The Importance of Planning
An Effective Communications Plan Can Help Win Support
A clear, achievable and proactive communications plan is critical to the success of any new evaluation system. States should be prepared to manage both the message and expectations. Anxieties will run high no matter what, but will run higher if the flow of information is not ongoing, concise and conveyed in a language that everyone — from teachers to parents to legislators to the general public — can understand. By being proactive throughout the process, states can build and sustain a culture of transparency, honesty, clarity and trust.
Not all states have done this successfully. Teachers in many reform states have said that they felt disconnected about the planning process and that state officials did not proactively explain what was going on. Will Pinkston, a communications consultant from Tennessee, agreed with these concerns, noting that his state vastly underestimated how significant the opposition would be, and had no strategy in place to respond. In hindsight, he said he wished the state had approached it “like a campaign.”
States can prevent some of these issues by developing a strategic communications plan that maps out the goals and purpose of the new evaluation system in the early stages, as the state’s efforts first get underway. This plan should be designed to communicate to enhance support and build understanding and quell the spread of misinformation or rumors.
Create a Budget
A key aspect of planning includes knowing what type of budget will be available for communications efforts determining how best to use the resources. Activities such as buying advertising, setting up booths at community events, sending mailers, building websites, hosting forums, etc. will each have costs. It will also take funding to hire additional staff if necessary to develop and carry out the communications campaign and to respond to inquiries.