Communication Plans: What They Are, Why You Need Them, and How to Put One Together
By Amanda Jarrett
A communication plan was not something I even thought about until I moved to the Children’s Advocacy Center world. It didn’t take long for me to figure out we needed a plan if we wanted to continually engage our local media and stakeholders. After 15 years in television news, I knew that not having a plan could be detrimental to our agency. I saw what happened to organizations without a communication strategy, and it wasn’t good. Most of them had no idea how to work with the local media. Sometimes the lack of planning made a negative event even worse and caused bad PR.

The National Children’s Advocacy Center Communication Plan (linked below) beings with an Executive Summary to lay the groundwork. It continues with a section on the Media Landscape of our area. This can be as detailed or basic as needed. It is included so that anyone who picks up the document can determine who the go-to media is in the area. The meat of the plan is in the third section, Strategies and Tactics, which lays out the game plan. Finally, the Evaluation Criteria piece helps determine how to measure our strategy’s success.

To create your own communication plan, the first thing you need to determine is what you want to accomplish. NCAC’s plan is centered around three primary objectives:

  • Build public awareness of our agency and mission
  • Develop and uphold the confidence and trust of our community
  • Share our accomplishments internally and externally

The second step is to determine who is responsible for carrying out each task in the plan. This individual will need to be a part of the process when putting the proposal to paper.

Once you know the “who” and “what”, you will begin drafting the “how” section. This section could have completely different tactics than the NCAC. You will need to determine how involved you want the media in your area to be and the type of public awareness events you will be doing. These tactics can be as basic as scheduling a speaking opportunity before community groups or as structured as hosting a news conference.

NCAC’s strategy includes targeted engagement with local leaders. We are in an area with several large non-profits and multiple small non-profits, so it is vital for us to stay top of mind with decision makers. NCAC is also working to become more involved with our local media. In addition to sending out donor-targeted newsletters, we are also creating monthly newsletters with insider information that presents the big picture of the agency. It includes a local impact report (financial and social), highlights news about our facility dog, and features different members of our MDT. This is something that can be done as often as monthly or a little as quarterly.

NCAC has built a contact list, labeled as Attachment A (see link to Communication Plan below), for our newsletter with specific community members in mind including mayors, law makers, high ranking law enforcement, and even our local “mommy-bloggers". Attachment B, the Message Plan Template, was created for media events but can be used for any public interaction. The first section, the Messaging Plan, is a great tool to channel your thoughts and focus on what you want the audience to take away from your interview or event. I especially like using the Potential Questions and Answers section for media interviews. This is the place to think of anything a reporter may ask you and have a prepared response. (Insider Tip: never say “no comment” if you want a reporter to leave an issue alone - it’s a cue to keep asking questions!) Finally, Attachment C, the Run of Show, is crafted for news conferences but can be used during any event with more than one speaker. This helps keep participants on target and everyone organized. 
Amanda Jarrett is the Communications and Marketing Director at the National Children’s Advocacy Center.

She can be reached for questions at
Training Success Story:
New Training for Executive Directors

Several weeks ago, twenty-one Executive Directors and Chapter staff attended SRCAC’s newest training offering, “What Executive Directors (EDs) Need to Know about Direct Service Provision.” The training focused on how EDs and managers at CACs can most effectively manage and grow the direct services that their agencies provide, particularly if the ED is not a practitioner in those areas. Attendees heard from a variety of professionals from NCAC, including Victim Advocate Jana Thomas, Clinical Director Dr. Paula Wolfteich, Medical Director Dr. Mark Sapp, Forensic Interviewer Linda Cordisco Steele, SRCAC Project Director Karen Hangartner, and NCAC Executive Director Chris Newlin.
Each speaker focused first on the basics that EDs need to understand in each area, such as Forensic Interviewing or Mental Health, then followed up with how best to supervise staff in those areas. Questions were encouraged, which often led to great discussions and information sharing among attendees. Attendees found it highly beneficial to hear from these expert practitioners who throughout their years of experience have seen each of their roles evolve—particularly Victim Advocacy and Forensic Interviewing—and are involved in the continuing evolution of topics such as MDT facilitation and the impacts of Secondary Traumatic Stress.

Many of the attendees reported leaving with new ideas to implement, resources to use and share with their staff, and most importantly, a sense that they are not alone in this role. The ED position can often feel very isolating, particularly for smaller CACs or centers with MDTs that aren’t functioning well due to competing interests or personality conflicts. The Executive Director can often feel caught in the middle of these conflicts while still being responsible for the functioning and accreditation of their CAC. Meeting other EDs and sharing common experiences can help directors find solutions to universal challenges and build a network of support in their role.

SRCAC received wonderful feedback on the training and will be incorporating much of it into next year’s training, which is slated for September of 2020.
Upcoming Training Opportunities

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) trains
professionals on the evidence-based psychotherapy approach
designed to treat traumatic stress in children and adolescents.

February 5-7, 2020 and August 19-21, 2020
Huntsville, AL
Registration will open soon.

Check our website for more information.

Team Facilitator 2.0 is a five-month, in-depth learning process on the role and function of the MDT Facilitator/Coordinator. This training includes two in-person sessions and consultation calls in between.

March 3-5, 2020 (Part 1)
July 14-16, 2020 (Part 2)
Huntsville, AL
The application process will open soon.

Check our website for more information.
Krimes Against Kids Conference: Call for Speakers
The Florida Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers is currently accepting proposals for speakers for the 2020 Krimes Against Kids Conference, scheduled for August 5-7, 2020 at Disney Orlando.

The KAK Workshop Proposal Packet for 2020 includes
suggested topics.

Submit your speaker proposals to Debra Handley ( ) .

Proposals are due by December 13, 2019.
Connect With Us
Spotlight is a newsletter prepared by Southern Regional CAC that focuses on current topics, ideas, trainings, and conferences which are designed to further the knowledge and practice of CAC professionals within the region. We hope you find the information helpful! Let us know if you have specific topics you’d like to see in future newsletters.
This publication is funded through grant #2016-CI-FX-K002 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components, operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this publication (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).
Southern Regional CAC | #justtryingtohelpsomekids | Vol. 2 No. 10: Oct 2019