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Nicholas School of the Environment

Environmental Communications Planning

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About the course

This course is designed to give environmental professionals the necessary tools to write a successful and comprehensive Communications Plan. These plans can be used internally, to manage change or initiatives within an organization, or externally to communicate a message to stakeholders and/or the public.

Students will engage in the process of developing a full Communications Plan, including identifying stakeholders and appropriate media, crafting messages, and evaluating the success of the communications delivery. As part of the course portfolio, students will also craft two media pieces, an Op/Ed and a short article targeted to a specific stakeholder group. Students will receive individual and group feedback on their portfolio, with the goal of writing powerful, concise, and professional text.

This course is seven weeks in length and is taught in an entirely online, distance learning format, with both asynchronous and synchronous portions. No campus visits are required. Note: WebEx days and times are determined by instructor and student availability. Student availability will be elicited by a poll several weeks before course start.

Our work will center around Modules, collections of online and print material that guide each step of the planning process.

Week One: Introduction to Communications Planning

We will introduce ourselves and begin to consider how this course will be applied to a specific project. Students are asked to design a communications plan for a current or future initiative, change, or campaign.

Week Two: Reaching out to the Public/Identifying Stakeholders

As we define our project’s focus, we will work on crafting a clear, concise, and compelling message and identify relevant stakeholders.

Week Three: Internal Communications/Targeted Stakeholders/Social Media

Communications materials often need to be targeted to specific stakeholders and social media is a popular outlet. We’ll discuss the challenges of this targeting, along with internal communication routes.

Week Four: Measures of success/Adaptive Management

A crucial and challenging part of a Plan is the way success will be measured. We’ll delve into several ways of measuring success and how to integrate an Adaptive Management approach into your Plan.

Week Five: Individual Meetings with Dr. Rebecca Vidra

Week Six: Putting it all together: Communications Planning

We’ll finish the course by sharing our Communications Plan portfolio and discuss timelines for implementation and next steps. Week 7 we will not meet as a class but you will use to finalize your Plan.

Week Seven: Final Communications Plans Due

Course Details

Structure

This course will require 40 hours over the 7-week class period.

Technical Requirements

We understand that participants have different comfort levels with online learning coming into this course. We are happy to answer any questions you have about online learning in general and our online learning software.

Internet Access

Course participants need to arrange to have reliable, high-speed internet access through their local internet service provider (ISP). We encourage participants to arrange for broadband access to the internet via a cable modem, DSL, or a satellite connection. Slower or intermittent connections will not work as effectively for this course. We cannot provide support for your network connection, nor can we help you with any home networking equipment such as firewalls, routers, or switches. For any of those issues, you will want to contact your ISP directly.

Distance Learning Software

The course will be facilitated using online webinar platforms and Learning Management Systems. Nicholas School staff will be available during the course to assist you with any training needed. Contact information will be provided with your pre-course packet. The distance learning software will be available to you free of charge (except for the USB headset and WebCam for the webinar participation).

Pre-Course Packet

Prior to the course start date, you will need to purchase all materials necessary for the course. Information for these materials will be available online soon.

Project Expectations

This course is focused on developing your environmental communications plan, as well as giving you the tools to cultivate meaningful communications about your work project. Since the core of this course is to develop tools for producing an effective communications plan, it is important to begin the course with a project or a few ideas for a project. This project (whether it be a current work project, or a developed idea for a project you would like to do) will be the foundation for building your environmental communications plan. As such, it is recommended that you come to the course with a developed project/idea for a project, so that you can focus on gaining the skills and tools to develop your communications plan.

Trust the experts

Rebecca Vidra

Dr. Rebecca Vidra is on the faculty of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She is trained as a restoration ecologist, receiving her PhD in Forestry from North Carolina State University and her MS in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her backgroun...

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