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Plan Communication Efforts

Plan Communication Efforts

Projects are often most successful when they work with intended users to create a cohesive project identity from the start.

Using accessible language that resonates with the shared values of the whole team is a good way to build trust and help collaborators share ownership.


  Tip: Thoughtfully "brand" your project with a short, catchy name

Consider developing a short project name for use with your team and intended users. Most proposal titles are too long to use once a project has been funded, and team members will develop a range of project nicknames. These are often based on the name of the project lead or the funder, and they can confuse users. When your project name is consistent, compact, and attractive, it's easier for your team and users to share ownership and for all of them to refer to the project in the same way.

Consider developing a simple project logo. This can build an identity for your project and be used in final products to make them look more professional and cohesive.


Project examples: Creating a project name and identity

A simple and memorable project name can enable your team, advisors, and users to easily refer to the project and begin to feel some shared ownership. Here are a few examples of projects that created a catchy name as well as a project logo.

Sharing project results beyond your core team is essential, but it requires time and intentionality. Communications activities and products should be planned strategically so that they directly support your project's objectives. The more specific you can be about your objectives and audience at the outset, the more deliberate you can be when planning your communication strategy and enlisting the support of your team and intended users.

Be as specific as possible about what you want people to do because of your project. Generically, your goal might be to get project users to use project information and products to make more informed decisions, but what does this actually look like in your context? Completing or updating the Understanding User Needs tool can help clarify your objectives.

Some projects might establish objectives that merit broader communication efforts. For example, a project might aim to reach audiences that can influence a decision maker, such as homeowner associations that could put pressure on an elected commissioner to address a water quality problem. In these cases, be sure to enlist the help of communication specialists and your intended users to design and implement a communication plan with priority audiences.

Your communications objectives and messages will provide the framework for your communication plan. This plan should make use of existing resources, be strongly influenced by audience profiles, specify actions in support of each objective, identify channels through which communications products will flow, and outline the activities and materials you will design and implement.

To accomplish many of the other pieces in this “Fine-Tune” section, such as using accessible language or preparing for potentially controversial findings, you first need to understand the values of your intended users. Taking the time to understand beliefs, perceptions, and values of users increases the potential for science to make the greatest impact on communities.


Project example: Values-based communications

While not all projects will have the resources to create formal profiles for their priority audiences, it can be helpful to learn from projects that do. A team in Maine conducted social science research to better understand the beliefs, perceptions, and values of Reserve partners and stakeholders. They used a communication audit and mental mapping techniques to understand the collective beliefs about riparian buffers. This research enabled them to decide which communication and engagement strategies should be prioritized for their project. See case study | project webpage | communications research summary.

Strike a balance between making good use of existing products and efforts and building something new.

  • Identify organizations or places where your audience already goes to for information. Consider whether a partnership with these organizations is appropriate.
  • Needs and capacity assessments can be incredibly helpful for understanding what kinds of resources are available and if/how they are being used.
  • If using translation services, seek translators already familiar with the target audiences.