Step 6: Determining the Best Activities, Events and Materials to Engage Your Audience

Strategic communications planning is the foundation for successful and impactful communications and marketing activities. Each month, Vanguard Communications is releasing a new article describing each step of this important process. Click through to read past articles from our Strategic Communications Planning series. Interested in bringing the strategic communications planning process to your organization? Send us a note and let us know how we can help.

Alright. You’ve developed your goal and objectives. You’ve determined who you want to reach. You’ve written thoughtful and well-crafted messages. And, you’ve determined where you are going to effectively deliver these messages to your key audiences. Now it’s time for the fun part; it’s time to bring your plan to life and devise the ways you will really engage your audiences.

Traditional tactics have been evolving and expanding since the pandemic began in mid-March. We all have watched organizations adjust from hosting in-person conferences, networking events and other touchpoints with their audiences to communicating in a virtual world. It has presented quite the challenge — and opportunity — to reimagine in-person activities to meet the current COVID-19 restrictions in place, such as physical distancing. This is certainly uncharted territory for many of us.

Pandemic or not, there is no shortage of activities, events and materials that you can use to engage your audiences and ultimately meet your goals. Everything from newsletters, videos and social media campaigns to PSAs, advertising, op-eds, town hall meetings, speeches, listservs, radio broadcasts, podcasts, and more, can be leveraged to connect you and your issues to those you want to reach. The list goes on and on. The key is making sure that what you choose isn’t necessarily the most popular activity, but the most effective for reaching your audience.

For example, to reach parents with children’s mental health awareness messaging, you might want to partner with a childcare center and share brochures or other collateral for parents, host a webinar in partnership with pediatricians, or speak at a [virtual] PTA meeting. Reaching middle school-aged soccer players as part of a communications campaign on concussions and safety might require establishing a strong social media presence, such as Instagram ads; or a partnership with local physical education teachers on a virtual or in-school training, depending on current protocols in your area.

When determining the best activities, events and materials to deliver your messages and engage your audiences, consider the following:

  • Appropriateness to audience, goal and message. Remember: Your messages are the foundation for your communications materials and outreach. Do you have prominent spokespeople that you can pitch to radio or podcasts to talk about your campaign? Does hosting a media tour make sense?
  • Relevance to desired outcomes. If you want to reach those youth soccer players about concussions and safety, what can you plan that will most quickly result in reaching your communications objective?
  • Climate of community toward the issue/activity. Right now, the biggest question everyone is asking is: Will the community come to an in-person event on this topic? Can I transition this event to be virtual, so that I can reach more individuals in my target audience? Or can I disseminate collateral that we usually hand out via schools over email and get the same reach?
  • Diversity and inclusion. Activities and materials should be as inclusive as possible, allowing everyone to participate equally. Does everyone in my key audience speak English? Do I need to have an American Sign Language interpreter at the event? Is closed captioning available for those who need it?

To avoid overextending resources — human and budgetary — consider your budget parameters and prioritize activities, events and materials that do the job while providing great reach and impact. If possible, you may also want to seek out in-kind or monetary contributions from partners to offset some of the costs.

Chart your proposed activities and collateral in a table format that may include descriptions, task leads, timeline, budget, goal/objective it supports, channels and applicable audience. This can inform future planning related to budget and implementation.

No matter what activities, events and materials you choose, remember to have fun, but to also ensure that your tactics are truly the most effective for reaching your audience.