How to Create a Simple Communications Plan

0 MTEtMTUwLmpwZw==A huge part of having an impact in politics is being able to communicate a message that resonates with people. That means that you need to have “something to say” about things that people care about. But it also means that you need to have a plan for being be able to “say it” as often – and in as many “places” – as it takes to penetrate people’s minds, impact the way that they think and cause them to take action.

If you can’t do that then you’re wasting your time.

There are several simple steps to a good communications plan, but one of the first things to remember is that you need to WRITE IT DOWN. It doesn’t help you to spend time figuring out what, where, how and when to say something and then not have it written down so that you can refer to it later and make sure that you’re staying on track.

Think of it as a road-map. Without it, it’s easy to get lost and waste a lot of time and resources.

Key Elements of a Simple Communications Plan:

Think about and determine each of these separately, then put them together and you’ve got a simple but effective communications plan for any campaign, organization or lobbying effort. If you need to adapt and change it later as you go along, fine. Just be sure to keep it written down and easy to understand.

Follow the links above to get some simple tips on how to use many of the most common tools for communicating your message.

Remember: fail to plan, plan to fail!

How to Package Your Message

package 1In politics, it’s one thing to know what you want to say, but it’s another to put it all together in a way that helps you have an impact. And that means message packaging. It’s all about different techniques of “How” you will distribute your message in different formats for different purposes and mediums.

Here are some of the basic ways to package your message.

Create an Elevator Pitch

When it comes to effectively communicating a message, there are a lot of great lessons from the business world that we can apply to politics. One of them is known as the “elevator pitch”. It’s a condensed way to communicate what you’re doing, why, and what you want people to do – all in about the time that it takes to ride in an elevator. And it’s one of the ways that you should “package” your message.

Start from the outline in your “message map” and work to reduce it down to a thirty second pitch.

Remember to describe what you’re doing, why it’s important and relevant, and what people need to do. Be passionate and use “benefit” focused terms. Be concise and clear. Write it down. Read it. Then delete anything that’s not critical. (Wash, rinse, repeat…)

If you can’t communicate your message quickly, then you haven’t finished refining it.

Just as every business needs to “sell” something, politics and public policy is about sales too. And people respond (or not) to political messages in the same way that they do to any other sales pitch. Developing a good elevator pitch will make it easier for you (and supporters) to summarize your issue (or campaign) to others.

Fact Sheets

This is where you can add some more meat to the bones. Take your “message map” and build it out with more exhaustive information on each of the points. Find all of the relevant examples and statistics that you want to include, and even add links and references to outside sources. Add quotes from any recognizable people who are supporting the effort.

This is the type of information that becomes part “reference” for yourself, but is put together in such a way that you can make it available to people who want further information on any particular points, (including the press). You could make it available on a website, social-media, as handouts, or use it in press packets with other information that you ever make available to the media. (Remember, reporters are usually pretty lazy…this is a way of doing work for them).

Talking Points

This is a more summarized version of your fact sheets. It should be a series of the key “bullet points” (just a few sentences) that you want supporters to communicate to others. They should be like little “elevator pitches” for each point, communicating why it’s important and relevant in a succinct way, using bold and benefit focused language. It’s also a great way to help maintain some message discipline. If you actually write down what you want to say (and have others say), it’s more likely to be said. (Profound, huh?)

Support Letters

If you’re in a lobbying campaign and you’re trying to get supporters to speak out, it helps if you do a good bit of the work for them, like locating the contact information for the people they need to get in touch with. But this can also mean putting together a letter/email “template” of what they should say. Of course you don’t want a slew of identical form letters, but you can put together a basic, properly addressed, letter format for them, with your main message along with some key talking points, and encourage them to put things into their own words. The more helpful you can be, the more results you’ll see.

Also, remember that when it comes to lobbying, legislative offices are usually flooded with paper. That’s why you should always try to keep everything down to one page in length.

If it takes forever to follow an argument, then you’ve lost it.

Letters to the Editor

Just as with support letters, suggested LTRs are a great way to make it easy for supporters to help promote your message. But again, the more work you can do on the front end, the more people will participate. Let people know what media outlets you would like them to send letters to (along with contact information), and then give them access to your “fact sheets” and “talking points”. Again, encourage them to put things into their own words.

NOTE: Make your information easy to share with others, (such as with PDFs that are easy to link to, download, email, print, etc.).

Press Releases

The better written and formatted a press release is, the more likely it will get used by the media. See the tips and the example given in the chapter on “How to Write a Press Release”

Websites

A good website is your digital home base and a hub for your messaging. See the tips given in the chapter on “Online and Activities” to make sure yours is in shape if you create one.

Social Media

Now that you have put more detailed information together, use it as a resource to cherry pick key points you want to use for distribution on social media, (ex. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and reduce them down in length suitable to the site you’re posting on. Further, you can create graphs or images that demonstrate your points (even overlaying message text on the images), posting them and encouraging others to share them.

If you have a website, online petition or other online name “capture” for supporters, be sure to share a link to it along with what you post on social media. And of course, don’t forget to share links to any downloadable PDFs you’ve created. Remember that you can also turn Facebook posts into advertisements by paying to “boost” a post.

Broadcast

If you will be doing anything as sophisticated (and expensive) as TV or radio advertising, you’ll want to get some professional help. But keep in mind that the message should be the same. Meaning that you should be able to build off of your “message map” and any fact sheets or talking points to develop your ads.

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The point is to make it easy for anyone – whether a supporter, potential supporter, elected official or the media – to know what you’re doing and why it’s important.

If it’s well packaged, it’s easier to “push”!