How to plan your communications

There are a number of things to think about when planning your communications. We've put together a checklist of things to consider throughout your campaign.
Healthwatch at event

1. Objective

What do you want the communications activity to achieve? How does it link to our overall strategy and plans?

It is important to set these objectives at the start of your campaign, and get agreement from other members in your organisation, so that everyone starts on the same page. This can then be referred to later down the line should people need any clarity of what the whole point of the campaign was in the first place. 

2. Audiences

Who are you trying to engage, persuade or influence? And why?

Having a clear idea of who your audiences at the start of campaign is key to its success. Once this has been agreed, material and messaging can then be tailored to fit the target audience. 

3. Key partners

What key people or organisations need to be involved? Who can help you: (i) reach your audience (ii) make change happen or (iii) have an impact?

Think about who else you can involve in your communications to make it reach as many people as possible. This could be a local health service, a charity or a local business. Getting people on board to share your content will not only give your campaign a boost, but will do so to the relevant people. 

4. Success measures

What does success look like? What are the key milestones? How will you measure this?

Success can be measured in a number of ways but it is key to have a target that you want to reach at the start of your campaign. This could be the amount of reach your posts get on social media, the number of responses you have received on your survey, or the number of people that have approached your Healthwatch for advice and information. 

This is important to agree on before your campaign so that you can tailor your activity as you go. If an element of your campaign is proving more successful e.g. resulting in a high number of survey responses, invest more time into this area than one that is not working so well.

A potential way of measuring success

Think about how your communications can help move your target audience from a point of not being aware to the point of taking action. Think about how you can measure this journey and understand where your communications are working and where they are not.

Awareness: You can measure awareness through the reach of your press coverage, social media activity, email marketing and the number of people attending events.

Engagement: You can measure engagement by looking at interactions with your social media and email marketing messages, as well as the number of website visitors.

Action: You can measure action by looking at the number of people sharing experiences with you or seeking advice and information.

5. Audience insight

Do you have any research that can help you understand your audience and frame your communications? Things to think about:

  • Who are they?
  • What do they do?
  • What do they believe?
  • How do they consume information?
  • Who influences them?

Factors that can influence people's decisions

People have told us that they are more likely to share an experience if it:

  • Relates to services that are local;
  • Will help improve care for them, their family or community; and
  • Does not take too much time.

6. Messages

Your messages should make clear to your audience:

  • The goal of your message - why does it matter?
  • Why you are communicating - how does it help?
  • What do you want people to do?

Think about how you link your messages together in your communications. When running a campaign you want to make it clear that your messages are of the same style so that it obvious that they relate to each other. Is there any branding that you can attach to make your messages obvious that they are grouped together?

7. Hooks

What hooks do you have to promote the issue? Compelling facts? An external event? A real life story? An expert view?

There are a number of ways that you can present these, whether it be in video form or a website blog. Try and factor the planning for these things before the campaign starts so you can include in the overall content plan. 

8. Resources and team

What resources do you need to deliver? Who will lead the project? Does everyone on the team have a clear role?

Give ownership to others for their part in the campaign. Don't try and do everything yourself, a successful campaign always involves more than one person. 

9. Risks

It is good to think about: 

  • What are the risks of doing this?
  • What are the risks if we don’t do anything?

Common questions to ask

  • Have you checked your facts?
  • Do you have permission to use any stories or images of individuals?
  • Do your staff, volunteers and partners know your plans so they can support you?
  • Are there any sensitivities or external events that you need to take into account?

10. Spokespeople

People like to hear from their peers. Do you have a strong spokesperson or case study through which you can tell the story?

11. Key dates and dependencies

Are there any key dates, events or deadlines that you need to be aware of? Are there any internal or external processes or factors that you need to take into account?

Take a look at upcoming awareness days and see if you can incorporate a relevant day into your campaign planning. There might be a hashtag that you can jump on to make your posts more relevant on Twitter. 

12. Format, channels and outputs

How will you reach the audience? What formats and channels will you use?

Remember to tailor your messaging to your different channels, it's not one size fits all. For example, hashtags are useful on Twitter but not on Facebook, small tweaks like these can help you look professional.

13. Evaluation

How will you know you have been successful?

Ask everyone that was involved in the campaign to feedback on what they think went well, or what could be done better in the future.

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