So far in this module, we have covered a lot of best practices for developing a strong communication plan and strategy. Below are a few additional best practices that are important to reflect on when developing your communications plan.
Ask for Feedback
It is worth repeating and emphasizing to ask for feedback, as it is critical to the continuous improvement of your communications plan. When trying to determine what is and isn’t working in your communications plan, the best plan of action is to ask your audience! The amount of valuable information you can collect by circulating a brief survey amongst your target audience or community is astonishing. If you are not sure what to improve about your communications try asking the following questions:
- What type of content are your interested in seeing?
- What format would you like to see this content be delivered in?
- What platforms do you use most frequently?
- What times and how frequently do you use these platforms?
- What other content provided do you regularly watch / view?
Posing these questions in a multiple-choice format can help increase the likelihood that your audience with interact with the survey, and will help to give your audience an idea of the type of answers you are looking for. Having an open-ended option can also be useful to catch any potential answers you did not think of when creating the survey. We will discuss some tools to help you analyze and track responses to surveys in the next section.
Look to existing content in your sector
It is better to build on the past successes of others from your industry or sector rather than starting from scratch. Look to researchers or academics from other institutions that you think have a great communication for inspiration. Look to see their analytics, or media monitoring if they are publicly available. If one of your ‘competitors’ are successful reaching a particular audience, look to see the types of content, messaging and channels they are using to reach and engage those audiences.
If one of your colleagues in your field are mentioned repeatedly in the media or excel in a specific type of communications (op/eds, textbooks etc.) Examine what they are doing and ask them to advise you. The more information about your area of expertise is made available to the public, the larger the impact your field will have on society.
As mentioned in section 1, finding the best way to communicate your research to specific audiences is through an iterative process, and may require some trial and error to find the best methods for your needs. By looking to other existing content you may be able to save a significant amount of time by removing some unknown variables from the equation.
There are several professional organizations that can assist you with this, including:
Leverage existing institution-specific communication resources
Most (if not all) post-secondary institutions have a wide range of resources and supports to assist faculty, staff, and students with their communication efforts. These resources are designed to enable communication within the organization, and to external stakeholders. When developing your communication plan it is strongly encouraged that you take advantage of these existing resources and supports. They may also be able to advise on measurement and ways to increase the communication of your research to enhance your capability and training through communications in your next grant application to SSHRC, NSERC, or CIHR.
Some examples of typical resources that exist at post-secondary institutions include:
- Internal newsletters
- Externally facing news bulletin
- Reputational campaigns
- Various social media channels
- On-campus radio station
In addition, your marketing and communications department contains experts with a wide range of communications skills experience and expertise. Leveraging these subject matter experts could be a tremendous asset to you and your colleagues when seeking to enhance your communication strategy.