Vibank Communications Strategy
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Communications strategy for the Village of Vibank. Developed as part of final assignment for PR 201 at the University of Regina.

Communications strategy for the Village of Vibank. Developed as part of final assignment for PR 201 at the University of Regina.

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Vibank Communications Strategy Document Transcript

  • 1. COMMUNICATING THE WAY FORWARD Strategic Communications Plan Prepared for: The Village of Vibank Prepared by: Brennen Schmidt Submitted: November 27, 2013
  • 2. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 2 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This report was commissioned to examine and identify the issues surrounding event attendance, volunteerism and fundraising in the community of Vibank. The report investigates the source of the situational and environmental factors that have led to the various issues that the members of the Vibank community, and respective community groups, are currently being faced with. Based on the situational and environmental analysis of the community’s communications, the report finds that the Village of Vibank has several problems associated with communicating with its citizens, individual community group members and the surrounding rural community at large. This lack of communication has led to several issues for the community as a whole, including:  A sense of frustration, and a lack of cooperation amongst community groups;  A lack of volunteerism from community members;  Sub-par event attendance by community members; and  The compartmentalization of fundraising dollars between community groups. Based on some of the main issues identified above, this report recommends that the Village of Vibank implement and execute a variety of creative and effective ways to include all members of the Vibank community, and surrounding area, toward achieving common goals that all members of the community can benefit from. Recommendations as to how the Village of Vibank can begin to implement and execute a community-wide communications strategy include:  Creating a community group-led Steering Committee which will work toward improving, developing and hosting community events;  Establishing specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive objectives which support more wide-ranging goals that will benefit the community at large;  Utilizing a series of public relations tools and tactics to successfully execute a community-wide communications campaign from which all members of the Vibank community can benefit from. Choosing a holistic approach at eliciting feedback and recommendations from the community at large will not only help the Village of Vibank weaken opposition and frustration; it will help the community’s vibrancy and spirit survive both now, and well into the future.
  • 3. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 3 COMMMUNICATIONS ISSUE The Village of Vibank has been experiencing record growth over the past few years. Though this growth has led to significant advantages for the village in the form of a broader tax base and more students attending Vibank Regional School, the question still remains as to how the village can help keep the community’s growth and vibrancy moving forward. COMMUNICATIONS NEED: To work with the community as a whole to formulate a strategic plan that will increase communication among community groups – in order to increase community spirit in the form of event attendance, volunteerism and fundraising. BACKGROUND The Village of Vibank is experiencing growth at a record pace. In addition to the multimillion-dollar construction and renovations at Vibank Regional School, the village is also growing in size, thanks in large part to the new housing development on the northwest end of the village, and the completion of the village’s new reverse-osmosis water treatment plant. While this amount of growth has led to a variety of benefits, including a larger tax base, better drinking water and the retention and attraction of young families in the community, this level of growth has led to several challenges for the village. One of these challenges, of course, is keeping the community’s vibrancy and community spirit alive. Though several community groups have been hosting a series of events each year, what can only be described as a fragmentation in communication has led to a series of issues for the community, including:  Booking competing community events on the same weekday, or weekend;  A human resource deficit in the form of volunteerism at events, and for event planning;  Several special interest group-focused goals that have been formulated (in whole, and in part) that could be better applied in a broader context to benefit the community as a whole; and  The compartmentalization of fundraising groups, which has diluted the already limited amount of fundraising opportunities. While the following points have identified some of the vulnerabilities associated with the community groups, with respect to event planning and execution, it should be noted that these issues stem, in part, from allocative inefficiencies and the lack of a transparent and accessible strategic plan for the Vibank community.
  • 4. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 4 SITUTATIONAL/ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS The main issue that the Village of Vibank is currently being faced with, as a result of increased growth, is how to effectively communicate with residents and community members about what the village plans to do both now, and into the future. The main issue that the community is being faced with can only be described as fragmentation, with respect to communication. Individual community groups have a limited amount of volunteers, and each group is doing whatever it can to reach individual fundraising goals and objectives. This fragmentation has formed various ‘silos’ in the community; groups do not communicate with each other, and the Village of Vibank Council does not and cannot effectively communicate with these groups. Therefore, it would be advantageous for the village to make it a priority to work toward eliminating these silos by bringing as many community groups together at one table to formulate a community-wide strategic plan that will outline what the village can do to help keep the community’s growth and vibrancy moving forward, both now and into the future. RESEARCH: A community meeting, hosted by the Vibank Community Group, was held on November 7, 2013. Approximately 30 members from the Vibank community, and surrounding area, attended the event. Members of the Village of Vibank Council, including the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, were also in attendance at the event, and participated in the proceedings. The community meeting served as a town-hall style meeting, which focused on identifying issues and formulating solutions. The primary issue that the group identified was a lack of communication between the community groups, as well as with the Village of Vibank Council. A secondary issue that was identified was the fact that the community groups and the Village of Vibank Council do not have measurable and time-sensitive goals for the community; members from the group illustrated that a lack of measures and a lack of the development of community-wide goals have led to fragmentation between groups, and has left community funds to remain in individual savings, instead of being used to make improvements to the community’s infrastructure. Though this community meeting served as an excellent means of identifying the areas that need improvement, one of the next steps that was identified by community members was the development of a community-wide survey. This survey should be distributed to individuals and community groups, so that the Village of Vibank can identify the areas of greatest need, with respect to developing volunteer recruitment goals, or fundraising tools and tactics to make much-needed improvements to the community’s infrastructure. The results of the survey would determine the next steps for the community, and would utilize a holistic approach in seeking feedback and input from all tax- paying citizens of the village, as well as rural members from the surrounding area.
  • 5. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 5 SWOT ANALYSIS STRENGTHS WEAKNESSES  Numerous community groups are in existence, and have a long-standing history with the community.  Community groups have been hosting various events throughout the year.  Council’s openness to identifying issues and formulating solutions.  The Village of Vibank website is updated frequently, and features upcoming community events on its calendar.  New community members are calling the Village of Vibank, and surrounding area, home.  Vibank Regional School has a large amount of students enrolled at the school.  Community groups do not effectively communicate with each other; events are, in most cases, booked during the same week, or weekend.  The Village of Vibank does not have an official online social media presence.  Community bulletin boards are not used to advertise community events; private advertisements are being posted.  Posters displayed on the community bulletin board are not removed in a timely manner.  Traditional communications via flyers, posters and mail outs are still being used to communicate events.  Youth are not represented on boards and committees. OPPORTUNITIES THREATS  Community groups could invest in an electronic bulletin board that would feature community events.  Community groups could monetize an electronic communications method to recover the cost of the acquisition of the electronic bulletin board.  The involvement of new community members in volunteerism and event attendance.  Pooled financial resources from community groups to invest in making improvements to the village’s infrastructure.  Community groups could work together to find ways to welcome new people to the community.  Partnerships with other villages in the surrounding area (Sedley, Francis and Odessa).  Establishing a working group with surrounding communities and the RM of Francis No. 127.  The dissolution of community groups, due to a lack of board and community members.  The depletion of community group funds, and a lack of investment in community improvements and enhancements.  Students enrolled at Vibank Regional School will not involve themselves with events, due to a lack of representation and community group opportunities.  Seniors moving out of the community, bringing with them valuable non- documented tacit knowledge and experience.  The development, completion and implementation of a communications strategy could be dissolved, or not implemented, after the next municipal election in 2016.  New and existing members of community groups moving away to larger centers.
  • 6. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 6 STAKEHOLDER/PUBLIC ANALYSIS VILLAGE OF VIBANK CITIZENS – Citizens, both new and old, of the Village of Vibank play a key role in the development of a community-wide strategic plan. They are a latent public because citizens of the Village of Vibank have been provided with little information regarding the current state of the village, and have not been provided with the motivation necessary to work toward a common goal. Members of the Village of Vibank community have been provided little information not only from the village, but also from individual community groups. It is also important to note that members of this public have not typically been involved with the formulation of community goals and objectives. Members of this public are very interested in the affairs of the village not only because they are taxpayers, but also because of the fact that recreation and community events are important for attracting and retaining citizens and members of the greater community. Citizens have been very active in the past, and at present, and have demonstrated that they can, and will, lend a hand wherever they may when called to do so. This was demonstrated during the planning and execution of the Village of Vibank’s Centennial celebration; citizens volunteered, purchased tickets and merchandise all because they wanted to support the greater goal of hosting a successful, well-attended event for all members of the community to enjoy and take part in. RURAL COMMUNITY MEMBERS – Rural community members, much like citizens of the Village of Vibank, are a key public in the development of a community-wide strategic plan. After all, it was members of the rural community who worked together with Village of Vibank citizens several years ago to construct the facilities that the village, and various ad hoc community group members and citizens, still utilize today. Like the citizens of the Village of Vibank, they are a latent public because they have not been provided with a great deal of information regarding the current state of the village, and the greater community. Most importantly, however, this key public has not typically been involved in the community planning process. The issue of a lack of involvement stems not only from the issue of tax allocation; it also comes as a result of rural community members relocating to larger centers to live, work and take part in recreation activities, as now is the best time to involve these members of the greater Vibank community; they have an interest in participating in events that help the greater Vibank community. AD HOC COMMUNITY GROUP MEMBERS – Members of ad hoc community groups are also considered to be an important key public in the formulation of a community-wide strategic plan. Moreover, individual members of these groups are considered to be single-issue publics, since they are a part of a particular group or organization that pertains to their unique interests and motivations. Though single issues drive the decisions of the individual members of this public, getting these groups together at one table – in order to share human resources, and potentially financial resources – would be advantageous for the Village of
  • 7. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 7 Vibank. Ad hoc community group members bring a wide array of experience and talent necessary to formulate a community-wide strategic plan. However, if these individuals who make up these groups do not speak with other members of the community, the feeling of frustration and anger toward other groups will continue. It has been noted that while some community group members in this public belong to several committees and groups at the same time, there is still a disconnect in communication. This disconnect has led to frustration and anger towards groups who have already scheduled an event to occur on the same weekend, or week. This key public likes nothing more than organizing a successful event using one of the two venues owned and operated by the village. These groups utilize the Village of Vibank’s event spaces; therefore, it would be advantageous to involve these group members in formulating ways to make the very improvements that they need in order to continue hosting successful events at the venues owned and operated by the village. GOALS & OBJECTIVES GOAL #1 – Create a favourable relationship between the Village of Vibank Council and the village’s community groups. [Relationship Management Goal] 1.1 To increase community awareness regarding the advantages of forming a volunteer-based steering committee, comprised of various members of the community, which will work with the Village of Vibank Council (65 per cent of community members within six months). [Awareness] 1.2 To have an effect on the acceptance of Village of Vibank Council members; specifically to gain their interest in the formation of an official steering committee comprised of representatives from various community groups (4 Councillors and the Mayor within a three month period). [Acceptance] 1.3 To have an effect on the action of community representatives; specifically to have community members to join the newly developed steering committee (10 committee members within the month following the approval of the new steering committee by the Village of Vibank Council). [Action] GOAL #2 – Increase public support for community-developed goals. [Task Management Goal] 2.1 To have an effect on the awareness of community members from the Village of Vibank, and surrounding area; specifically to increase their understanding of the advantages associated with developing a community-centred strategic plan (65 per cent of community members within six months). [Awareness] 2.2 To have an effect on the acceptance of community members from the Village of Vibank, and surround area; specifically to increase positive
  • 8. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 8 attitudes toward supporting community events and fundraising activities (75 per cent of community members within 12 months). [Acceptance] 2.3 To have an effect on the action of community members in the Village of Vibank, and surrounding area; specifically to obtain an increase in volunteers in the community (25 per cent increase within 12 months). [Action] KEY MESSAGES 1. When our community works together, everyone benefits, and great things can be accomplished within our community. 2. Working with the entire community will allow the Village of Vibank to formulate a strategic plan that will establish goals that our community as a whole can work toward achieving. 3. Future decisions made by the Village of Vibank Council will be made based on the strategic plan that was developed by the community. IMPLEMENTATION (TOOLS & TACTICS) 1. OPEN COMMUNITY FORUM The first step for the Village of Vibank to demonstrate its commitment to involving the entire community in formulating a strategic plan is to start a conversation. Nothing starts a conversation better than a well-planned and executed open forum aimed at attracting all members of the village, and surrounding area, to start a discussion surrounding the future of the community as a whole. All members of the Village of Vibank Council should be present at the event, and should make themselves available to answer questions from the members present at the meeting. This forum would serve as the initial step forward, with respect to demonstrating openness and transparency to all members of the Vibank community. The tactical elements of the open forum would consist of the following: a verbal invitation to all community members via a telephone call from council members and village administration; a series of posters posted on the community bulletin board, and on the bulletin boards at all local businesses; and a simple one-page invitation via a community-wide mail drop through Canada Post. 2. COMMUNITY PLANNING KICKOFF MEDIA EVENT Community spirit can be increased dramatically if the Village of Vibank made a concerted effort in promoting the benefits associated with the growth and cohesiveness of the community as a whole. As such, it is imperative that the Village of Vibank takes the initial step of using the media to its advantage in promoting the growth and spirit of the community. A community planning media kickoff event would be comprised of a news conference, and would
  • 9. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 9 include remarks from Hon. Don McMorris, MLA, Indian Head – Milestone, the Mayor of Vibank, and two representatives from key community groups. Members of the Vibank community, and surrounding area, would be invited to attend this event, and would have the opportunity to observe a media event that focuses on promoting the community. This kickoff media event would also mark the start of a series of media and community-focused events that seek to promote the Vibank community as a whole in a positive way. 3. COMMUNITY PLANNING MICROSITE The best way to supplement the community planning media event would be to use the media event to launch the official Vibank community planning microsite. This microsite would allow citizens and members of the greater community to contribute, discuss and share their ideas with the Village of Vibank. This website would be similar to the “Design Regina” online campaign that the City of Regina launched to solicit ideas for the development of the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP). The Vibank version of this campaign would allow citizens and community members to contribute and share their ideas as to what they think the Village of Vibank’s future could and should look like. The microsite would be an official means of seeking input from the entire community, and would shape the focus and scope of the development, review and final release of the updated Village of Vibank OCP. 4. COMMUNITY PLANNING SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN While a community planning website would serve as an excellent means of soliciting feedback and dialogue between the Village of Vibank and community members, it would be advantageous to take this dialogue a step further by introducing the use of social media in an official capacity. Currently, the Village of Vibank does not have an official social media presence; the creation of a primary Twitter account and Facebook page would serve as an excellent means of recording and documenting the stages of the campaign, and would form a large portion of the content that would be placed in the updated OCP. It should be noted, too, that while Twitter would be an excellent way of taking the initial step in creating a conversation, Facebook would most likely be the main platform from which the village could initiate online dialogue and discussion – Facebook, after all, has the world’s largest membership, as compared to Twitter. Not only would the community planning social media campaign allow community members to share their thoughts and ideas related to the future of the community, it would also allow existing groups to share their events to a larger base and audience. Though traditional methods of advertising via paper posters and mail outs have been effective, the use of social media would serve as an excellent means of promoting all community events with little cost. Moreover, sharing and advertising community events would illustrate that the community as a whole
  • 10. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 10 is extremely active, and that the formulation of a new OCP – with the community’s help – will allow community groups to remain successful at hosting future events for more community members to take part in, and enjoy. 5. MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING SIGNING EVENT The final component of communicating the way forward is to solidify the future positive relationship between the Village of Vibank and community groups. This can be accomplished through the official signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Village of Vibank and community groups from the village, and surrounding area. The signing event would be open to the public, and would serve as a means of attracting the media to yet another positive event that promotes the community’s growth and commitment to the success of the community as a whole. Though MOU signing events are typically reserved for larger communities and/or partnerships, it would be advantageous for the Village of Vibank to attract the media to cover this event; it would demonstrate that partnerships and a commitment to a community’s future is not reserved solely for larger centers and corporations. This MOU event would serve as a means of officially launching the community steering committee that will work to break down the barriers between community groups, and help keep the Village of Vibank’s growth and community spirit moving forward, so that all members of the community can benefit. Though not legally binding, this MOU will act as a means of physically expressing the Village of Vibank’s interest and intent of forming an official group that seeks to help the village keep the community- developed OCP in motion, so that the community can work as a whole to move toward the goals that have been developed and identified through an extensive community-wide consultation process. MEASUREMENT & EVALUATION GOAL #1 – Create a favourable relationship between the Village of Vibank Council and the village’s community groups. [Relationship Management Goal] 1.1 Awareness: Awareness surveys would be utilized to gauge the awareness of community members after launching the campaign. 1.2 Acceptance: Referring to Council minutes to observe the votes in favor of forming an official steering committee comprised of members of the Vibank community, and surrounding area. 1.3 Action: To recruit and sign a total of 10 community members to the newly formed steering committee formed by the Village of Vibank Council.
  • 11. Communicating the Way Forward – Strategic Communications Plan 11 GOAL #2 – Increase public support for community-developed goals. [Task Management Goal] 2.1 Awareness: Media coverage would be monitored, as well as social media posts by community members of the Village of Vibank, and surrounding area. Positive/negative/neutral comments and interactions would also be used to evaluate the awareness of community members. 2.2 Acceptance: Post-event audience evaluation and tabulation would be utilized to gauge the participation and attraction of community members at various community events throughout a 12-month period. 2.3 Action: Attendance and membership of community members would be a measure of improvement and organizational change among community groups, as well as individual members of the Vibank community, and surrounding area.