Strategic Communications

Most of my work in the last thirty years has been strategic communications with a wide array of government institutions, advocacy organizations, political and community leaders.  Strategic communications are so instrumental to any change effort that it is easy to blur lines between it and programs in advocacy, democracy and good governance.

I counted the communications strategies I had written over the years—the early plans on a typewriter and later efforts in a cloud–I stopped counting at 60.  It is not as painful as it sounds, because communication strategies involve collaborators, so I am rarely alone in this effort.  There is usually discussion and brainstorming to design a comprehensive plan on public opinion research, branding, messages, outreach, coalition building and online communications.

In the 1980s we typed and mailed press releases, and in the 1990s we stood in front of our fax machines and a television set.  Today, we review Google analytics for websites and test mobile applications, create Wikipedia entries and optimize sites for search engines.  Communications continues to evolve around the world, but country by country, the information environment changes in its own time.

Strategic communications planning often results in mentoring leaders or staff in small groups to fill gaps in knowledge, skills or update them on the latest trends.  Over the years, I have created 52 different training modules in media relations, public presence, branding identity, social networks and message development and testing.  At this point there feels as if there are very few issues yet to tackle, but innovation continues and information environments change, so this list will only continue to grow over time.

Communications Strategy & Management

  • Communications plans, timelines and budget
  • Message development and delivery
  • Create a style or branding manuals or guidelines
  • Crisis communications
  • Communications in Coalitions
  • Create a message calendar and events program
  • Evaluation of media structure
  • Create a staff structure and job assignments
  • Evaluation of staff performance and capabilities
  • Practical letter writing-emails for individual responses

Public Information

  • Public opinion research: Focus Groups, polls, individual interviews
  • Turn policy into messages
  • Brochures or material creation
  • Public feedback, meetings
  • Speech writing
  • Radio shows/talk/dramas
  • Video or TV programs
  • Getting key leader or organizational endorsements
  • Event design and planning
  • Set-up of information offices
  • Signage for citizens
  • Success story writing
  • Instruction-writing for citizen audiences

Internal Communications Skills

  • Internal communications
  • Inter-governmental dialogue or communications
  • Open records / open meetings policy
  • Customer / citizen service policies and process steps
  • Professional skills: writing official responses, emails, tracking systems
  • Donor relations

Media Skills 

  • Package and pitch story ideas to the media
  • Media releases, advisories and statements
  • News conferences or briefings
  • Spokesperson video training
  • Presentation skills
  • Interview techniques
  • Script writing for television and radio
  • Publicity tours
  • Creation of journalist clubs

Online Media Skills

  • Web usability testing: task analysis, heuristic reviews, card sorts
  • Web mainframe testing
  • Website development: navigation and site organization
  • Writing for websites
  • Usability research for public input
  • E-newsletters for internal or external audiences
  • Social networking tutorials: Facebook, Wikipedia or Twitter
  • Mobile voice or text message outreach
  • Photos for the web
  • Video for the web
  • Search optimization

Training Skills

  • Skills training for trainers
  • Evaluating communications training impacts
  • Adult education for curriculum development