This week we were asked to read chapter two in our book, Strategic Communications for Nonprofits (which I love the way it is set up). This chapter went through the elements of a strategic communications plan, and I mean all the elements. It discussed every little detail for a successful communications plan, yet was able to relate everything back to the big picture - an organization's overall goals and values (that, of course, are based on each other). I think that's what I liked so much about the emphasis of the chapter. An organization must set its goals based on its values, and everything else in a communications plan must stem from that.
The other thing that was repeated throughout the chapter was - get this - the plan! Basically, you cannot over plan a communications plan. A successful communications plan relies on research, well-developed messages, trained spokespeople, high-quality materials, and knowing exactly what resources you have and how you will use them. After defining your goals, you must define your audiences - and then learn everything you can about them. Then you need to know what media they use and to whom they will listen (then learn everything you can about them). A part of the plan that I find interesting personally is the use of the Internet. As a webmaster for an organization, I understand the importance of the Internet and its ability to relay information. The chapter's emphasis on an updated and well-organized Web site is key. You must know what the site is meant to do.
I'll admit, when I first read all of this I thought, this is a lot of work. How do PR professionals do this every day for their organizations? And is it all necessary? After reading the case study on The Fairness Initiative on Low-Wage Work, the answer is yes, definitely. All of these steps and planning were necessary for the success of the Fairness Initiative. This really was the perfect outcome because they did exactly what they wanted; they changed the policy on their issue (and I'll admit that I benefited from this change myself, so kudos to them). The effort and collaboration (20 different groups coming together is impressive!) of the Fairness Initiative was the reason they were able to call attention to their issue and eventually make the ultimate difference.
The last point I found interesting about this chapter is its use of the term "earned media" (p. 74). I really like this term because I feel that it truly embodies the importance of a good communications plan. With the advent of the Internet came an overload of information because now any one can make his or her opinion public (and make it seem professional, whether it is or not). A good communications plan is necessary to gain significant coverage of an issue. If you want your issue to become more than just a blog topic or internal organization issue, a plan gets it regular, positive news coverage.