Your strategy has six critical elements

A good communication strategy in development cooperation is completely focused on the audience. To achieve this we distinguish six components.

The first component is your goal.

It's like in sports: If you don't have a goal, you can't score. 

A promising communications strategy sets a clear communications goal - or small set of goals - otherwise the action can't demonstrate any impact.

Which kind of communications goals will be used is pre-determined by the overall goals of the project. In order for planned activities to be strategic, they need to aim at a communications goal, and that, in turn, has to directly relate to a specific goal project.

The second component is your messages.

This is the actual core of what a project wants to get across -- embedded in their content or stories.

Since messages need to be carried by something or someone, they come in a certain format. Spoken, written, or in visual form.

Some messages need a special format while others can be conveyed in more than one way. Maybe the message needs a personal touch? And another one has to be presented in a factual manner. 

The third component is the audience.

A good communications strategy is always focused on the audience - which is usually considered to comprise certain groups of people. And since people have very diverse needs even though they fall into one group, these groups should be further broken down along the different needs. The different needs determine how the communication with each of the subgroups takes place.  

A good communications strategy clearly reflects the various needs of the audience, or what these people want to know about a certain subject. 

The fourth piece are the tools.

Tools are used to facilitate the actual communication, for example, a social media account, an event, a webinar series or monthly telephone calls or personal visits. Related to that are channels, the term refers more to a continuously operating tool. Tactic is also sometimes used synonym to tool in communications-speak. All three terms mean pretty much the same.

Important for the choice of the tools or channels is that it should be guided by whether your audience is currently using them and not by whether you use them already. Also remember that people have personal preferences in terms of formats which might not be determined by how you categorized them.

The next aspect is frequency. 

How often do you plan to communicate with each of your audience groups - or better interact? Repetition is important for people to remember information or to get off the couch and do something. Best with different tools, formats and variations of the messages. 

But it is not only that. Many modern communication formats often require smaller information bits. They use a constant flow of information rather than just one announcement.

This also plays into another aspect that has risen to even more importance lately and that is very much connected to frequency. It's continuity. The established line of communication should not cut off. It's no use following someone who disappears off the screen for weeks on end.

The last aspect is measuring impact.

You need a system and metrics to measure how your messages are received. Are they delivered, understood, acted upon?

For example, delivery could be gauged by view counts, comprehension with a survey and degree of action taken with random interview samples. When for instance you find that messages are delivered and understood well but nobody does what they suggested, then you need to figure out whether the people in your target group maybe lack the means to do what you asked them to. Or it could be that you addressed the wrong crowd in the first place.

Measuring sounds like the end of the process while actually it is also the beginning. Not only do you need to know how to measure your goal-scoring if you want to win. You also need comprehensive information to retune all your components in a useful way and start over. 

Deciding on these six components is the backbone of a communication strategy and its implementation. They're basically all you need to start. The rest are details you'll figure out while you get going.

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