Getting the Word Out

All the pistons are firing; The Project Development team is seeking additional project sites, the Volunteer Recruitment committee is seeking volunteers to fill the slots at existing projects, and the Resource Development workgroup is looking for funding and materials for project sites and volunteers. It’s time to get the word out. With a well-planned communications campaign, you can deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time with the techniques outlined below:

Identify Your Key Audiences

Your Communications must be directed towards the interests and perceptions of the intended audience. Determine:

  • Your target audience and key stakeholders
  • Their level of existing knowledge about the Day of Service
  • The techniques you can use to build their support

Set Objectives; Develop a Timeline and Budget

Consider what success looks like, and then work backward to develop a communications plan that will help you get there. It is important to identify what you are trying to achieve with your communications campaign. Set measurable objectives for the number and specific types of media coverage you will attract and what messages you want this coverage to convey so that you will be able tell whether or not your communications campaign was a success.

Create a timeline that identifies the key tasks that need to be completed by when. Your timeline needs to take into account the time it will take to produce materials, and submission deadlines for selected media. Create a realistic schedule. Assess the time required for each element of the campaign, and determine clear deadlines for specific milestones. Track the progress of these milestones closely and promptly address any schedule slips.

Develop a budget that details the anticipated costs. A communications budget can include costs such as design, writing and printing of communication materials and any costs for advertisements. Also consider the costs associated with installing additional phone lines to respond to community questions that the communications campaign generates.

Identify the Key Points

Identify the three most important points that you want your key audiences to know about your MLK Day of Service. Be clear about what you want to say. Give the answers the audience needs to know. Ask them to take a specific action.

Also, keep your message simple. To be compelling, the message must be memorable and inspiring. Frame your message in a way that resonates with the key audiences you are trying to reach. The most effective messages:

Are simple and concrete, using specific language and details

  • Appeal to the heart first, and then the head
  • Tell stories of real people
  • Are framed to speak from the audiences point of view

Emphasize Action

A critical ingredient of any communications campaign is that the audience takes action as a result. It is essential that you make it easy for your audience to respond. Decide what action you want them to take as result of your campaign, and then craft your messages to elicit that response.

Select Media and Materials

The media you select and the materials you use should be based on the target audience. For example, if you want to reach college students, your plan should include social networking sites. If you want to reach working mothers, you should include drive-time radio among your selected media. Here’s a chart that pairs up the communication channel with the most productive techniques for getting your message out.


Examples of Ways to Get Your Message Out

Broadcast media
(Radio, Television)

Public service announcements
Community calendar announcements
Media advisory/Press release


Public service announcements
Community calendar announcements


Media advisory/Press release
Letter to the editor

Internet/ Electronic

Social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter)
Viral marketing

Community Outreach

Face-to-face chats
Neighborhood outreach
Outreach at community events
Post cards
Bumper stickers

You are looking for a mix of standard media (TV/radio/newspaper), new media and community outreach to reach key audiences. With this in mind...

  • Find the type of media most appropriate to reach your intended audience
  • Determine the material formats best suited for the type of media and the message
  • Identify materials already on-hand that can be adapted for the campaign

Remember: You should also review state-of-the-art national materials produced by the Corporation for National and Community Service that you can adapt for your community. For more, visit

Develop Materials

Unleash all of your creativity to design the materials, write the copy, and produce the visuals. Look for many different ways to present the message. Emphasize key themes. Strive for clarity, message consistency, and credibility in your message. Set a tone for the materials, and have the copy and the visuals match this tone. Use your leaders and champions to review the draft copy to get their reactions and advice.

Test Your Materials

Once materials have been reviewed internally, test them on outside audiences to see if they work. Be creative in the ways that you test your materials. Gather people together for an informal focus group to ask them what they think about the material. Do a quick web survey. Ask your neighbors to give you feedback. You’re looking for the test audience to …

  • Understand the message
  • Recall and repeat it back
  • Positively respond to the material in both verbal and body language

Train Your Spokespeople

Train your spokespeople how to convey the message to the media and the public. Since they’ve been a part of developing your communications plan they should be comfortable using it. Give them a sheet of talking points and frequently asked questions with appropriate answers that they can practice using before making public appearances.

Communicate, Disseminate, Assess

After making the necessary changes based on the feedback you received during testing, you are ready to get your message out through all the channels that you have planned. It’s time to shine! Remember to monitor message effectiveness: Is the message making it through the channels? Is it having the intended results? Are people taking action? What is having the most impact? Do changes need to be made based on this assessment?

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