There is no one perfect way to build a communications strategy. But it is important to think strategically about everything you’re doing. Matching tactics to goals and time frames, segmenting and prioritizing audiences, and evaluating your progress should be a part of your everyday communications work. And realizing that no strategy is set in stone is also key, because circumstances change. What should not change, though, is a tight alignment of communications resources with organizational goals.
There’s no "general public" when it comes to communications strategy. None of us have resources to reach everyone, and fortunately we don’t have to. Typically, we need to reach a much smaller group of decision makers—swing voters, policymakers, corporate board members—and a segment of people who influence them, such as faith leaders, donors, or customers.
Public Opinion, Media, and Field Research help to gauge your audiences and opportunities for moving them to action.
Public opinion research is a key component of any communications strategy. It’s crucial to know as much as possible about how your audience is thinking. Where do they stand on the issue? What do they find persuasive or repugnant—what are the barriers and opportunities to get them on board? How can you find out more about what they think? Public opinion research can be a key resource, but so can talking to a range of people in that group and to people who are familiar with them. This is particularly true if you’re looking at a localized group such as a school board or congregation.
Understanding how the media cover our issues is one important way to know what different audiences are hearing about them, and in what terms. Regular media monitoring and analysis shows trends over time in cov- erage and conversations, and can also show how and if your strategy is working. It may also help to identify reporters and commentators who can help to convey your message.
The values and priorities of the field of advocates, activists, organizers, allies, and those most directly affected by an issue must inform communications strategy. So it’s important to talk to others who work on your issue from different perspectives. While it’s not always possible to share a communications strategy, you should at the very least have some understanding of the broader advocacy and organizing landscape. Also, don’t overlook the valuable intelligence you can glean from your peers. There is a wealth of information and expertise among folks who have been talking about these issues for years, as well as from those with a fresher take.