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Communication Strategies
Communication strategies help you plan site-related communication with the public, stakeholders, and colleagues.
Good communication strategies can improve the interactive nature of communication and help permit applicants and/
or permitting agencies receive information from their target audiences. A communication strategy provides a structure
for identifying events (e.g., issues, problems, and actions) that require outreach; considers potential messages and
audiences; and develops vehicles to deliver information. A communication strategy helps a permit applicant and/or
permitting agency think about and plan community involvement, which saves time and money.
Required Activity?
No.
Making it Work
A communication strategy is the "why, what, who, when, where, and how" of relaying information (See "Communication
Strategy Steps," below, for a detailed discussion). A communication strategy details the message, audience, potential
vehicles, resources required, and feedback mechanisms. Communication strategies are blueprints for building a
campaign to inform, and to be informed by others. Communication strategies also can be used to expedite the flow
of information in sudden, unfolding events. More broadly, the analytical processes suggested in this Communication
Strategies tool can help you think through your work at a site.
When to Use
When events or issues are complex or potentially sensitive, a communication strategy helps you to organize information
and identify the concerns that may arise from such issues. By planning ahead with a communication strategy, potential
misunderstandings about difficult issues can be addressed. Keep in mind that communication strategies are available
to the public via the Freedom of Information Act. A communication strategy also should be used when time is of the
essence.
A successful communication strategy should ensure rapid information exchange during emergencies. It encourages an
early analysis of participants and their roles so that expectations and communication needs can be identified and fulfilled
throughout an event or project. The strategy should be incorporated as part of the Public Participation Plan.
Several examples of communication strategies used during the public participation process are detailed in Chapter 5 of
the 2016 Edition of the RCRA Public Participation Manual.
How to Use
A communication strategy is a list of messages, audiences, potential message vehicles, resources required, and
feedback mechanisms to meet the unique communication needs of a RCRA Site. These needs are outlined in the Public
Participation Plan prepared for each site. In these cases, the Public Participation Plan serves as a communication
strategy for the site. Message-specific communication strategies contain the exact details of message content, audience,
and delivery for the individual messages you will develop. You will develop one overall communication strategy and many ,
message-specific strategies. Listed below are descriptions of the basic steps for writing communication strategies. They
are organized by: Why, What, Who, When, Where, and How.
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Why
The first step in developing a communication strategy is to determine why the communication is necessary. Toward this
end, you should spend some time defining a single, focused message that requires communication. Ask yourself: What
is the issue to which the permitting agency is responding? or What is the action that the permit applicant and/or the
regulatory agency is taking that warrants development of a strategy?
Also, decide what you want to achieve with the communication. Are you are providing information, increasing
awareness, encouraging action, building consensus, changing behavior, promoting community participation, resolving
conflict, asking for a response, or something else? Your communication goal, once developed, can be stated as part of
your message: "Act Now" or "Get Involved."
What
To determine what you want to communicate, identify and define all messages. This step in creating a communication strategy
might involve a brainstorming session where all possible message ideas are listed. Once listed, the messages can be studied
and stated more completely. Next rank message priority. Focus on two to three key messages and rank them by importance,
timeliness, or other factors. While your strategy's approach for communicating might be based on permitting or Corrective
Action milestones, the approach should be flexible enough to adapt as site characteristics and schedules unfold.
Who
To determine who you are communicating with, identify all potential audiences. Once you identify messages, ask
yourself: Who is involved, affected, interested? Is there an obvious audience? Why are they obvious? Are there others
who may be affected? Are there traditionally under-represented groups that need to be reached? What information do
they already have? What information do they need? What are their concerns? How are they likely to react? By answering
the potential audience questions (see above), you will improve the effectiveness of the message and increase the
efficiency of the delivery mechanism (see How, below). For help, consider the varied audiences who are likely to attend
the events listed below in Where.
When
Identify when communication will be best received. This involves thinking about whether your audience prefers to be
reached on weekdays or weekends, mornings or evenings, at work or at home. Build in time for producing materials and
advance notice of events.
Where
Consider options for where the message will be delivered. When and where a message is best delivered are closely
related ideas. As an exercise toward understanding this relationship, you might brainstorm about potential places and
settings where messages might be delivered (see below, "Related Tools/Resource in the Toolkit"). Here are a few options:
	Q&A Sessions/open house
	Celebrations/special events
	Community interviews
(* Community visits
Stakeholder meetings
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	Focus groups
	Media, including cable TV, display ads, news releases, and press conferences
	On-scene activities
	Public hearings
	Public meetings
	Public or private schools
	Workshops
An important reminder: all meetings, presentations, and gatherings held at a public facility must meet the requirements
of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For information on ADA requirements, visit the Center for Independence
(CFI) Internet site: www.centerforindependence.org . The site includes weekly updates and information about making
your public space accessible: For a free copy of the ADA Guide for Small Businesses, published by the U.S. Department
of Justice, call CFI at (970) 241-0315. Analyze how the setting might affect the message. Once you have made a list of all
potential settings for message delivery, analyze how the settings might affect the way your messages will be received.
Will the setting be formal or informal? Perhaps "good news" should be shared in formal settings and "bad news" in informal
settings  or vice versa. If the place where you plan to deliver a message is sponsored or "owned" by a particular group or
sponsor, how will this color your message? Such analysis will enable you to harmonize place of delivery with message,
which will help your audience feel your communication is substantively clear and appropriately delivered.
How
Determine measures for success. Determine how you will know if your communication goals are met. Measures of success
may be quantitative, such as the number of people reached or the number of messages disseminated. Measures also may
be qualitative, in that they describe the quality of the messages and the types of change brought about by their delivery.
Consider a formal assessment of your communication efforts through the Community Involvement Impact Analysis project.
Explore vehicles and tools for delivering the message. How will you reach key stakeholders? Who will take what actions?
A thorough understanding of related activities in this toolkit will lead to easier choices for how to present messages (see
below, Related Tools/Resource Sections). Being the permit applicant and/or permitting agency, you will know which
delivery points are likely to produce the best results. Note that the reach and impact of your message will increase if the
same message is distributed via multiple vehicles more than one time. Some of the vehicles and tools for delivering the
message include:
	Briefings
	Exhibits
	Internet
	Mailing information
	Presentations
	Public notices
	Telephone
	Translations of documents into second languages
	Videos
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Ensure quality by identifying resource needs. Many of the best communication strategies are also the most cost-effective.
For example, consider the speed and persuasive power of simple word-of-mouth information exchange. Your resource
needs for such an approach are minimal. When planning your strategy, consider the types of resources you will need to
ensure quality delivery of your message. In assessing your total communication budget, ask yourself, "What resources
are readily available to me that will provide low-cost delivery options?" Once you have identified needs and resources,
review potential constraints you might face and develop strategies for overcoming these challenges. For example, if
you determine TV is the only vehicle for a message about risk but find that local television time is too expensive, try
purchasing one key spot during a crucial viewing hour.
Deliver the message. This involves the actual use of the vehicle or tool to get the message to the audience. This step
is not as simple as it sounds. Because this is the moment of interaction with your audience, your delivery should have
style and integrity. Be yourself during this step; let your audience get to know you. At the same time, there may be
circumstances when others would be better messengers (e.g., risk experts).
After delivery, gather and review feedback. Be sure that you establish mechanisms for audiences to provide feedback.
This will help you meet their information needs as project and message priorities change over time. The feedback will
help you evaluate progress. Finally, encourage feedback by showing the audience how their input was used. Evaluate the
results and refine strategy. Based on audience feedback and measures for success, evaluate the implementation of your
strategy. What are its strengths? Where can it be improved? How should your strategy be amended to ensure continued
effectiveness?
Message-Specific Communication Strategy Steps:
A message-specific communication strategy will employ many of the steps above, but will emphasize three components:
message (what), audience (who), and delivery (how). Such strategies differ from overall strategies by requiring the
permit applicant and/or permitting agency to:
	strategically narrow the definition of the message to one or two ideas;
	analyze the audience to ensure they are the people who need the message; and
	choose the most appropriate delivery mechanism from those identified in the strategy.
Remember, while you will develop only one overall communication strategy, you need to develop many message-
specific strategies. Message-specific strategies should be limited to only those elements necessary for communicating
efficiently and effectively. No extensive analyses of measures for success or resource requirements are needed. Although
message-specific strategies can be less formal than the overall strategy, the permit applicant and/or permitting agency
should still commit some time to evaluating their implementation-there are important lessons to be learned from each
communication effort.

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Examples
Example 1: Opportunity for Public Review and Comment of Proposed Remedy
One permitting agency faced the challenge of informing site stakeholders about an opportunity for review and comment
on the proposed remedy. After identifying the message and the audience, the permitting agency decided to hold a public
meeting to announce the opportunity and to invite interested parties to a public participation workshop. By holding the
public meeting at a library on a Saturday afternoon, the permitting agency representative captured a wider audience
than if he had held it during a weeknight. He then identified participants to attend a workshop for the following Saturday.
The workshop included information about: 1) requirements for public review of and comment on site activities, 2) pros
and cons of the process, and 3) how citizens can maximize their contributions. A workshop handout offered step-by-step
guidance for reviewing the site information (including what to look for) and for filing comments. The result: more than
half of the workshop attendees submitted comments on the proposed cleanup plan.
Tips
	A communication strategy should be thorough, but not too elaborate. Since a communication strategy is just one of
many tools available to the permitting agency, do not try to write the definitive plan; just do your best and move on to
the next task.
	A communication strategy should not replace the process of actually communicating with the public.
	A communication strategy should be flexible enough to allow for changing messages.
	Consult your strategy often to remind yourself of your goals, messages, and audiences.
	Your message-specific strategies should define the most important ideas to communicate.
	Document successes and shortcomings to learn how your strategy might be improved.
	Work with your press officers to develop and implement the communication strategy, particularly at milestone events
in the permitting/corrective action process.
	Revise your strategy if it is not producing results.
	Incorporate your strategy into the site Public Participation Plan.
Related Tools/Resources
Attached Items within this Tool
	Attachment 1: Sample Communication Strategy
	Attachment 2: Communications Strategy Matrix
	Attachment 3: How to Develop a Communication Strategy

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Attachment 1: Sample Communication Strategy
An Informal Communication Strategy for Producing a Fact Sheet
Not every communication strategy has to be a formal, multi-page document with extensive details. For example, you
might simply sketch an "Elements" matrix and then answer a series of questions to narrow the issues.
Q. What is the specific message to be conveyed?
A. While a mercury release has received extensive media attention, the limited release of mercury onto a 3-by-7 foot
patch of soil at the site does not pose a public health threat. Nonetheless, parents should continue to warn their children
to stay away from the site.
Q. Who really needs to know?
A. At first thought, probably just those adjacent to the site. However, the extensive media attention changes the scope
of the task. Broad media communication will be necessary to counteract the media's message and convince the public
there is no immediate threat.
Q. Why not use a public meeting instead of a fact sheet?
A. One public meeting would capture only some of the many potential target audiences for the message. A fact sheet
can be more broadly disseminated and provides written material that can be easily reproduced and referenced again
and again. Perhaps the release of the fact sheet might occur at an initial public meeting, thus combining two powerful
communication vehicles.
Q. How much will correcting the perception created by the media cost in time and dollars?
A. It might cost very little if the media can be convinced to correct their story or even print/air a new story about the
actual minimal risk created by this incident.
Q. What else should I be thinking about?
A. Local homeowners might be experiencing considerable fear and anxiety about the release and risks to their families. It
is important to move fast and to be very clear about the message: there is no health threat from the mercury release.

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Attachment 2: Communications Strategy Matrix
One Method for Considering the Elements of Your Strategy
Message
Audience
Potential Vehicle
Resources
Required
Feedback
Mechanism
Permit Application
Facility mailing
 Workshop
Primarily time,
 Survey at time of
Submittal and Review
list; local and state
 Fact Sheets
perhaps renting
message delivery

government
 Press Release
meeting space, unless
a local library can
(e.g., random
telephone survey)


 Public Meeting
provide space
 Attendance list to
make a few follow-
up calls
Release of Proposed
Active citizen
 Public Meeting
Meeting space; 4-6
 Attendance list to
Remedy for Public
participants; public as
 Public Notices
hours of meeting
make a few follow-
Comment
appropriate
	Select Media
Vehicles
	Workshop
time, depending on
approach; as a "rule
of thumb/' workshop
preparation should
require at least twice
as long as workshop
delivery (i.e., for
2-hour workshop,
at least 4 hours of
preparation)
up calls
 Workshop evalua-
tion form

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Attachment 3: How to Develop a Communication Strategy
The communication strategy is your plan for providing information and getting input about a specific issue. Here is a step-
by-step approach for developing a communication strategy:
Issue: What is the issue/problem/action about which you need to communicate?
It is important that you know exactly what issue will be the focus of your strategy. If you try to communicate too many
issues at once, you will confuse those you want to reach.
Goal: What do you want to achieve with your communication strategy?
	Do you only want to inform your audience?
	Do you want to make your audience aware of a problem?
	Are you trying to encourage your audience to take action?
	Are you trying to get your audience to change its behavior?
	Do you want information back from your audience?
	Do you want to involve them in solving the problem in addition to informing them about it?
Audience: Who do you want to reach with your communication?
You will need to decide what groups or individuals you need to reach. To do this, determine who the stakeholders are.
Ask yourself:
	Who is affected (or thinks they are affected) by the issue/problem/action?
	Who needs to be part of solving the problem?
	Who can stop you from addressing the problem?
	Who else needs to be involved?
	Who just needs to be kept informed?
	With whom do you need to coordinate your communications (and how will you do that)?
You may have different communication goals and need to use different communication tools for different groups of people.
Constraints: What are the difficulties you face in implementing your strategy?
It is important that you honestly identify the factors that will make accomplishing your goal difficult and think about ways
to overcome these difficulties. For example:
	Do you have limited resources?
-	How can you best use the resources you have available to you?
-	Who might help?
-	Where can you get more resources?
	Do the groups you want to reach agree that there is a problem? (If they do not agree, it will be difficult to get them to
J help, and vou must determine how to make them see the problem.)
A	


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Concerns: What are the concerns of various groups about this issue/problem/action?
You will need to identify the concerns that various other groups of stakeholders or other individuals have about what you
are doing.
	What can you do to remove or reduce these concerns?
	How will you communicate this information?
Information Needs: What information do you need to gather?
In order to effectively implement your communication strategy, you may need to gather some information. For example,
ask yourself:
	What are the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the persons you want to reach?
	What newspapers are available to the community?
	Are some more effective at reaching the groups you want to reach?
	What is their policy on letters to the editor?
	Who is the editor and who is a key reporter?
	Is there data you need to support your message?
Message(s)
Do not try to convey too many messages in any one communication. It is better to communicate a few clear messages
than to say too much and confuse your audience. Before you deliver your message in person, be sure to practice and
anticipate the questions you may receive. Ask yourself:
	What is the clearest, most effective way to phrase what you want to say?
	What questions are you likely to receive if you say what you plan to say?
Communication Tools
Not all tools are equally effective for every purpose. Some are better for providing one-way information, while others are
best suited for generating two-way discussion. Some are designed to reach large numbers of people, while others work
best with a small group. Some are very expensive to use, others are not costly. Ask yourself:
	What communication methods will most effectively reach the group(s) that you want to reach and achieve your
communication goal?
Budget/Resources
Ask yourself:
	How much money do you have to implement the strategy?
	How will you spend it?
	What other resources are available - volunteers, donated in-kind resources?
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Timing
Ask yourself:
	Do some communication activities need to happen before others?
	Do you need to tie your communications to other events?
Activities/Schedule
Develop a step-by-step list of communication actions. Include the planning steps needed to implement the activities.


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