Effective and well-targeted communication is vital to keeping the community informed and engaged during the life of the demonstration reach. The preparation of a Communication and Engagement Plan plays a key role in this process, and represents a blueprint for implementation.
Such a plan should provide background context to the project, identify target audiences, messages, goals and communication actions. Inclusion of details of priorities, timeframes, responsible agents and budgets can provide a sound structure for works plans and reporting. Communication and engagement activities are sometimes overlooked or underestimated in habitat rehabilitation programs, and so these plans can help emphasise their importance and the level of effort required. It is also valuable to incorporate performance indicators, targets and methods for evaluation. Identifying potential linkages to other programs can enhance connections and provide cost efficiencies with overlapping resources. Prioritisation of actions can also ensure that available resources are focussed on the most effective and important tasks. Some Communication and Engagement Plans identify potential risks and difficulties in undertaking engagement, as well as strategies to address these.
While a Communication and Engagement Plan may potentially cover the life of the project, it should be continually revised as monitoring results may indicate the need to change approaches and actions.
The content, format and level of detail within Communication and Engagement Plans are likely to vary according to the situation, the needs of the management agency and available funds.
A Communication and Engagement Plan should contain the following as a minimum requirement:
- Demonstration reach name
- Lead agency and primary contact
- Background of the local community (demographics etc.)
- Target audience (e.g. Government agencies, industry, recreation, landholders etc.)
- Key messages
- Goals and Objectives
- Tools and actions (including time frame, priorities and responsibilities)
- Performance indicators and evaluation
- Budget requirements and potential sources of funding.
Further details regarding identifying target audiences, key messages, goals and objectives, and tools and actions are provided in the People Pillar.
Existing demonstration reaches have used a variety of different styles of Communication and Engagement Plans, and also used a variety of terms for different steps. They all however broadly encompassed the components outlined above.
The Dewfish demonstration reach has prepared two Communication and Engagement Plans. The 2009 plan uses a CATWOE approach which represents an anagram of the letters that represent stakeholder categories (Customers, Actors, Transformation process, World view, Owner and Environmental constraints). A facilitator worked with a small working group, and the plan included a CATWOE analysis, individual stakeholder analysis, communication and engagement methods and operational considerations. A different approach was undertaken for the Dewfish Demonstration Reach Communication and Engagement Plans 2012-2014 provided background, situation analysis, SWOT analysis, target audiences, key messages, vision, goals, strategies and tactics, evaluation and risk management.
The Communication and Engagement Plans for The Hollands Creek and Ovens River demonstration reaches incorporated the spectrum of engagement concept (International Association of Public Participation IAP2). This recognises that differing levels of engagement are legitimate depending on the context. This spectrum ranges from the simple one-way information flow of ‘Inform’, through increasing levels of stakeholder participation in ‘Consult’ and ‘Involve’ to genuine partnerships in ‘Collaborate’ and ‘Empower’.
The Upper Murrumbidgee demonstration reach prepared a detailed Communication, Education, Participation and Awareness Plan which identified detailed actions, priorities, key outputs, anticipated outcomes, timeframes and project partners.
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