The delivery of information — even critically important information — can be hindered in multiple ways, especially when we don’t consider the elements of what makes for a successful communications strategy: crafting the right message, for the right person, at the right time.
Understanding Your Audience
Before crafting your message or deciding when to send it, it’s essential to understand your audience (i.e., sending an email to organizational leadership is different than making a request to a colleague, or asking a question of a vendor.) Who are you trying to reach? What do you know about how they like to digest information? What factors might trigger the desired response? Thinking critically about who your audience is will help inform the next steps in the communications process. This is equally important when developing an evaluation plan and subsequent strategy for disseminating your evaluation findings, as discussed in the NEC’s Program Evaluation at a Glance and The Dos and Don’ts of Survey Reporting micro-trainings.
Crafting the Right Message
Once you’ve considered your audience, you can begin creating — or modifying — your message so that it is relevant to them. Keep it simple, avoid jargon, and don’t presume everyone will remember every acronym (spell it out). Make sure your message aligns with the needs and interests that resonate with your audience. A well-crafted message features a compelling narrative and a call to action that is clear and concise. Making sure that your message is culturally sensitive, inclusive, and mindful of diversity is a critical aspect to consider, as well.
The Power of Timeliness
Expecting your audience to be attentive to the important message you’re sending at 5:48 p.m. on the Friday of a holiday weekend is unlikely to achieve your desired outcome. In general, communications should be sent during working hours, and messages sent midweek in the morning are more frequently read (Tuesday or Wednesday, 7 to 11 a.m. local time). That doesn’t, however, mean that an email sent on a Friday will automatically be ignored. In fact, the most important takeaway may be consistency. If you have a recurring piece of communications, try to send it the same day and hour each time. And, of course, when communicating with audiences across geographic regions, keep time zone differences in mind!
Communications and Evaluation
Communication plans are ideal for continuous improvement and routine evaluation because they allow you to measure the effectiveness of your communication activities and to understand how well your organization’s dissemination efforts are being received by your communities of interest.
There are several evidence-based frameworks for evaluating communications efforts and initiatives. Of these, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Strategic Communications Framework for Effective Communications is a particularly useful resource. You will find specific examples and case studies that reinforce the value of understanding your audience, crafting the right message, and the power of timeliness as well as an intuitive 7-step model on pages 43-50. We hope this WHO resource helps you enhance your own communication plans!