The Strategic Communications Program Plan
Strategic Communications Program Plan–1
The Strategic Communications Program Plan
Course Assignments Overview:
In this course, you will create an original strategic communications program designed for our
class client. The following outline is a template to follow as you develop your plan.
The Strategic Communications Program Plan Outline:
I. Title Page
This page should include the title of the plan, the organization for which the plan was written, the
author(s) of the plan, the author’s firm name, and copyright information if it applies.
II. Table of Contents
The plan should include a detailed table of contents to enable the readers to move quickly to
specific sections of the plan.
III. The Executive Summary
The executive summary is a brief digest or abstract of the entire plan. Include a brief statement
of the situation/problem/opportunity/client need. Then include two or three key research facts
followed by the program objectives and tactics. Include a brief summary of how you plan to
evaluate the program at the end of the executive summary. The executive summary should be no
more than one single-spaced page.
IV. Situation Analysis
A. Client History and Background
Effective strategic communication programs require that we have a working knowledge
of the client and the client’s history. When was the client’s company or organization
founded? Who were the founders? Where was it founded? Why was it founded? What is
the client’s mission or vision statement? This is simply a short statement of why the
B. Service, Product, Issue History, Background, and Current State
What product or service does the client offer to its primary publics? If the client is an
advocate of a cause, describe the cause of issue especially in terms of the current
business and media climates. When did the client begin producing the product or
advocating for the cause.
Provide background on the product or issue. For example, if the client is Apple, we must
have knowledge of the history and background of the computer/information technology
industry. It is impossible to counsel a client about his/her product/service/issue if you
have no knowledge of the client’s industry.
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What are some of the problems facing the client’s industry? How have these issues
affected the client or competitors? For example, if our client is a nonprofit that depends
on donations for support, it is likely that the client has seen contributions decline over the
past few years because Americans have less money to give to nonprofits because of the
C. Previous Communication Materials
Ideally, we should have copies of all of the client’s communication materials. This
includes previous news and digital media coverage; copies of marketing and public
relations plans, advertisements, PSAs; or any other communication materials that the
client has used in the past. This allows us to analyze the client’s communication efforts
based on our knowledge of the client’s industry and our expertise in strategic
We might find that the client is simply not packaging materials correctly or is targeting
the wrong media outlets. Perhaps the messaging is not designed for the target publics.
Perhaps the client and/or the previous firm/agency have been doing an excellent job. If
that is the case, we simply may need to create a fresh program. How do social media fit
into the client’s program?
In this section, describe at least five of the client’s past communication materials. If the
client has a website, examine the website. Are the links relevant? Is the site easy to
navigate? In news stories about the client, how does the reporter characterize the client?
Is the coverage positive, negative, or neutral? Are the stories too short? Are they too
long? Do they emphasize the key points that the client wants to communicate?
What do you think of the client’s slogans or campaign themes? Are they creative?
Will target public members relate to the themes/slogans? Are the themes/slogans
relevant in today’s climate? Do they reflect diversity and inclusiveness? What could
be done to improve previous slogans or themes if you find any? This information will
provide a background for justification of the proposed plan.
D. Competitive Evaluation
It is critical to have a working knowledge of the client’s competitors as we plan a
strategic communications program. Who are the client’s primary competitors? A client
can have market or service competitors. If our client is a manufacturer, we can easily
find competitive information through Morningstar (access the website from Penn State’s
library). Who are Dell’s competitors in the marketplace? Information is also available
through the Edgar database at www.sec.gov if the client’s stock is traded publicly. What
are the client’s financials?
A client can also have service competitors. For example, the Milton S. Hershey Medical
Center competes with the Geisinger Medical System. A client also may be dealing with
charitable competition in the sense that a potential donor may have given income set
aside for charitable contributions only for one charity because of the economy or the
donor may have reduced donations. If our client is looking for donations, it may be a
difficult task to obtain donations from donors if they have no funds available.
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A client may have psychological competition. For example, a campus campaign to
encourage the consumption of healthy foods like salads, fresh vegetables, and fruits may
be confronted by faculty, staff, and students who prefer the taste and convenience of fast
foods. For example, if we decide to eat an orange (a healthy food), it takes effort and
time to peel the orange. If we’re in a hurry to get to class, we can put $1.00 into a
vending machine and get a candy bar in a matter of seconds. It takes far less effort to
consume fast foods. These are some of the issues that you are dealing with when you are
trying to persuade your target publics to make behavioral changes. Think about all of the
factors that may compete with your client’s product, service, or issue. Discuss those in a
E. Secondary Research
Locate and describe one case study that provides useful information for your client’s
situation http://www.prsa.org/Awards/Search/. Locate and describe ten current news
articles about the client’s industry/service/issue. Locate five trade publication articles
about our client’s industry/service/issue. Locate three academic articles that are
relevant to your client’s industry/service/issue. For example, if we are interested in
finding out what makes people volunteer for charitable organizations, we should look
for scholarly studies focusing on volunteerism. Look for information on your client’s
issues in Gallup Brain—access this database through the Penn State online library. See
also The Pew Center at http://www.people-press.org/.
F. SWOT Analysis
Outline the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats affecting the client and
IV. Strategic Communications Recommendations
Based on the information that you have found in the situation analysis, outline the following:
A. Targeted Publics
This section describes the characteristics of the primary public(s). For example, if we
are going to send a news release to every environmental reporter in Pennsylvania,
then we need to use a media database to create a list of those journalists from
Burrelles Luce http://www.burrellesluce.com/. See also Cision.
This section should include as much detailed information as possible about the target
public in terms of general numbers, demographics, psychographics, geographics, and
media habits. Some useful sources to select from include:
• Simmons One View (available through libraries.psu.edu)
• Gallup Brain—access through libraries.psu.edu
• U.S. Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/
• Standard Rate and Data Service—
• Penn State Pulse—
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• Penn State Fact Book—
• Advertising Age http://adage.com/section/americandemographics/195,
• Roper Center— http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu
• ZipSkinny— http://www.zipskinny.com
• City Data— http://www.city-data.com
B. Strategic Communications Objectives
Based on the knowledge you have developed from the situation analysis and target
public description, write out the primary objective of your strategic communications
program. It may be an informational, attitudinal, or behavioral objective. The
objective should be stated in quantifiable terms. In a sentence or two, explain your
rationale for developing this objective for the program.
C. Strategic Communications Tactics
This section will list the tactics that you will develop to achieve the above stated
program/communication objectives. Refer to the Strategic Communications
Activities handout for a comprehensive list of tactics. You will create a list of 10
tactics. For example, “To design a website that provides Penn State students with
three reasons for eating at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily.” Provide
a rationale for why you have selected the program plan tactics. For example, Ciao
and Major (2002) found that found news reporters and consumers seek information
on the internet before trying any other information source.
D. Strategic Communications Strategy
In a few sentences, describe your creative idea/strategy for communicating your
objective to your target public. For example, if you intend to convince Penn State
students to eat at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily, how will you
frame that message so that it gets the attention of students? Having a University
Health Services nurse pictured on a poster with a frown on her face waving her finger
while saying “Students don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables,” is not going to get
much attention from students.
Some examples of themes/slogans include: 1) Nike’s “Just Do It”; 2) Club Med’s
“The antidote to civilization”; 3) Las Vegas’ “What Happens Here, Stays Here”;
Volkswagon’s “Think Small” and “Drivers Wanted.”
E. Production Timetable
This section should provide an outline of the proposed timetable for the
public relations program.
F. Media Contact List
This section outlines the media contact list for distributing the program message.
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V. Completed Strategic Communications Tactics (We do not do this in COMM 830.)
Include copies of your eight completed tactics in this section. Use screen shots to cut and
paste your executions into your Word document if necessary. Final documents are due via
pdf. Please include copies of all video materials separately.
The question uppermost in the mind of the client is: “What will this program cost?” Make sure
that all campaign costs are included (research, production, evaluation). The more support you
provide for your recommendations, the better the chance for acceptance. Normally, we provide
budgets using Excel.
Outline the activities you plan to use to evaluate the effectiveness of the program objective. Will
you use an online survey? If so, why? How will this method provide effective evaluation of your
objective? How will you provide your client with a report on ROI. What are the social media
metrics that you will include in the evaluation of the program?