Strengthening Partnerships through Communications
To keep involvement levels high, local health departments should facilitate numerous ways for partners and coalition members to participate in efforts to identify priorities and strategies, and have the opportunity to voice their opinions. Some local health department actions to involve partners include:
To keep partners informed, local health department communications staff should oversee the development, coordination, and coalition-wide distribution of the following communications products:
Tip: Volunteer To Serve as the Group Secretary
The Secretary is responsible for producing minutes and reports, and has the ability to heavily influence the wording of messages, decisions, recommendations, policies, procedures, and reasons for action.
Normally, the group's secretary also maintains the roster of membership, including contact information. This puts the secretary in the favorable position of always knowing who is a member and who isn't.
Preventing and Defusing TensionA common problem in local partnerships and coalitions is a feeling of alienation by some members who may want greater input into decisions made by the coalition's leadership. Local health department communications staff should guard against this by soliciting members' views before decisions—including the content of messages or the structure of events—are set in stone.
As the group evolves, one or two individuals may become particularly challenging—and routinely criticize leaders and plans. There are many diplomatic ways to handle this kind of tension. Some suggestions, listed from the friendliest to the most severe include:
Networking with Group MembersNetworking is also a large part of the communications role in a local health partnership or coalition. Communications staff network by establishing and maintaining contact with members, learning about the members' interests and talents, and building effective personal relationships. Some networking tips (intended mostly for less experienced communications staff) include: