How to Develop
a Communications Plan


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How to Develop
a Communications Plan

Sample Plan 1
from PRSA

Sample Plan 2
from ARA

Sample Plan 3
from King County Library System

New: Sample Plan 4
from "Any County" School System

Crisis Communication Quick Reference


Sample Plan 4:
Contributed Anonymously by a County School System


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"Any County" Public School System

Communications Plan

Excellence in Action

 

Goal:

The Goal of this plan is to raise public confidence in the Any County School System by educating key audiences that we have a strategic plan with measurable outcomes that will improve the system.

 

Objectives:

      Build credibility for the Any County Parish School System among target audiences.

      Recruit support from the business community.

      Recruit students to the system.

 

Audiences:

School officials

            Administrators

            Principals

            Teachers

Parents

Students

Community Leaders

Media

General Public

 

Positioning Strategies:

      The Any County School System is successfully working to improve the quality of education in Any County.

      It is a responsible guardian for the children in its care.

      The school board is a responsible body working hard to improve the education system in our parish.

      The school system is listening to the community and to key stakeholders.

      The system is a faithful steward of our tax dollars.

      The system's leadership is knowledgeable about the key issues facing education today.

      The school board members are compassionate regarding the fair treatment of system employees.

      Any County is a fair employer.

Tactics:

 

Administrators/Principals:

Training tool kits

Newsletters

Video message from superintendent

PowerPoint

 

Teachers:

Employee newsletters

Training from principals

Payroll stuffers

 

Parents:

We will draft a separate communications plan for parents. This should incorporate all of the routine methods of parental contact and seek to maximize them for the benefit of our PR program.

 

Included will be a "Message from the Superintendent," a self mailer to be sent to the parents' homes. We should consider take-home newsletters, report-card stuffers, parent meetings, school events and other forms of communication. The goal is to try and better engage parents in the school system. For the system's most successful schools, public credit should be given to the parents who are involved.

 

General media

Website/e-newsletter - We will ask parents to sign up for an e-newsletter that would give updates on the progress of the strategy.

 

Students:

Morning announcements - We will provide each school with monthly age-appropriate updates to be read during morning announcements.

Local newspaper's Teen Page - We will set up interviews with students who played a role in the strategic plan.

Website

Essay/art contests - what does "high expectations" mean to you?

Homework helper hotline - Could we get the message out using this vehicle?

 

Community Leaders:

Strategic Partner Program - Grass Roots efforts have always been valuable in building support for schools, business initiatives and political reform. We will develop a Strategic Partner Program led by the schools superintendent. This will be done by identifying 20 key community leaders and asking them to become Strategic Partners. These community leaders will lend their names and support to the effort. They will be invited to an introductory luncheon where school system leaders will explain the program and their role in it.

 

Strategic Partners will:

Participate in editorial board meetings and meetings with TV personnel.

Appear on morning shows.

Participate in speakers' bureau. - Rotary, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, 100 Black Men, Chamber, Press Club, Ad Club and other groups often look for community oriented speakers. We should, at every chance, try and tailor our discussion about how education (or the lack of it) can specifically affect their group.

Participate in letters to the editor campaign

 

The communications team will send the Strategic Partners e-mails twice a month on system news and what information we need disseminated within their social and business circles. Most of this information will come from a message calendar that our strategic planning group will institute and which will be managed by the Communications Director. In urgent cases, these 20 people will receive a phone call asking for their input and help.

 

Quarterly luncheons can be held, or we may chose to break the Partners into smaller groups of five for more intimate lunch gathering where they can ask questions, provide suggestions and get a feel for where the system is headed and how they can help get our message out.

 

Suggested Ambassadors could include:

Head of Chamber of Commerce

Rotary President

Mayor

Junior League President

CEOs of local hospitals, major businesses

Publishers of local newspapers

Owners/Managers of local TV stations

Business leaders

Community leaders

 

Brochure - A general brochure that explains in broad terms the strategic plan of the school system will be produced. This will be used by the Strategic Partners. It also will be placed in libraries, Chambers of Commerce and the school board offices.

 

Letters to editor campaign - The Communications Director will write several letters that address a variety of educational issues. These letters will all show how the school system is addressing these issues. The letters will be held "in the can" and will enable us to quickly respond to articles that run in the newspaper. The letters can be signed by any of the Strategic Partners.

 

Media:

Meetings with the Media - Personal meetings will be scheduled with key media individuals to introduce the work that the system has been engaged in and to ask for assistance in getting the word out to our community about the positive events taking place in Any County Schools. Targeted for these meetings will be editors, editorial writers, station managers, assignment editors, publishers and education reporters. We might also want to target some of the more prominent disc jockeys who have large on-air followings.

 

Media Day to introduce strategic plan

We will host a media day at the system office to introduce the strategic plan and specific milestones by which we will be measured. This can be held in a school auditorium and feature some classroom tours, interaction with kids, teachers and administrators.

 

Milestone Reports

We will periodically release milestone reports updating progress being made in implementing the goals of our strategic plan. These can be done as press releases, press conferences or more of an email newsletter format

 

 

Miscellaneous Tactics:

Communications Audit

We will inventory and audit all communications vehicles currently being used by the system to communicate with the target audiences. The goal will be to eliminate redundancy and to begin to drive message and brand cohesion through all levels of the system.

 

A master list of these materials will be compiled by audience so that we can easily identify communications vehicles when needed.

 

Editorial Calendar

A 12-month editorial calendar spreadsheet should be developed that lists all of our communications vehicles and the intervals that are published. This will allow us to quickly scan all of our vehicles and strategically place editorial to support message initiatives for the system and the School Board.

 

Union Communications

We must understand what other voices will be heard as we embark on our planning and implementation process. These include associations such as the teachers' unions and other support staff groups. We also recommend developing a plan for communicating with these groups in advance to discover their issues and address them proactively, rather than working out differences in the press.

 

Face-to-face meetings early can often provide the olive branch of cooperation (or at least not active opposition) that we will need if we are to be successful.

 

Milestone Updates

We recommend providing milestone updates to our key audiences, letting them know that their system has specific goals and is achieving them one by one.

 

These milestones can be communicated via e-mail, newsletter or in paycheck messages from the Superintendent.

 

Media Training for the System

A Media School will be offered to key system staff members, School Board members and principals. This school will consist of a four-hour session focusing on how to handle media questions, interviews and appearances. Attendees will leave with a good understanding of how reporters operate, how to stay on message and how to deal with surprises that may come up in day-to-day interaction with the media.

 

Message Strategy for Board Meetings

School Board meetings provide an opportunity to generate positive press on the system and our strategic plan. It can also be a place or disaster when discord and confusion are present.

 

We recommend developing key messages for each school board meeting and working with board members to make sure these messages are clearly conveyed during the meetings.

 

To the greatest extent possible, we should try and use the board meetings to proactively communicate who we are as a system from a positive standpoint and to continually call on the community to support public education.

 

Handouts on key messages can be provided to the board. Informational handouts should also be provided to the media, reiterating our most important points.

 

 

 

Questions or comments? E-mail Robin Mayhall