How do you develop an effective external communication plan?

Just as with internal communications, you must first identify and understand the best ways to reach target audiences. Different audiences require different content and different communications methods, media, and messages: Senior administrators, mid-level managers, frontline professionals, parents, youth, advocates, and public officials will have very different information needs, habits, and motivations. Beyond the traditional research report, communication can include a range of print and digital content, as well as conference presentations, or testimony. Consider the appropriate media for your target audiences, your available resources, and determine ways you might package your information so that is useful, relevant, and accessible.

Communications plans should also leverage the skills, expertise, and position of partners on both sides. This may mean finding ways to co-craft key messages and co-present information. Many practice partners, for instance, are experts at community engagement, particularly among diverse stakeholders. Researchers are skilled at elucidating technical nuance, for instance clarifying how the research methods are best suited to address the partnership’s questions, what findings indicate or not, and where more work is needed. Determining communications roles and responsibilities in ways that harness partners’ diverse strengths is an essential ingredient in the development of an effective plan.

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Communicating Research and Engaging Stakeholders