communication_strategy

					How to Write a Communication
Strategy for an Australian
Government Campaign
Table of Contents


Section One: Before you start ........................................................ 1
     What can be achieved through a communication campaign? .................................................................2
     Why write a communication strategy? ....................................................................................................2
     The role of research in planning your strategy........................................................................................3
     Approval processes .................................................................................................................................4
Section Two: Getting started .......................................................... 5
Section three: step-by-step guide to writing a communication
strategy ............................................................................................ 6
     1       Introduction ....................................................................................................................................6
     2       Background ....................................................................................................................................6
     3       Need for communication campaign ...............................................................................................6
     4       Current or previous research ..........................................................................................................7
     5       Previous communication activity ...................................................................................................7
     6       Key issues/considerations ..............................................................................................................8
     7       Program aim ...................................................................................................................................8
     8       Communication aim .......................................................................................................................8
     9       Communication objectives .............................................................................................................9
     10         Target audiences ......................................................................................................................11
     11         Special audiences .....................................................................................................................11
     12         Key messages ..........................................................................................................................12
     13         Proposed communication mix .................................................................................................13
     14         Issues management contingencies ...........................................................................................13
     15         Role of consultants ..................................................................................................................14
     16         Research and evaluation ..........................................................................................................14
     17         Project management.................................................................................................................15
     18         Budget......................................................................................................................................15
     19         Timeline ...................................................................................................................................16
Section Four: Need more help? ................................................... 17
How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign                  1



Section One: Before you start

Before you start developing a communication strategy for a government campaign,
carefully consider whether there is an established need for a communication campaign.
That is, is there a genuine need for the community to hear about the initiative, policy or
program? What is the community‟s perspective on this, rather than just your
department‟s perspective?

Also, there might often be a desire to undertake communication campaigns, particularly
advertising, to promote what the government is doing in a particular policy area rather,
than on a specific policy or program. Research over a number of years has indicated
that campaigns of this nature are unlikely to be successful. Campaigns must relate to a
specific policy or program and have a clear “call to action” asking the community to
actually do something in response to the communication. There must always be a clear
reason why a campaign is being conducted; what is the „benefit‟ to the public in hearing
the message?

In developing material to be communicated to the public:

   consideration should be given to a communication strategy as part of policy
    development and program planning; and

   information campaigns should:

        not be instigated unless a need is demonstrated;

        clearly identify target recipients; and

        be based on appropriate research, particularly developmental communications
         research specific to the campaign.

Examples of suitable uses for government communication campaigns include:

   inform the public of new, existing or proposed government policies, or policy
    revisions, for example New Apprenticeships, or changes to private health insurance;

   provide information on government programs or services, or revisions to programs or
    services to which the public are entitled, for example Youth Allowance payments;

   remind the public of existing programs or services to which they might be entitled,
    but are not being taken up, for example, citizenship, assistance for rural businesses;
    or

   to change an entrenched behaviour, which will benefit the individual and ultimately
    society as a whole, for example quitting smoking, moderating alcohol intake,
    childhood immunisation.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign                   2



What can be achieved through a communication campaign?
The communication strategy should not be developed in isolation from the policy or
program, rather they should be viewed as an integrated package of initiatives designed
to achieve a desired outcome.

A communication campaign can play a valuable role in informing and educating the
community about a particular initiative, it can assist in reinforcing existing positive
attitudes or changing negatives attitudes and ultimately it might impact behaviour.
However, to achieve enduring attitude change or significant and sustained behaviour
change, a long-term commitment must be made to communicating about the issue, such
as is the case with the anti-smoking campaign. Therefore, when planning a
communication campaign, you need to be realistic about what can actually be achieved
within the timeframe and budget constraints.

It might help to consider your objectives within the following framework:

   what is it you want the target audience to know?

   what do you want them to feel about the issue?

   what do you actually want them to do?


Why write a communication strategy?
The communication strategy is a framework document which clearly outlines the
rationale for, and desired outcomes of, your proposed information campaign. The
communication strategy should define very specific objectives to provide a clear
framework within which to formulate strategies, and against which to evaluate outcomes.
In writing the strategy, key decisions will need to be made, and described within the
communication strategy.

This will cover the range of integrated information activities to be implemented; what
research the strategy is based on, or indicate the research which is still required; how
external consultants will be used; the available budget; the timeline; the evaluation plan;
and the roles and responsibilities of all key stakeholders in the strategy. The
communication strategy should clearly articulate how all the various components of the
strategy will be coordinated and managed in order to achieve the communication
objectives most efficiently and effectively.

It should also be clear how the communication campaign will contribute to the delivery of
the program‟s objectives and what part of the „larger problem‟ the strategy is designed to
solve.

You should note that the communication strategy will require the approval of your
Minister and, following that, the Ministerial Committee on Government Communications
(MCGC). The MCGC will need to approve the overall communication strategy before
approving a brief for the appointment of any communication consultants. If timing has not
allowed for the prior approval of you communication strategy before developing




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consultant briefs, you may submit your strategy and brief/s to the MCGC simultaneously
for their approval.

For full details about the MCGC approval processes see „Information for departments‟ at
www.gcu.gov.au.


The role of research in planning your strategy
The MCGC requires that all communication campaigns be based on thorough research.
Often some research has been undertaken as part of the development of the program or
policy. While this research can certainly contribute to the strategy development, and can
often provide some valuable insights into the target audience‟s attitudes to the program,
it is unlikely to be able to provide information on specific communication issues which
inform a communication strategy. As such, it is likely that some developmental
communications research is required to fill gaps in existing knowledge.

Developmental communications research allows for the needs of the target groups to be
assessed, develops and refines key messages, and can assist in the identification of
appropriate strategies to effectively communicate with the target audience. It is often
exploratory in nature, with the prime objective to establish current knowledge, attitudes
and behaviours of the group or groups to be targeted by the campaign and elicit any
barriers or motivations to communicating. The findings of this research will inform the
development of the communication strategy and consultant briefs.

Specifically, developmental research can help to determine the following issues which
are critical to developing an effective communication strategy:

   whether an information campaign is needed at all;

   what the campaign can realistically achieve;

   who the people are you are trying to reach (ie the target audience) and where they
    are;

   the existing knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of the target audience;

   what are appropriate messages which can be delivered;

   how the messages can best be delivered; and

   the motivators and barriers to the topic/desired attitudes and behaviour.

More information on the use of research in communication campaigns can be found on
the GCU website, www.gcu.gov.au or on GCU‟s CD Rom Research and Evaluation in
Government Communication Campaigns. For assistance in writing a research brief see
How to write a brief for a market research consultant on the GCU website.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign                      4



Approval processes
When developing your strategy timeline you will need to allow sufficient time for the
following approval processes:

Order       Action                                                            Time required

   1.       Draft strategy prepared by the department

   2.       Forward draft brief to the GCU for comment

   3.       The GCU comments on the strategy                                  Allow one week

   4.
            Your Minister (or appropriate adviser) approves the
            amended communication strategy

   5.       Final version of the strategy to the GCU to submit to the
            MCGC (this might be a scheduled meeting or out-of-
            session)

   6.           The MCGC approves strategy in a meeting                      Allow one-two weeks

                The MCGC approves strategy out-of-session                    Allow two-to-four weeks




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Section Two: Getting started

Before starting your communication strategy you should be able to answer “YES” to the
following questions:

   Do you really know what you want the target audience to “do” as a result of the
    receiving the communication?

   Do you know how the target audience will react as a result of receiving the
    communication?

   Are your objectives clear, realistic and measurable?

   Is there communications research to inform your strategy?

   Do you understand the research results and their implications?

   Do you know exactly with whom you want to communicate (that is, can you clearly
    describe your target audience/s)?

   Do you know how to frame your campaign messages so that you are confident they
    will be interesting and persuasive to the target audience?

   Do you know how the target audience will react as a result of receiving the
    communication?

   Have you considered the needs of special audiences such as people with hearing
    and sight disabilities, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, people in rural
    and remote areas and Indigenous Australians?

   Do you have a budget/know what your budget is?

   Are you aware of, and understand, the factors/events which might affect your
    campaign?

   Do you have a clear idea of the internal and external approval processes relating to
    approval of the communication strategy, the selection of consultants if necessary and
    the approval of campaign creative materials?

   Do you know the timeframe in which the campaign must be delivered?

   Are your expectations of your campaign realistic given your timeframe and budget?

The following pages provide a step-by-step guide to writing a communication strategy.
Use the same headings in your strategy as a template.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign                  6



Section three: step-by-step guide to writing a communication
strategy

1        Introduction
Outline in general terms why a communication strategy is being developed, about what
and who is responsible for the program and the communication strategy.

Example:

         The Department of X is required to develop and implement a communication
         strategy to promote the X initiative announced in the 2001-2002 Budget. The
         broad aim of the communication strategy is to ensure that all eligible recipients
         are aware of the programs under the initiative, and how they can access them.


2        Background
Provide a broad outline of the circumstances which prompted the need to communicate
on the issue, for example the initiative might:

   result from a government decision and research;

   be in response to client requests or feedback; or

   form part of a new policy proposal.

You should state the aim and objectives of the program which the communication
strategy is a part of, in particular any key outcome areas. The program objectives will
provide an overarching context for the campaign. You should also indicate how the
communication strategy will integrate with the program to achieve the desired outcomes.

The background should provide enough detail about the policy or program for someone
who has no knowledge of the subject to understand the key issues to be addressed by
the communication campaign. Also attach additional information about the policy or
program to the document if necessary.


3        Need for communication campaign
Provide the rationale for the communication campaign. State why a communication
campaign is necessary and what the target audience is expected to „do‟ as a result of
receiving the campaign messages. What is the „benefit‟ to the target audience of hearing
the messages?

Remember – research has indicated that the community want to hear about specific
programs and policies, not general messages about overall initiatives or what is being
done for them. The rationale for a communication campaign should include a clear “call
to action”, eg telephone for more information, visit the website, apply now, ask your
doctor, quit smoking, or drink in moderation, etc.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign                  7



The communication campaign should never over promise what the program can deliver
or be expected to counteract deficiencies in service delivery. If a sufficient program
service delivery does not exist to meet the increased demand generated by the
communication campaign, then the need for the campaign should be further considered.


4        Current or previous research
Include any research results you have to support the need for, and/or approach to, the
communication campaign. This could include:

   market research conducted specifically for your campaign (primary research);

   market research conducted to inform and/or evaluate an earlier campaign on this
    issue;

   research undertaken to inform the development of the policy/program;

   research from another department on a related issue;

   relevant statistics or demographic data;

   analysis of consultative processes; or

   attach copies of cited research reports, or summaries, where possible.


5        Previous communication activity
If you have previously communicated on this subject, provide the details of the:

   target audiences;

   communication objectives;

   key messages;

   when and how you communicated; and

   the effectiveness of this communication campaign.

Example:

         In 1997 we undertook a communication campaign to promote our new service.
         The strategy included a ministerial launch of the service, followed by television
         advertising, a two-month publicity strategy and distribution of an information
         booklet upon request to people who rang an 1800 number. Evaluation of the
         campaign indicated that the advertising was effective in generating calls to the
         1800 telephone number, but that this did not translate into actual use of the
         service.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign                   8



You could also include in this section details of any complementary communication
activities that your target audience is, or has been, exposed to on the same issue, such
as communication campaigns undertaken by State and Territory governments or peak
bodies.


6        Key issues/considerations
Outline any other issues which should be considered in the development and
implementation of the communication campaign. Examples of such issues include:

   service delivery problems;

   stakeholder management;

   media coverage of the issue;

   consultation requirements;

   broader social and economic environment; or

   approach to dealing with opposing views.


7        Program aim
In addition to including the overall program aim in the background section of the brief, it
should also be included here. Remember the aim of the program will provide an
overarching context for the campaign and will indicate how the communication strategy
will integrate with the program to achieve the desired outcomes.

Example:

         The Department of Health and Ageing’s National Alcohol Campaign will support
         the overall objectives relating to alcohol under the National Drug Strategy, and
         specifically to reduce alcohol related harm through education and communication
         strategies.


8        Communication aim
The aim should be a short statement of the desired outcome of the communication
strategy.

Example:

         To increase the level of full age appropriate childhood immunisation coverage by
         creating a climate of acceptance and active support from parents and service
         providers.

Be realistic about what the strategy can achieve within the timeframe, budget and
available resources. Remember the most successful communication campaigns are




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign                    9



underpinned by program support strategies which deliver the product or service which
your communication strategy is addressing.


9        Communication objectives
Clear, specific and measurable objectives are critical to the success of information
activities: not only are they critical to the development of an appropriate strategy, but
they also form the basis of campaign evaluation. So it is imperative that objectives are
stated clearly in your brief.

It is a common error to confuse objectives with tasks. When writing your brief be mindful
of the following:

   Tasks are what you or your consultants do to achieve your objectives (ie outputs)
    and commonly start with “To develop…” “To implement...” for example, to:

        develop an advertising strategy;

        implement a three-month public relations campaign;

        provide multiple sources of information;

        customise generic communications for local use; or

        develop an Internet presence.

   An objective is what you hope to achieve from your information activities (ie an
    outcome) and commonly start with “To increase…” “To inform…” To reinforce…”.

Research will assist you to develop realistic objectives. Your research will give you a
greater understanding of current awareness and attitudes toward your subject matter
and therefore provide a starting point for communication activity.

Setting Objectives

When setting objectives you should:

   be realistic within the timeframe, budget and resources;

   ensure the objectives are measurable;

   state what you aim to achieve in terms of the target audience:

        Awareness, understanding and knowledge – most campaigns aim to increase
         awareness, understanding and knowledge of a government policy or program.
         Awareness objectives relate to what you want your target audience to be
         informed or educated about.

        Attitudes – are favourable or unfavourable feelings about an issue which are
         learned and relatively enduring. It is assumed that changing attitudes will lead to




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign
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         an increase in the positive behaviours a campaign is promoting. Some
         campaigns aim to reinforce positive attitudes to ensure that positive behaviours
         are maintained, while others attempt to change negative attitudes. Attitude
         objectives are really a statement of how you want the target audience to feel
         about the issue.

        Behaviours – are what you want the target audience to do as a result of being
         exposed to your campaign. Behaviours are the specific actions which you are
         encouraging members of the target audience to undertake.

Some examples of objectives are:

Awareness

To increase awareness with 18-40 year olds:

   of the immediate and longer term health effects of smoking;

   that every cigarette does physical damage; and

   that support for quitting smoking is available in various forms.

Attitudes

To generate or strengthen:

   personal relevance to the health messages of the campaign;

   a sense of the „immediacy‟ of the health effects depicted in the campaign advertising;
    and

   the confidence of people aged 18-40 in their own ability to change their behaviour.

Behaviours

To increase intentions to:

   quit/attempt to quit smoking; and

   access available support services.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign
                                                       11


10       Target audiences
Exactly who do you want to receive your message? Target audiences should be
described in terms of:

    current behaviour;

    level of awareness;

    level of knowledge;

    preferred methods for receiving information; and

    motivations/barriers to hearing and believing/accepting the information.

You should describe your target audiences in as much detail as possible. Broad
descriptions such as the “general public” are less likely to lead to a successful campaign
than a tightly defined target. The more thoroughly you understand your target
audience/s, the higher the probability of the success of the campaign.

 Primary Target Audience – people and groups who will be directly affected by your
  message or need to be exposed to your message. For example:

     Parents, particularly mothers of children aged 0 – 6 years.

 Secondary Target Audience – people of less importance who you wish to receive
  the campaign messages, people who will also benefit from hearing the campaign
  messages or people who influence your target audience now or in the future: general
  practitioners, for example.

 Stakeholders - Other people and groups who might be directly or indirectly involved
  in, or affected by or with a stake in your campaign. Examples include:

     Peak body organisations, community organisations, other Australian Government
     departments, state governments etc.

You should clearly outline the role you expect these people and groups to play in your
strategy. For example, they might be intermediaries or information providers for the
target audiences.


11       Special audiences
Government departments are required to consider Australians who are information-
disadvantaged through low income, poor education, and an inadequate knowledge of
English, disability, geographical isolation or other reasons.

Departments should have adequate knowledge of these groups in relation to their
subject area. The communication strategy should outline how these groups are to be
addressed. It might be that research is required to determine whether separate
information strategies are required. Alternatively, the department might already have




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign
                                                       12

sufficient knowledge of the representation of these groups within the program and might
intend to use in-house resources or existing channels to communicate with them.

Often, specialist consultants are contracted by departments to develop and implement
communication strategies for Indigenous Australians and people from non-English
speaking backgrounds, concurrently with the „mainstream‟ campaign. These specialist
consultants look after the community relations and public relations activities, as well as
adaptations or translations of the creative material.

In practical terms, this means that you must take the needs of these groups into account
when designing a strategy. For example, you might consider:

    ensuring communications research includes these groups and reports on any need
     for separate strategies;

    developing specialist strategies for particular target audiences (including appropriate
     adaptation of the „mainstream‟ campaign for greater penetration with and acceptance
     by the special audiences);

    choosing a typeface which is legible to people with poor sight;

    providing an alternative source of information such as a tape, CD Rom; floppy disk;

    close captioning; or

    tracking the campaign‟s effectiveness during implementation, in case it needs fine-
     tuning.


12       Key messages
Effective key messages should include details of the program or policy being promoted,
the benefits of the initiative for the target audience, and a clear “call to action” outlining
what the target audience should do as a result of receiving your messages.

The key messages should encapsulate the purpose of your communication activity in as
few words as possible. Key messages do not need to be catchy. They are not the
"slogan" or the "jingle" for your campaign or the actual words to be used as your
message. There is time later, during campaign development, to mould your message
into a form, which is appropriate for your audience/s.

If you do not have a clear, concise understanding of the campaign purpose, then this
lack of clarity will be exaggerated as the campaign progresses. If the key messages are
unclear this will result in a weak strategy, weak proposals and creative concepts and
probably lead to a weak campaign. It probably also indicates that you have not
conducted sufficient communications research.

Research indicates that the following types of messages are likely to be rejected:

    messages which are global in nature;




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    a series of „motherhood‟ statements;

    messages which are self congratulatory; or

    self-promotion without substance.


Important note: At this stage in the development of your strategy you need to consider
whether separate objectives and key messages are required for your different target
audiences. It is often the case that a strategy aims to achieve different outcomes with
different audiences, in particular with stakeholders. If this is the case, it is likely that
different messages between the audiences are also required and should be indicated in
the strategy.


13       Proposed communication mix
Your research will guide you when considering the best methods for communicating with
the target audience. This might include a combination of mass media advertising, public
relations, direct marketing, events, sponsorship and community relations. Alternatives
should be considered in line with the available budget before pursuing a course of
action.

The evaluation of past campaigns will provide some clues as to a possible mix of
communication elements suitable for reaching your target audience/s.

This section should also include an outline of all the proposed components of the
communication campaign. It should include a brief description of planned advertising,
public relations, events, and strategies targeting people from non-English backgrounds
and Indigenous Australians. It could also include details of any complementary
communication activity being undertaken by stakeholder groups or State and Territory
governments.


14       Issues management contingencies
With media interest generated or heightened, it is essential that an issues management
strategy is put in place including media training of key personnel for interview situations,
and an immediate response mechanism to controversial issues. Even when a
communications environment seems benign at the start of a campaign, unexpected
issues can surface which need to be dealt with quickly and effectively.

The communication strategy document should identify the system which will be put in
place to deal with such contingencies. If you plan to engage a public relations
consultant, expect that they will develop appropriate communication protocols and
response mechanisms as part of their strategy.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign
                                                       14


15       Role of consultants
Your communication strategy document should identify the need for various
communication consultants who might need to be contracted to provide skills not
available in-house. Other consultants might be needed to supplement staff numbers or
to provide services in-house on a temporary basis for the duration of the campaign.

The benefits of contracting communication consultants include:

    specialist communication expertise which is not available in-house, such as skills in:
     strategy development, issues or crisis management, mass media advertising, public
     relations, research, direct marketing, and communicating with Indigenous Australians
     and people from non-English speaking backgrounds;

    objective analysis and advice unimpeded by internal organisational politics;

    help for departments in meeting responsibilities and objectives within tight
     timeframes; and

    a different perspective.

If you are going to engage an external consultant for a communication campaign you
should seek advice from the GCU on how to write the brief, and for a list of consultants
with the relevant skills and experience to undertake your project. The GCU will also
advise on the necessary MCGC approval processes.


16       Research and evaluation
Research and evaluation play a crucial role in ensuring that the money spent on
communication is well directed. Evaluation can help gather information necessary to
meet accountability requirements, including those specific to your portfolio, broader
government requirements and those specified by the MCGC.

This section should outline each phase of research intended as part of the campaign,
including:

    concept testing (to assist in the selection of advertising agencies and to refine
     creative concepts for advertising and products);

    benchmark and tracking the campaign (testing strategies, reporting on coverage and
     readership of your issue, checking recall); and

    post-campaign evaluation of the outcomes (checking for changes in target audience
     attitudes, knowledge, behaviour).

These points raised are on the basis that you have already outlined previously related
research and developmental communications research results in earlier sections which
underpin the strategy and messages. However, if you are writing your strategy as a draft
document to be further developed and enhanced by the results of developmental
communications research, then this stage of research will also need to be specified.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign
                                                       15

Sometimes the tracking research and evaluation research is combined into the one
research stage; this is dependant on the length of the campaign and/or budget.


17       Project management
This section should outline the roles and responsibilities of the members of the campaign
management team. This could include the role of different sections within a department
or the role of different departments if the campaign is to be managed by an inter-
departmental committee (IDC).

In cases where the campaign is to be managed by an IDC or steering committee, it is
also important to clarify any internal approval processes, which agency will be the lead
agency, which Minister will ultimately be responsible for the campaign, and who will
approve the campaign documentation and creative materials prior to their submission to
the MCGC.


18       Budget
State the amount of money available for the campaign. Be accurate about how much
money is available for each component of the strategy.

Where possible, you should quote:

    the amount of money available now;

    the amount of money available in future;

    the amount of money allocated to each component of the strategy eg advertising,
     public relations and research; direct mail, website; and call centres. Ensure that it is
     clear whether budgets allocated for consultants is inclusive or exclusive of GST;

    whether the budget includes such things as design, printing and distribution of
     materials; and

    the period in which the money will be available eg 1 July 2002-30 June 2003.

The GCU recommends that you start out with an estimated 5-10 % of the campaign
budget set aside for research and evaluation, as a rule of thumb. This would be
distributed between:

    exploratory/developmental research;

    concept testing;

    benchmark and tracking the campaign; and

    evaluating the outcomes.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign
                                                       16

If you are unsure about budgeting for a specific part of the research project, you could
seek advice from the GCU.


19       Timeline
Outline the proposed timeline including when the program should start and finish and
any specific dates which need to be accommodated, such as Ministerial announcements
and launches, passage of legislation or program timetables, as well as any constraints
on timing (eg prior to the end of a financial year).

You should give consideration to other significant events which are outside your control
and might be occurring on the day you launch the campaign and/or for the duration of
the campaign and the effect such an event will have.

It is essential that your timeline also reflect the necessary MCGC approval processes,
again the GCU can provide advice on this.




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How to Write a Communication Strategy for an Australian Government Campaign
                                                       17


Section Four: Need more help?

For further enquires on writing a communications strategy or on the MCGC approval
process, contact:



     Director, Communications and Research

     Government Communications Unit

     3-5 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600

     Tel: (02) 6271 5805

     Fax: (02) 6271 5850.



Or visit the GCU website at www.gcu.gov.au.


  For further reference to market research, refer to the GCU guide: How to use Research
  and Evaluation in Government Communication Campaigns. Copies are available on
  CD-Rom and obtained by contacting the GCU, or may be accessed on the GCU
  website.




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