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Develop a Communications Plan

Develop a Communications Plan

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In this phase you'll determine the challenge structure and implementation timeline. During this critical step, you'll work with internal groups to establish eligibility and submission requirements, terms and conditions, and judging criteria. You'll connect with your communications team to outline your announcement and ongoing outreach strategy to engage potential solvers.

Other Phases

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Develop a Communications Plan

In this step you'll plan how to communicate important information about the challenge to various audiences and continue this outreach throughout the entire process.

Your communications plan should define:

  • audiences (e.g., target solvers, partner organizations, influencers, end users and the general public)
  • channels (e.g., website, news outlets, email blasts, word-of-mouth and social media)
  • content (e.g., what information should be shared with which audience)

Use your plan to detail the timing and frequency of communications to generate interest at key moments. Consider the public relations boost from launching the challenge or announcing your winners at an agency or industry event that already commands media attention.

Key Takeaways

1. With a comms plan, more is better.

The communications plan is a key strategy document that you can share with collaborators and stakeholders. As such, it should include a variety of information related to the challenge timeline, key messages, product descriptions, press releases, target audiences, media contacts, awards and prizes, and more.

The "comms" plan is a living document that you and your team will revise and update frequently. Work with the appropriate people in your agency—such as the public affairs and legislative affairs offices—to ensure everyone is aware of and understands the challenge and can effectively promote it.

2. Develop and share key high-level messages.

You'll have many opportunities to deliver key messages throughout the course of your challenge. But everyone needs to know what they are, starting with you.

Develop three to five key messages and share them early with collaborators and partners. Their involvement in fine-tuning these messages will ensure consistency no matter which organization is communicating about the challenge.

Don't drag your key messages into the weeds. Keep them high-level so different audiences, and ultimately, the general public "gets it."

Think about creating a graphic representation for the challenge. This can help brand the competition across social media and any other communications material you produce.

3. Take advantage of social media.

Use the comms plan to track and share social media links. Agencies may have multiple Twitter hashtags, Facebook profiles and web pages from which they can push out messages, notices, updates and reminders of key dates and events.

Use the comms plan to document/archive and track tweets and posts you've written for release. It may help to set social media outreach goals upfront. You may want to aim for a certain number of tweets/posts per week or set a goal for impressions on Twitter or shares on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Make social media analytics (e.g., Google analytics, TweetReach, etc.) a regular activity for your communications lead. It's important to constantly track the effectiveness of your social media approach so you can adjust as needed.

4. Look for promotional opportunities.

Keep an eye out for conferences and events related to your challenge topic. They provide opportunities to share previews, launch your challenge, announce updates and award prizes. Your team and collaborators can use the comms plan to suggest appropriate venues.

Consider national, regional and local/community events of different kinds. Look at webinars, conferences and festivals. Find events through communities of practice, agency research networks, professional societies and other organizations.

Your outreach strategy should take into account the best approaches to target potential solvers and other stakeholders. Consider how these people generally receive information pertaining to the relevant subject matter. For technology or scientific challenges this may include in-person gatherings such as conferences or summits. If you want to reach a larger audience, you may be able to save time and money by advertising the challenge on a conference or society website. To reach a broad audience, you may want to use an advertising tool such as Google AdWords.

Finally, don't underestimate the power of your social networks. Reach out to those in your network who wield influence and have large followings. Provide them with suggested language that conveys your key messages so they can help promote the challenge through Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels.

5. Communications planning also includes solver engagement and capacity building.

It's important to work with participants throughout the challenge, especially if your goals include capacity building or having solvers commercialize solutions after the competition.

You may need to help match solvers with people, resources and funding. Your communications plan should include any additional activities required to set participants up for success. This may seem like a lot of work, but your efforts will help innovators attract additional funding from other sources. Whether it comes from government grants or private investment, solvers will need your help preparing for and managing these sources of funding down the road. This is particularly true for funding that doesn't come from your organization.

6. Consider opportunities for interactive engagement.

Consider using more interactive ways to engage with people about your challenge:

  • Solicit public comment on draft challenge rules.
  • Run a pilot challenge to determine interest and gather feedback from the target participant population.
  • Ue scouting services to identify potential participants in challenges.
  • Invite winners to present webinars on their solutions to target audiences.

Still Have Questions?

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Case Studies