TAO/Handbook/Public Relations

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Introduction: Best practices for external communications[edit]

This chapter provides online communities with best practices and examples to develop an external communication plan for a specific project. These best practices stem from the communication experiences of the various partners and online communities that participated in TAO (Seniorweb Netherlands, Seniorweb Switzerland, Wikimedia Germany and Wikimedia Switzerland). These best practices are therefore particularly suited for communication plans in which several (partner) organizations are involved.

Recommendations: Define the communication basics[edit]

Step 1: Write down the goal, key message & target group

Start by writing down (and agreeing upon) the basic elements of your communication campaign:

  • Communication goals:
  • What do we want to establish with our communication?
  • E.g. Raise awareness for the usability-problems of older adults in online communities.
  • Key messages
  • What do we want to say?
  • E.g. “We strive for a better usability in the websites of online communities”
  • Target groups
  • Who do we want to reach with our message?
  • E.g. Staff and developers of online communities

Step 2: Make your message coherent & clear

  • The project message always has to be coherent and clear (no matter who is speaking):
  • Appoint one person in charge of the overall project communication
  • This person checks and approves of every communication activity on beforehand, especially if someone else will organize the activity.
  • Use the “principle of subsidiarity”: if partners can do the communication themselves, let them do it themselves (but the communication must be checked on beforehand).
  • If (part of) your target group has another language, arrange for native-language speakers, writers and/or proofreaders.

Step 3: Reserve time for planning & evaluation

A strong communication plan is carefully planned carefully on beforehand, and thoroughly evaluated afterwards.

  • Planning before:
  • The communication plan should be planned with all the parties involved, e.g. the person in charge of the overall project communication and the communication managers of the partner organizations.
  • Evaluating after:
  • Learn from your experiences and evaluate every communication activity afterwards, if possible with measurable indicators (e.g. website statistics, number of members, Facebook statistics, …)

Examples: Spreading your message through various channels[edit]

The communication goal and target groups determine which channels are best suited to spread your message. Below are examples of channels that were successfully used in the TAO project communication.

Type of communication Communication channel Best practices
Offline media (e.g. newspaper, radio, …) Press release • Especially effective if coupled with personal contacts with editorial staff

• Local partner organizations are best placed to effectively approach the local media.

• Visual media (tv): provide them with original filming opportunities

• Determine the geographical scoop focus accordingly, e.g. focus on local media

Press conference • Organized for special occasions, or with a famous person

• Need to provide specific press conference-kit

Interviews • Interesting for written and audiovisual media (e.g. newspapers, radio & tv)
Online Media Newsletters, mailing lists • To reach target group online
Social network sites (e.g. Facebook groups) • To reach target group online
Project website • Pivotal point of project’s external communication
Websites of the partners • Websites of partner organizations should also provide project information, and a link to the project’s main website.

• Maintain good relationships with the partner organizations, ask (and remind) them to renew the project information on their website.

Presence at fairs & events Stand activities at fairs, exhibitions, etcetera • To reach target groups who do not (often) use the Internet

• To engage in real-life conversations with target group

Stand at events of partner organization • To reach key-stakeholders

• To engage in real-life conversations

Stand material: hand-outs, banners, flyers, etcetera • To address broad target group in public spaces

• Especially for target groups who do not (often) use the Internet