meetings, flip chart notes and reports. Ask members of the working group to bring you up to speed. Do your own research to fill in gaps.
Identify the groups and people you’re trying to reach (your audiences), and set priorities.
Once again, refer to your program goals. Brainstorm a list of the people or groups you need to reach to accomplish each goal. (See “Build Your Team” on pages 19-26 and “Recruit Participants” on pages 83-88 for tips). Look over the lists your committees developed when they were thinking about how to build the coalition and recruit participants. Do you need to expand the lists? Your list will be long, so set priorities. Spend your greatest effort reaching the people and groups who can help you spread the word to diverse groups of friends, neighbors or colleagues.
Develop talking points (what you want to say).
These are the points you will use to convince people to support or participate in your program. They should be simple, logical statements that give people a good reason to join your effort.
Your talking points should explain:
- The issue your community is facing.
- What needs to happen for change.
- The dialogue process, and why it works on this issue.
- What a dialogue-to-change program can accomplish in your community.
Develop points so they relate to the concerns of your audience. Help people see how a dialogue-to-change program can meet their needs or advance the mission of their business or organization. Once you write your basic points, adapt them for different formats, like fliers, brochures, press releases, or speeches.
Plan and develop communication tools.
Your choice of tools is limited only by your imagination – and your time! To avoid the trap of busy work, develop a few basic tools – like a flier, a brochure, and a pitch letter – that you can use in lots of ways.
Start with your talking points, and tailor the wording to the amount of space you have to fill. An attractive flier calls for fewer words. Some people get around that limitation by printing more detail on the flip side. A brochure provides more space for detail.
Work with the mass media.
If you’re new to media work, be assured you don’t need special training or experience to promote your story effectively. You do need readily available information on basic methods for reaching the media. Before you begin any media relations work, write out a plan to cover the course of your program. Include strategies for getting media attention, a to-do list, and deadlines. A written plan is a focus, and keeps your media activities on target and on time. Share your plan with the coalition and refer to it from time to time to make sure you’re on track.
Building a Team | Next: Develop a budget and plan for fundraising
Note: These pages are adapted from Organizing Community-Wide Dialogue for Action and Change. You may download this guide in PDF format at no charge, or order printed copies for a nominal fee.