Six Steps of Outreach Planning At-a-Glance Model Step 1. Identify the Issue/Opportunity and Clarify Need for Outreach State the resource management issue/opportunity. Objectively investigate and describe the current situation and articulate how you would like to see it change. Determine whether or not members of the public have a role in influencing the outcome. Step 2. Identify, Analyze, and Prioritize Audiences Decide which audiences are stakeholders and need to be addressed through outreach. Determine the individuals/groups with the greatest stake in the issue, paying close attention to those who could influence the end results. Remember: There is no "general public." Step 3. Develop Outreach Goals, Objectives and Messages Determine your outreach goal(s) - what you hope to achieve through your outreach efforts. Measureable objectives specifically describe how you will accomplish the goal(s). Develop messages that are tailored for each audience. Step 4. Develop Tools and Strategies When conducting outreach, tools are the “what” and strategies articulate the “how.” Decide the ways and means you will use to communicate with each audience to obtain the desired outcome(s). Step 5. Develop an Action Plan with a Schedule Specify how and when outreach will be conducted, and who is responsible for accomplishing each aspect of it. Identify who needs to be notified and who is responsible for making those notifications. Step 6. Monitor, Evaluate and Revise Outreach Efforts Plan, do, learn and adjust – from start to finish. This will help to improve the effectiveness of your outreach, both now and in the future. Outreach Planning Working through the series of outreach planning steps to develop a strategic outreach plan enhances effectiveness and facilitates accomplishing your resource management goals. Developing an Outreach Plan The goal of outreach is to support and facilitate accomplishing the agency mission and associated resource management goals. Use the following planning model to gather and work through information to develop and implement an effective, proactive outreach plan. Outreach Planning Model Step 1. Identify/Understand the Resource Management Issue and Clarify the Need for Outreach Identify the Resource Management Issue, Decision, or Opportunity A resource management goal is a general statement that describes the desired result of managing for a species, habitat, historic site, etc.; it is the desired outcome once the resource management issues have been resolved. The resource management issue, decision, or opportunity is resource based and relates to the management goal. Basically, a resource management issue is a problem or concern that relates to a natural or cultural resource of significance. Generally, a decision will include one or more resource management issues. An opportunity can usually be used to address an issue although at times it may be more difficult to relate the opportunity to a resource management goal. Examples (Some hypothetical): Issue: 1) White-nose syndrome (WNS), a wildlife crisis of unprecedented proportions, has killed hundreds of thousands of bats from Vermont to West Virginia and continues to spread. [Management goal: Determine the cause of and stop WNS from spreading.] 2) Migratory songbird populations are in decline. [Management goal: Stabilize songbird populations] Decision: 1) The Acuna cactus is on the brink of extinction and is to be listed as an endangered species in Arizona. [Management goal: Recovery of the Acuna cactus] 2) The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, approximately 5,000 acres, will acquire, through purchase, an additional 200 acres of historic coastal wetlands along Lake Erie. [Management goal: Protect and restore habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds] Opportunity: The Creston National Fish Hatchery’s 75th Anniversary [Management goal: Replenish and encourage sustainable trout populations in Montana] Note: the opportunity is to use the anniversary to educate about sustainable fish populations. State the resource management issue, decision or opportunity. State the associated Resource Management Goal(s) [Most likely, these will have already been determined.] Conduct Research/Fact Finding Broadly understand the resource issue, decision, or opportunity – figure out what is happening biologically, environmentally, socially, economically, legally, and politically Gather information on the subject - search the web, newspapers, past Service actions, etc. to learn as much as possible about people’s attitudes and assumptions, the history, and how the situation has evolved. Research past initiatives – legislation, management actions, and outreach efforts. Clarify the Need for Outreach Issue: Objectively identify the reasons there is a resource management issue, accurately describe the current situation, and define how you would like to see it changed. Determine if and how human behaviors are contributing to the issue. Decision: In addition to objectively identifying the reasons there is a resource management issue and accurately describing the current situation, you will want to determine how the decision will affect (or may be perceived to affect) various audiences both positively and negatively. Opportunity: Remember to use the opportunity to focus on the resource issue(s) and management goal(s). Objectively identify the reasons there is a resource management issue accurately describe the current situation, and define how you would like to see it changed. Determine if and how human behaviors are contributing to the issue. Note: Lack of knowledge about the agency and its programs can be a resource management issue. In all cases, articulate the need for outreach and why people should care (Answer the “So what?” question). If human behavior is contributing to the issue, identify the way in which a change in behavior will contribute to resolving the issue. If human behavior is not contributing to the issue, you may want to outreach to various audiences to garner support even though there is not a pressing need for outreach. Be very clear about the purpose of the outreach. Step 2. Identify, Analyze and Prioritize Audiences Through identification and analysis of the audiences you are identifying critical attitudes and behaviors of individuals and organizations that outreach will seek to change. Identification From your research make decisions about which audiences are affected (or perceive to be affected) and need to be involved. Think about our traditional partners but also think about those who are not usually included in our outreach. Ask yourself who are the individuals with the greatest power and influence? Pay attention to those who could influence the end results and be sure to include them. Analysis Now that you have your list of potential audiences, consider their expectations, perceptions, misconceptions, and biases of the audience(s). Determine their interest level and concerns. What do you want them to do or feel? Prioritization Select target audiences based on your analysis. Ask: “Which audiences will have the most influence in determining the outcome of the resource issue? “What will happen if we don’t communicate with this group?” If appropriate, include what the Service will do to address public concerns. Step 3. Develop Outreach Goals, Objectives and Messages for each Target Audience The purpose of outreach is to help accomplish resource management goal(s). Outreach goals and objectives are used to articulate the changes in attitude and/or behavior you hope will occur as a result of your outreach. … think “sociology”. Since outreach is about two-way communication with the desired result of changing people’s awareness and/or behavior, the goals, objectives and messages are defined by “audience type.” Outreach Goal(s) When writing a goal, think about why outreach is needed and what you hope to achieve through your efforts. Keep in mind that goals are broad descriptive statements that express a crucial attitude or behavior change to resolve an issue. Example: Cavers will stop spreading white-nose syndrome (WNS) from cave to cave where bats hibernate. Outreach Objectives Outreach objectives describe how you will specifically accomplish the outreach goal(s). Outreach objectives must be “SMART”: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Time sensitive. Addtionally, SMART objectives help you select the appropriate tool/strategy (Step 4). Examples: 1) Over the next 12 months, cavers will curtail 95% of caving activity in WNS-affected states. 2) Over the next 12 months, cavers will curtail 95% of caving activity in states adjacent WNS-affected states. 3) Over the next 12 months, all cavers beyond WNS-affected states and adjacent states will use clothing and gear that has never been in affected and adjacent states. Note: While writing your objectives, think about how you will be evaluating your outreach effort to determine how well the objectives were met. (e.g., How will you know if caving in WNS-affected states has decreased by 95% or more?) Messages You will need to design effective messages for each audience in order to accomplish the objectives and meet your goals. Ideally the message should appeal to the self-interest of the audience. Whenever possible, say, how the action contributes to a healthy, clean environment; to outdoor recreation; or to preservation of important heritage and traditions. Remember to keep your message short and simple. Prior to moving forward with Step 4, try out your message on the intended audience (pilot test) to determine the effectiveness. Example: Caring cavers can slow the spread of disease in bats. Be a superhero and suspend spelunking in the eastern U.S. Step 4. Develop Tools and Strategies For many people, this is the fun part of outreach, and where many people make the mistake of beginning their outreach effort. To conduct effective outreach you need to know the issue(s) and the audience(s) that must be addressed, the goal and objectives of outreach, and the message you want to deliver before you decide how you will communicate with each audience to obtain the desired outcomes. Tools are the ‘what’ – the web page, the poster, the news release, etc. that carry the message. Conduct an inventory of existing tools so you don’t waste time recreating something. Strategies articulate the ‘how’ – how will you get the tool in front of your audiences. Consider how your audience receives information. What method is most likely to reach them? For example, if you’ve decided to produce a video, what is your distribution plan? Will you make it available on the internet, produce a DVD and mail it, or upload segments via satellite in conjunction with a press conference? Example: Develop tools and strategies based on the superhero, Batman, theme: Signs posted at caves in targeted geographic areas reading “Bat cave closed”; articles in National Speleological Society’s newsletter and on their website; etc. Step 5. Develop an Action Plan with a Schedule Start with listing all the tasks or actions that need doing. Develop a schedule, factoring in your deadlines and come up with a timeframe for each task. Determine a preliminary budget that includes staff and volunteer time, and funding sources. Identify the responsible person and the deadline for each task. Be very specific about who does what and when. When planning a schedule think carefully about the steps that are needed to bring the tools and strategies to life. Consider the following: Are there specific dates (i.e., publication of a Federal Register Notice, celebratory ceremony, opening of hunting season, etc,) that need to be considered? What are the key milestones? What events must occur prior to producing a tool? (Some tasks, such as creating a video, exhibit or brochure, require written approvals from or coordination with specific offices and need a longer lead time than other tasks. Similarly, if you need video or still images, you should determine whether these images are readily available, or whether you’ll need to engage a photographer or videographer to shoot them.) What other events, unrelated to your endeavor, could alter or affect the timeline? (i.e., holidays, elections, competing events, etc.) If your outreach goal is more open-ended, look for events occurring nationally (Free Fishing Day, Earth Day, spring solstice, summer vacation time, etc.) or locally and time your outreach in conjunction with the subject. Your messages will look very timely. Step 6. Monitor, Evaluate and Revise Outreach Efforts This step is an important one as it will improve your current and future outreach efforts. Prior to conducting a summary evaluation--as you are developing your outreach plan-- determine the evaluation system you will be using. A good outreach plan provides a clear roadmap for conducting the evaluation. The steps for conceptualizing an evaluation are: Define the purpose of the evaluation in the context of the overall outreach goals and objectives. What questions will the evaluation answer? How will it help decision-making? Select who will conduct the evaluation, and identify where the information will come from. Determine what resources can be designated--e.g., budget, personnel, time--specifically to carry out the evaluation. Choose the type of evaluation based on the outreach objectives and appropriate tool(s) for collecting data. Check the literature and talk with colleagues. What sampling methods, if any, are needed? How large a sample will you collect? When will the data be collected? Decide how to analyze and report the results. How should the data be analyzed? Report and use the results. To whom should the results be reported? How should the results be reported? What follow-up measures will be used to implement the findings of the evaluation? Outreach can be evaluated with a combination of objective measures and subjective measures. When recorded, analyzed and presented in the form of a report to a reviewing authority, these measures can give a reasonable indication whether the outreach was successful. The most obvious and effective way to evaluate outreach efforts is to conduct them with clear, measurable outreach objectives that are stated prior to beginning the outreach effort (Step 3). Generally speaking, if the objectives were met, the outreach can be considered successful. In addition to measurable objectives, outreach plans should include specified means of evaluation, including preparation of a report of results to a reviewing entity. Guidance and suggestions for evaluating outreach and communications can be found in the following: “Guidelines for Measuring the Effectiveness of PR Programs.” The Institute for Public Relations Commission on PR Measurement and Evaluation. Gainsville: University of Florida.
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