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Plan Element #4: Developing Communications Products


LHDs should think broadly about what constitutes a communications product and communicate through a variety of channels—an interview with a print or broadcast journalist, a teleconference, a presentation to a school class, a clinic sign-in, a contest that could garner publicity, a meeting with key policy-makers, and so on.

A useful way to think about communication materials or products is that they are either enduring or time-limited. Most communications components of a local health department, program, or project will use both types of materials, in order to exploit the advantages of each type and to reach different audiences at different times. The following table illustrates the main differences between these two types of products:





Intended to last for several years—or a discrete project’s duration
Information likely to lose its usefulness within a few days, weeks, or months


  • Fact sheets
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Brochures
  • Study reports
  • News releases
  • News conferences and interviews
  • E-newsletters and blast emails
  • Meeting announcements
  • Facebook posts
  • Twitter messages


  • Helps establish a brand
  • Helps attract ongoing support
  • Serves as a reference
  • Flexible
  • Timely
  • Helps steer the debate—and there’s always a debate, playing out in public and/or wherever people gather informally


  • Usually appropriate for all audiences in the county, city, region, or community
Often directed to a specific audience segment, such as:
  • Teens (an age group)
  • Latinos (racial or ethnic group)
  • Members of the county medical society (health care professionals)
  • Program supporters who have registered to receive electronic updates from you
  • Residents whose water supply comes from wells (environmental risk group)
  • Patients at the department’s well-baby clinic (consumers of a specific public health service)

As with developing messages and talking points, the same principles apply to developing communications materials. Clarity, plain language, keeping it local, putting a face on it, providing a believable reward, minimizing the use of statistics—these are all are essential elements to embrace as you develop different sets of materials to appeal to the values of each major stakeholders group.

Follow these specific steps to develop communications products:

  • Define the message, consistent with the mission, core concept, and overarching strategy  
  • Identify the audience
  • Decide what type of product, such as a fact sheet or Web posting, will work best for this message and audience, given your resources
  • Establish a budget
  • Assign responsibility for reviewing drafts and approving the final product
  • Assign responsibility for writing, design, or posting content
  • Develop a dissemination strategy
  • Prepare, review, and revise drafts, including review by some members of the target audience, if feasible
  • Produce and disseminate
  • Evaluate and modify, as appropriate
Tip: Piggyback One Product onto Another

Small packets of materials can be handed out at conferences and presentations, or links can be added to Web postings and social media feeds.


Deadlines are essential to ensure that materials are produced and delivered on time. Deadlines should be realistic, mutually agreed on, frequently acknowledged, and enforced. They should apply not only to writers, designers, webmasters, and printers, but also to the reviewers of your draft materials.