Communications Strategy Planning Template
Jane Elder Strategies September, 2007 version 5
Background on the issue – why is this important now?
1. What is the primary goal – what are we trying to achieve, what’s the expected
2. What role will communication play in achieving that goal?
Theory of Change
3. What is our theory of change? i.e., By what means will our goal be achieved? Is
this campaign about…
A) Moving policy decision makers toward a single endpoint?
B) Increasing social literacy?
C) Shaping public will on a cause (many related issues)?
(Need key constituencies with basic knowledge and concern to create demand
for responsive action on the issue)
D) Changing individual behavior and actions?
E) Something else?
4. What is our timeline?
How long will this take; how much time do we have to get going; when are
pivotal events likely to take place; what are our benchmark dates for evaluating
5. What specific communication resources do we have?
Public opinion research?
Internal staff capacities?
Capacities and commitments of allies—at what level?
6. Who are our audiences; why are they targets?
I. Non public” or “Insider” audiences
A. DECISION MAKERS
A 1. Who are they?
A 2. What decisions will they make?
A 3. Who do they listen to?
A 4. What message will decision-makers respond to, and why?
Money, power and influence – Who wants to be the hero? Who gets to
be a leader? Who wants credit?
A5. Desired Reactions/Response
B. 1. Who influences the decision makers?
Other decision makers
The media (as a source of influence in addition to being a target that we
want to influence)
B. 2. What makes them influential?
Money, access, information, power (both ―insider power‖ and also ―public
What will connect with them? The people that influence them – key
contacts and insiders, leaders, donors, credible activists, other opinion
B. 3. What message will they respond to, and why?
What’s in it for me; what’s it gonna cost me and/or how will this benefit
me and my constituencies/stakeholders?
C. THE NEWS MEDIA
C. 1. Who are they?
News and talk radios
C. 2. Who do they influence?
Specific Media influence the particular audiences that seek them out. Collectively,
wide coverage across media can create ―buzz‖ around and issue. Generally,
today’s newspaper readers are older and more educated than those who don’t read
the news. Politically engaged, older voters tend to read newspapers, especially
opinion, letters to the editor, etc. Radio is highly segmented to audiences
characterized by specific demographics and lifestyle, which makes targeting and
adapting content. Television is a mass audience, although increasingly segmented
through cable and satellite options. Blogs attract web users with similar political
viewpoints and through strong personalities, edgy commentary, and useful insider
information, as well as humor.
C. 3. What message will they respond to, and why?
The news media responds to timely, newsworthy information from credible
and/or highly visible sources that will be of interest to their readers/audiences.
D. ALTERNATIVE MEDIA
D. 1. Who are they?
Lifestyle and feature news
Niche market media (e.g. magazines)
Blogs and Web zines
Trade and organizational publications
Electronic Social Networks
D. 2. What/who will connect with them?
D. 3. What message will they respond to, and why?
E. OUR LEADERSHIP AND ALLIED LEADERS
E. 1. Who are they?
Write down specific names of organizations and their key contact
person to be clear who primary allies and supporters are.
E. 2. What do we want them to do?
E. 3. What/how will persuade them to take action?
E. 4. What message will they respond to, and why?
E. 5. How will mobilization of the troops take place?
II. Public targets
F. What segments of the public are the primary targets?
F. 1. Who are they? What do we know about their attitudes, lifestyle and
F. 2. What will speak to them?
F. 3. Desired Reactions/Response: This issue is really important to my life and
my family. My government needs to adopt and implement the Gold Standards to
safeguard my way of life.
7. What is the core message that will guide all our public communications?
Key elements of a message paragraph
Values: why our audience should care at the gut level or “level one” frame
Concerns: why our audience should care –what is the threat or why worry?
Solutions: What will address our audience’s concerns; what’s the fix?
Assert value that reinforces action of solutions. E.g., responsibility,
accountability, leadership, etc.
Hope and efficacy: What will persuade our audience that the solution we
propose will work?
Call for specific actions: What, exactly, do we want the person who receives
this message to DO?
Give the message traction: Will our audience know how, where, when to take
8. What’s the “push back?” What are our opponent’s likely messages and
arguments, and how do we answer them?
Key language and concepts
9. What is the underlying FRAME for our issue? (Or the way we want it framed?)
At the value level?
At the “What kind of an issue is this” level?
At the specifics for action level?
10. What terms and words reinforce our core message and frame?
11. What metaphors strengthen our frame?
12. Which messengers are the most compelling, authentic and credible to each of
our target audiences?
The Overarching narrative
13. What is the “big story” that describes our goal and actions?
Who are the heroes?
Who are the countervailing forces?
What is the ―quest?‖
What bold and courageous action will win the day?
Who wins; who loses?
14. Stories, Anecdotes
What human stories are we telling/can we tell to make this visceral, personal, compelling,
and not about dry policy or statistics? Are you collecting and re-tell the human stories
that make your case?
15. Which facts we need to support a compelling case for which audiences and in
16. What visuals do we have/need that carry our message, support our frame,
illustrate our metaphor, and tell our story? Are we putting people in the pictures?
Pathways to the public
17. How will we reach our public audiences?
Broadcast? Print? Grassroots (Earned media)? Web, Social Networks,
Community Events? National Press Club? Editorial writers? Professional
networks? Conferences? Blogs? Web sites?
18. How can we ensure repetition and reinforcement?
(of core messages, anecdotes, images and metaphors)
19. Evaluation/mid-course corrections: What is our strategy to evaluate and assess
throughout the campaign and to make changes and adjustments?’
Win = what?
20. What is our definition of victory? Does this definition affirm and advance our core
values and positive social change? Does it position us for future victories? Does it build
the movement, or is it a one-time flash in the pan?
► Identify some benchmarks that define clear progress toward victory along the way to
the big win. Incorporate progress on theses benchmarks in your evaluation.