A communication and outreach roadmap with examples — part 4 of 5

Linda Margaret
7 min readMar 9, 2018


This is part four of a five-part process to creating a communication and outreach roadmap.

In review:

And remember the guiding principle throughout our roadmap creation:

When it comes to communications, be transparent and genuine both internally and externally about what you are doing and why. At all times.

As part of this guiding principle, be sure to align staff incentives with active and genuine participation in the communication roadmap.

Without true adoption of the roadmap by all those involved, the roadmap will fail.

Now for step 4: What are we going to do?

Okay, so….

1. We know what we aim to achieve both in the long-term (our central objectives) and in the shorter term (our more concrete, time-bound goals, which are tied to our long-term objectives.)

To sum up using the example introduced in Step 1, we want to increase environmentally-friendly practices and their perceptions in our local community.

2. We know where both we and our external achievements stand at the moment and we have a good idea as to why.

To refer again to the example introduced in Step 1, we know how people in our community feel about our organisation and our work (if they feel anything at all) and we have a good idea as to why they feel this way. We also know how different community groups feel about recycling and environmentally-friendly practices in general, and we are reasonably certain, after careful analyses, we understand why they feel this way and how they get their information.

3. We know what we are doing well and what we are failing to do as an organisation to engage fully with our desired community. We know what we need to change.

Referring to the example again, we should have a strong understanding of what our reputation is amongst our target community and what we can do differently to alter this reputation and have more of an impact on our community when it comes to encouraging local environmentally-friendly activities and goodwill. We know who the major influencers are in the community with regard to these issues, and we know how we can most likely interact with these influencers in effective and mutually beneficial partnerships.

Now we need to develop our action plan.

An action plan is not simply a laundry list of stuff we are going to do or produce with deadlines and associated costs.

Yes, we need that, but that provides the barest bones of an action plan.

An action plan is a very carefully considered algorithm that should free everyone in the organisation to react in real time to evolving conditions in the communication roadmap.

Think: Assuming z, then we will produce x. If z is indeed true and x yields y, then we will produce more x. If z turns out to not be true and x yields b, then we will produce c….

Too much? Okay, then think of it this way:

An action plan is an objective-driven GPS produced by and for your communications team.

Team members are expected to adhere to the action plan as much as possible. However, it is more important that team members understand the ultimate destination to which the action plan aims to lead. Team members should not to follow the GPS (the action plan) blindly off a cliff.

That said, if the GPS is recommending a cliff dive, there needs to be a resource-efficient procedure in place to pull back and re-assess the communication roadmap to see why and recommend improvements.

The goal of a clear action plan is to free the communication team to go for it — go out and get those goals done, or come back with a clear explanation as to why those goals aren’t feasible and why or what we need to do differently.

An action plan should liberate management from checking in too frequently with staff and free staff to go forth and do the work that they signed up for.

This doesn’t mean management isn’t available to the communication team; just that management has communicated clearly what is desired to the actual communication experts that are going out and getting the job done. And the communication experts have communicated exactly what they need to get the job done. Everyone has agreed, understands the planning, and now we can all get on with our work.

The action plan is (hopefully) the last opportunity to go over a few details, mostly to further clarify budget and expectations.

Then the managers move on to new strategic, high-level plans while the communication team sets off on its journey, feeding new information and ideas into the GPS as needed and sharing with management at strategic moments where major changes or considerable new resources might be required.

Building on our example: encouraging recycling and environmentally-friendly practices and goodwill within our local community.

We need to ask ourselves:

Given the influencers and channels that we’ve identified are key to engaging with our audience, what kind of communication products and in what volume can we reasonably commit to providing and to what end?

  • We need to be creative while respecting the results of our research and analyses. Rather than another website extolling the virtues of recycling, could we work with a partner to provide more convenient drop-off points for citizens who would like to recycle but find it inconvenient (provided our analyses suggests this includes a significant percentage of our audience)? As a follow-up, could we then distribute maps of these drop-off points at places like grocery stores, schools, etc.?
  • Again, before making any of these suggestions, we should review our analyses to see if indeed our ideas and our proposed partners have not yet tried/are in agreement with the efficacy of such proposals.
  • All actions, products, events and services that we produce must be tied to a relevant real-world need that we can solve and a solution that, ideally, we can measure. For example: we distributed X number of maps highlighting the new drop-off points at the grocery store the first week of March and saw glass drop-offs at the nearby recycling point increase by up to 50% in the next two weeks.
  • Remember to always follow-up! For example, can we interview some of the individuals dropping off their glass to understand what encouraged them to recycle? Is it possible to include some of these interviews in a regional newspaper article praising the local population? Should we distribute more maps to make sure we’ve fully informed everyone of the the new drop-off point, or have we successfully reached most of the relevant community?

What will be our follow-up communication product after each initial/secondary/tertiary/etc. communication product — be this a simple flier or website or a major event — to ensure we don’t waste any goodwill or critical feedback that we hope to generate?

  • As wiser heads have noted, success is something to build on and failure is something to learn from. Neither is an end point.
  • If we host a large event to debate the economic benefits of recycling with the community, we best have follow-up events and opportunities for further engagement prepared, probably linked to our legislative plans. Each follow-up opportunity needs to learn from any precedents, building on what works and dropping what doesn’t.
  • Building on success is usually easy; letting go of what doesn’t work can be difficult, but worth it. Fact sheets, brochures, websites, social media posts — all of these products offer value only if they result our target audience taking measurable action. Don’t settle for stuff you can do, focus on action that has real results. Even if these results are bad, at least we learned, so we didn’t waste our time.

Will our influencers and partners — and most importantly our target audience — be satisfied with what we suggest? Will it survive without us?

  • The goal is not to be the only source credited for the change — we want to be part of the change as it is adopted by the wider target community. Who is best placed to implement/promote/track the actions we plan to take? How much time will it take to truly implement the change desired and, given our limitations, how can we help make the change sustainable? If there is already a partner group working on locally-sourced legislation encouraging recycling, what resources can we provide them to help their work?
  • Again, link any action we aim to take to a real-world need that we can help solve and a solution that we can measure: looking at our analyses, what were the major pain points highlighted for passing environmentally-friendly legislation? What are appropriate solutions that will appeal locally and who is best placed to promote these solutions?

Just as we don’t turn off the GPS until we arrive at our destination, the action plan is not finished until we’ve achieved our goals. We need to use all the information and analyses we gathered in Steps 1, 2 and 3 to build a clear series of actions we can take to get to where we want to go.



Linda Margaret

I write academic grants etc. in Europe's capital. Here I vent re current work on cybersecurity, AI, social science. https://www.linkedin.com/in/lindamargaret/