A - Z of communication tools
Remember that government publications need to comply with the Tasmanian Government Style Guide and Logo Policy.
Consider a mix of the following communication tools when developing your communications strategy:
Can be expensive and hard to measure effectiveness. Needs to ‘break through the clutter’. Different messages suit different media (print or electronic) (see print advertisements).
Can be effective for specific or special campaigns but may need the support of advertisers to cover costs.
A national or international awareness day or week is usually set by government to commemorate a public health or ethical cause of importance on a national or international level.
A visual medium that is available in metropolitan and regional areas.
Customised merchandise eg t-shirts, stickers, coffee mugs, pens – can be selected to appeal to the target audience and – depending on the size and format of the item – can feature organisational logos, contact details and/or calls to action.
Useful for training purposes or special marketing. Can be a cost-effective alternative to print publications. They are especially useful if there is vision and images to accompany your message.
Community/industry organisations and notice boards:
Appropriate community organisations can be supplied with information (flyers, publications, posters etc) for distribution to members or display on notice boards. Using industry associations and community leaders to relay information often adds credibility to the message.
Community meetings/public forums:
Community meetings can be held independently or in conjunction with interest groups. Events can be open invitation or a selective audience, depending on the issue. Think carefully about this option and whether it fits with what you are trying to achieve. It is a good means of encouraging community participation and gathering feedback (two-way communication).
Community and regional newspapers and publications:
Excellent means of reaching regional communities. Advertising costs are low compared to daily papers and editorial is often welcomed (particularly when provided with images). You can produce articles (good news stories) based around the initiative and its ‘success’ stories. Use these mediums to reach more remote and rural audiences who may be more in touch with their local publications.
Community Service Announcements:
Community Service Announcements (CSAs) are broadcast free of charge (no cash or in-kind) by media as a service to the community. They often have a charitable, public health or educational purpose. Allocation of free air-time for CSAs is a matter for individual media outlets. CSAs can be negotiated directly with media outlets or via a media booking agency.
Can be categorised as either a ‘game of skill’ using judges (eg in 25 words or less, tell us why you should win) or a ‘game of chance’ (eg random draw). Ensure you are up-to-date on all legal requirements before planning a competition or consumer prize promotion, including online competitions. For example, chance competitions require permits in some Australian jurisdictions. Generally, the permit costs and requirements are determined by the value of the prize being offered. All competitions will require clear terms and conditions.
Letters or other publications can address specific issues and be pitched directly to stakeholders.
Generally a medium that is good for relaying information, but not for communication. You need to be selective about what you email and avoid ‘spamming’. Email is often an easy and preferred way of communication. However, it is important to be aware that households that are without a computer or internet access may be excluded from opportunities to engage. Also it is not uncommon for emails to be unintentionally deleted or left unread.
Writing to community/professional groups offering to talk about the initiative or supply information can help reach target audiences. This tool is good for internal audiences (e.g. Steering Committees and senior management), particularly at the beginning and end of projects. It is good for conveying intricacies that might not be conveyed in other direct communication.
Features for dedicated publications:
This can be particularly useful if targeting professional bodies like medical practitioners or community service workers.
Useful for research purposes and ensures two-way communication.
Information or help lines:
Usually necessary for managing an issue affecting targeted publics.
Most effective when face-to-face, but includes staff newsletters and magazines.
Generate information for your Agency’s intranet (and other Agency intranets if appropriate) especially if your message is important to staff.
Useful in reaching specific geographical areas. Delivery can be carried out by commercial service providers (see Communications Consultants and Service Providers Register). However, not everyone reads material in their letterboxes.
In addition to your own mailing lists, other agencies and/or stakeholders might have mailing lists that will reach your target audiences.
Identify magazines and newspapers that reach your target audiences (eg Tasmanian Senior and Tasmanian Business Reporter) and consider placing advertisements or supplying editorial.
These are appropriate if there is a suitable news angle to the announcement. This form of public relations can engage if effectively managed, but needs to be carefully planned. Save it for major announcements. If you use this tool, consider Ministerial involvement and find out if the Minister is available (also check Parliamentary sittings) and make sure your proposed date doesn’t clash with other major events. Suggest a news angle (people stories work best), appropriate venue/event, backdrops etc.
If you stage an event (eg lunch, dinner), it may be appropriate to invite members of the media as your guests – rather than just to cover the event. Invitations should be issued personally to targeted journalists – those who have showed an interest in the subject matter or have the potential to impact on the project.
The cost is free and they are relatively easy to prepare and distribute. However, it is not always effective as it relies on media filters, it may not get run, and is inaccessible to most audiences. Sometimes individual interviews are more effective. Think in pictures when trying to attract media coverage or make sure it is distributed beyond the general media and sent directly to targeted outlets such as specialist publications. It should not be the only source of communication.
Twitter is the best known micro-blogging platform. It allows you to post updates (called tweets) as often as you want. The limit for each tweet is 140 characters, which presents certain challenges when using Twitter as a communications channel. This can be overcome to some degree by using short URL’s to link off to more detailed information. Twitter also keeps a public record of all updates, which can be mined with a Twitter Search. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template (see social media).
Can appear on cars/buses/trucks or on billboards towed by vehicles and provides flexibility in targeting a specific, small geographical area, or a large city.
There a number of newsletters you can tap into such as childcare/school/club newsletters.
Identify appropriate newspaper supplements or inserts (eg The Mercury – Taste, Money Saver, Pulse, Style, Tasweekend, Body + Soul, Escape, Insight, Sunday TV Guide, Sunday Easy; The Examiner – Saturday Escape, Your Region, Inside Domain; The Advocate – TV Guide, Inside Domain and consider placing advertisements or supplying editorial.
Options include fact sheets, flyers and letters and the Web. Think about the publication’s shelf life and likely print run when deciding on the style and cost. Factor the time required for design, printing and approvals into your timeline. Always show publications dates and note the Publication Guidelines.
Piggy-backing on major groups and contacts like community, education, health and leisure, raves and rallies, interest groups and local councils can help carry messages into the community.
are digital media files that can be distributed over the internet for playback on portable media players (e.g. iPods and MP3 players) and computers. A podcast is distinguished from other digital media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template (see social media).
To be used in location specific communications. For example in doctors’ surgeries, health or community centres. Low production costs and commercial service providers can access sites and organise ‘posting’ (see Communications Consultants and Service Providers Register). Also useful for reaching specific geographical areas.
Useful in building brands and encouraging people to seek more information on projects or initiatives.
Public notice and/or display advertisements can be placed in specialist publications and/or local, regional and interstate papers. Note the Tasmanian Government Communications Policy advertising requirements and the Master Ordering Arrangements for print media and public notices (see Advertisements)
Professional networking sites:
Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn focus on interactions and relationships of a business, rather than personal, nature. They can provide access to people, organisations, jobs, groups and news specific to particular sectors, locations etc. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template (see social media).
Displays at shopping centres, Service Tasmania shops, Council offices, community and neighbourhood centres/houses, doctors surgeries, hospitals and other community health centres and public events such as expos allow people to stop and talk and take away information.
A form of non-campaign advertising that can help inform the public of their rights, obligations and entitlements, as well as explaining government policies, programs and services. Public notices may appear in the classified or early general news (EGN) pages of newspapers or in general pages of other print publications.
Highly effective for disseminating information fast. Speech is the dominant element so it is essential to have clear messages and is highly dependent on budget. Note the Master Ordering Arrangement.
Radio – talkback/discussion:
Offer to provide spokespeople and/or news leads for radio talkback sessions or news items focusing on the project or initiative.
Recommendation and review websites:
allow people to post reviews about businesses, products, or services. Some of the best known review sites are TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon and Foursquare. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template (see social media).
Social and market research are used to gain a better understanding of society and to identify the perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, needs or emerging concerns of members of the community. It may be used to assess the public’s response to proposals or to possible changes or initiatives; to assess the effectiveness of policies, programs and services; to measure progress in service improvement; to inform a course of action; or to inform marketing decisions. For more information, refer to the Social and market research section of the Communications Policy.
Coupons are provided on the back of from supermarkets and retailers. Useful for targeting particular areas of the State.
Smartphone/ipad applications (apps):
Applications for mobile devices must fulfil a business need not already addressed by other mobile channels, such as websites. Apps must be effectively marketed and require user support and regular updates.
Particularly useful in reaching younger age groups. Social media needs to be carefully planned in consultation with your Communications Unit as it comes with a number of risks which need to be managed. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template. (see microblogs, social networking, professional networking communities, visual content communities, podcasts, web blogs and discussion forms, instant messaging/VOIP, recommendation and review websites, wikis).
Facebook is the best known social networking platform. Facebook connects people to other individuals, as well as brands and organisations. It allows users to share content (e.g. news stories, photos and videos, links to websites and information, event listings etc), ask questions and solicit feedback. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template (see social media).
Consider special needs groups, such as the aged, Indigenous people, and hearing or sight impaired. For example, storytelling and art can be more effective when communicating with Indigenous people.
The decision to enter into a sponsorship agreement must be driven by sound business principles and only undertaken if it is likely to produce significant net benefit for government and its clients with no detriment to the public interest. For more information refer to the sponsorship section of the Communications Policy.
An effective means of internal communication. Use the Government Newsletter Register.
Costly but a useful tool for reaching regional areas. Note the Master Ordering Arrangement.
Through opinion makers:
Use of industry associations and community leaders to relay information often adds credibility to the message and makes use of internal communication channels. Remember the requirement to publish to the web as part of the Publication Guidelines. Consider using www.tas.gov.au in addition to your own Agency’s website.
Visual content communities:
such as YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest, and Tumblr. These social media channels allow users to upload and share their photographs and/or videos. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template (see social media).
Web blogs and discussion forums:
provide an online space where people or organisations can tell stories, share insights and opinions about a topic, or inform clients about business/project successes. There are thousands of blogs and discussion forums, such as Blog or Wordpress. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template (see social media).
Can be very effective if promoted properly. Allows 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access and people can browse to the depth that suits their needs. Website content should be available in HTML and PDF format. All websites should comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
are group-edited sites for knowledge management and storage. The best known wiki is Wikipedia. Before considering any form of social media refer to the Government’s Social Media Strategy Template (see social media).
Word of mouth:
Can be positive and negative (e.g. police breath-testing stations send out a symbolic message).
Sources: This information has been collated using the Tasmanian Government Communications Policy, the Department of Health and Human Services Communication Strategy User’s Guide and Communication strategies: Developing realistic plans for real results workbook by Moore Public Relations.