Communications 101

Effective communication is a key factor to any successful project, program or initiative and is essential to the successful delivery of our mission, vision and continued promotion of our values.

PHC Communications & Public Affairs is here as a resource for you. We offer strategic counsel and communication planning support to help with the successful implementation of your project or operational plan.

Examples of when Communications & Public Affairs can provide more intensive communication planning support:

  • when launching a new program or service to the organization or making changes to an established program or service
  • when a change might widely impact patients/staff and members of the general public
  • when a project or initiative aligns with the Providence Plan
  • when a change is sensitive politically charged and might generate media or public political attention

Before you meet with us, there are some key elements to think about when communication planning. Check out our Client Worksheet to see if you are ready to start communicating about something.

We know that many of you already create communication materials on a regular basis for your program, department or project (e.g., regular emails to staff, memos, presentations, special events, reports, etc.). We offer the following tips to help you with your everyday communication needs.

As always, if you have questions or need some advice, we’re here to help. For general questions, please phone our main line at 604-806-8022. To request communications support for a new project, please contact Justin Karasick at jkarasick@providencehealth.bc.ca or 604-806-8460. For support related to media inquiries, please contact Elaine Yong at eyong@providencehealth.bc.ca or 604-682-2344 ext. 66987.

Key elements when planning communication

Ready to start communicating about something? There are a few key things to consider when deciding how you are going to plan and coordinate communication.

These elements include:

  • Goals & objectives: What behaviour change do you want as result of communication?
  • Audience: Who are you trying to reach?
  • Background, context and strategic plan alignment: Any background, context or alignment to the Providence Plan that could impact how communication rolls out.
  • Key messages: What are the core ideas that will help you achieve the desired change in behaviour?
  • Communication vehicles: How are you going to get your message out there?
  • Budget: What are the monetary constraints on the means to getting your message out there?
  • Key steps: What should the timing of your communication look like?
  • Evaluation: How do you know that you have reached your objectives and goal?

These elements help ensure that all the communication activities you do (e.g., memos, newsletter articles, speeches) work together to help you achieve your project/program goals and objectives.

Goals & objectives

Without a clear operational plan and a clear picture of what we are collectively working toward, it is difficult to develop a meaningful communication plan that will best serve the interests of your program or department.

In order to use strategic communication to help you further your goals, it is important that you know what outcomes you want.

Audience

Everything in communication comes down to the people you are trying to reach: your audience.

People are different … how they respond to something depends on many factors like how they were raised, what gender they are, whether they were born in Canada or not, if English is their first language, etc. It is important to have a clear picture of who you are trying to reach with your communication. Demographic information (i.e., age, gender, cultural background) can be helpful when putting this picture together.

Some things to think about:

  • how your audience has responded in the past to similar topics or issues
  • their current level of engagement and support for a topic or issue (e.g., awareness, acceptance, adoption, advocacy)
  • the best communication channels to reach them
  • other considerations (e.g., competing messages, identifying key influencers, level of readiness, location)

At PHC, there are many committees and groups of people who meet to discuss and provide feedback about specific topics. As part of your communications, you may want to meet with these groups.

Background, context and strategic plan alignment

Communication never happens in a vacuum. There is always history and context behind any issue that can shape how communication is received or perceived. It is important to think of this background context (including any current internal or public issues); as well as be mindful of what people already know about the topic you are communicating about.

Finally, it is important to determine whether this work falls under the Providence Plan. If it does, your key messages and materials should reflect this. To determine this, please review the relevant strategic directions and foundational strategies. If the initiative is associated with advancing the aim or broad objective of a strategic direction or foundational strategy, then it is aligned to the Providence Plan. If you are unsure, please check with us.

If you are communicating about anything you think could result in media interest, contact us. You can also visit our Media Relations section on this site.

Key messages

These are the key things that your audience needs to know in order to influence the behaviour change needed for you to achieve your goals and objectives. You will likely need to establish slightly different messages for your various audiences. As a rule of thumb, you don’t want to have more than three or four key messages for each audience. They should be simple, memorable and address the question, “What’s in it for me?” Generally speaking, any more than five key messages and you risk being unclear about what you are trying to communicate.

If this work has an alignment with the Providence Plan, it is important to reference which strategic direction (i.e., People, Care Experience) or foundational strategy (i.e., Research, Mission) it falls under in one of the key messages. For example: “As we move forward with our current round of organizational strategic planning, improving the care experience continues to be a key strategic direction for PHC.”