ATE Central


Sample Assessment

Step 1: Audit Current Outreach

Here you will see how "ABC Education" used the Sample Audit to understand their current outreach performance and capacity. ABC Education used these tools to develop a strategy, establish a plan, ensure execution, and evaluate their efforts.

Strategy

We do some outreach, but typically only when a grant is due or it is specifically requested by our funding organization (i.e., NSF, Program Officer, Institution). This occasional outreach has usually been done by whoever is writing the grant proposal and only revisited when annual reports are due or important conferences arise.

Our audience and mission are well defined, and will probably not change over time.

Planning

Our organization puts a number of different resources behind development of a mission, goals, materials, and messengers for more formal outreach efforts. However, one person is responsible for more routine outreach efforts.

Outreach rarely makes it into the budget as a specific item. The outreach budget tends to appear only if surplus funds within a grant need to be spent quickly or if a short-term outreach campaign is suddenly given a higher status.

Execution

One staff member handles editing, publication design, audience database management, and dissemination. This person is not allocated enough resources to dedicate time to outreach and other responsibilities. In addition, only some outreach occurs on a regular schedule and has established policies and materials for outreach to target audiences.

Areas for Improvement

We will focus on improving budgeting, communications, project management, and tactics.

  • Budgeting: Outreach should be given a distinct and reasonable budget for time, money, and resources.
  • Communications: The organization should develop a communications strategy that is not tied to specific projects, reports, or grant proposals. This will allow us to pay more attention to goals and outcomes and assess competition, circumstances, and opportunities.
  • Project Management: We will emphasize consistent messaging and cross-training staff. One staff member will be designated the outreach leader, but others will also understand outreach practices and be able to assist.
  • Tactics: We will develop a short-term tactical plan for the next 3-6 months to help train staff, improve practices, and scan the marketplace for opportunities.

Step 2: Develop a Strategy

Tip: Consider what will allow your organization to concentrate its resources on the greatest opportunities to expand and affect your audience. Whenever possible, poll your audience to discover which channels connect with their interests and needs.

Create a formal document with a date on it so that you have a record of your outreach plan. This plan will change over time, so make sure you keep copies so you can return to past ideas, consider new ones, and keep from reinventing the wheel every time you review your outreach strategy.

Introduction

ABC Education will publish new research findings on the effects of digital media on STEM instruction in K-12 classrooms. The findings suggest that digital media instruction has a significant effect on student outcomes. We will broadcast the report in the winter/spring to the widest possible audience of policy makers, educators, and others with influence. We hope to encourage the adoption of more professional development for teaching STEM with digital media at the state, district, and school level.

Mission

Build a 3-month plan counting down to the biggest event for educators in the first quarter of the year: the annual XYZ conference with over 10,000 attendees.

Audience

Primary: Teachers, educational technology community at XYZ conference. Secondary: Program Officer, Partner Institutions.

Editorial, Business, and Technical Objectives

  • Present STEM research findings
  • Convince policy makers and educators to act on findings
  • Advance ABC Education as leader in STEM education
  • Promote professional development for teaching STEM with digital media
  • Suggest additional research for a future grant
  • Create visually clean, smartphone-compatible website landing page for research

Content Features

The report will appear on the ABC Education web page (or blog). The intro will include information on the relevance and purpose of digital media in STEM education. Beneath the introduction will be a hierarchy of project highlights: 2 or 3 large project features with video and limited text, followed by smaller project features with video, images, limited text, and links representing core competencies. This will also be made into a flyer for non-digital outreach.

Timeline

From today's date in January through the end of March. (Conference date: March 25.)

Budget

$1,500 plus two dedicated staffers part time

Step 3: Establish a Plan

Tip: Conduct polls to determine how best to reach your audience. (Do they use social media? Attend conferences? Spend a lot of time checking their e-mail?)

Get together with your team, like ABC Education did, and conduct brainstorming sessions to collect group ideas about what might work. Make sure to write everything down, no matter how silly or far-fetched it seems. That way, you'll have a record for later and a ready-made list of ideas when you expand your outreach even further. This list can also help you determine your timetable and budget (see sample below.)

Brainstorming: What can we do on our budget? What are some strategies and tactics?

  • Social media is quick and cost-effective.
    • We need goals to make social media use measurable.
    • Achievable goals: get coverage from 5 education blogs, establish Facebook page with 100 fans, establish Twitter feed with 100 followers
  • Social media is not the only channel for outreach. What are other channels for outreach? (See promotion map below.)
    Promotion Map
  • What kinds of tactics should be used in these channels?
    • Publicity release with research results, timed to coincide with conference presentation.
    • Webinar to be recorded and posted on ATE Central.
    • E-mail and postcard campaign to keep research fresh in the minds of collaborators.
  • What is the expected timetable for the activities?

Timetable/Budget

  Tactic Description Dates Staff hrs Cost
1 Audience survey Survey Monkey poll in email newsletter Feb 5 $250
2 ED Blog outreach Connect with top 5 education bloggers Feb 10 $0
3 Facebook Set-up, post 7x/wk, polls Feb 70 $0
4 Twitter Set-up, tweet 3x/day,contests Feb 70 $0
5 Postcard 1 brochure or postcard for conference Mar 20 $2k
6 NSF release 1 announcement on research findings Apr 10 $200
7 Webinar 1 pre/post conference offer? Apr 10 $300
8 E-mail campaign Coordinate w/ 1 conference listserve Apr 5 $0
9 Other Conference Opportunities Presentation opportunity? Apr TBD $1k
    Total (priorities only)   175 $3,750

Tip: Keep an inventory of what creative assets (images, logos, etc.) are available for promotion, with an eye towards repurposing elements for multiple uses.

Now ABC Education needed to consider what messages they needed for each tactic. In this case, the Project Manager (PM) was designated the primary messenger, managing all of the social media communications, with the Director as a secondary messenger, committed to media interviews at the conference.

After they addressed the scope of their plan, starting with a timeline, tactics, activities, and metrics for the social media channel, they identified the activities and staff assignments for a social media workplan.

Sample Workplan: STEM Outreach Campaign

Date Activity Staff
1/7 Project brainstorm All
1/14 Define project scope All
1/21 Create messaging themes, talking points PM, SA, All
1/28 Create tactics, identify activities PM, SA, All
2/10 Identify education blogs SA
2/17 Create Facebook/Twitter accounts, start messaging PM, SA
2/21 Start bi-weekly check-in on metrics, engagement, impact; review messaging PM, All
2/28 Cross-promote w/ partner listserves,feeds PM
3/7 Develop text for Postcard; send to printer SA
3/14 Post about NSF release in social media; Develop text and list for Email Campaign PM, SA
3/21 Contact bloggers with NSF release preview; Record Webinar on Report PM
3/23 Press release to NSF, PR Newswire; Put materials online and on flyer. PM
3/25 Conference PM, All
4/1 Follow-up w/ conference contacts, partners All

Step 4: Ensure Execution

ABC determined the following guidelines for executing their workplan:

  • For day-to-day management, the Project Manager took charge of posts/tweets on T/Th and the Assistant took charge on M/W/F.
  • One Facebook post/day; 5-6 Twitter posts/day, including re-tweets.
  • Message mix: incorporate humorous/newsworthy/informative posts (1/3 each), and include specific calls to action, e.g., contest participation.
  • All staff members were asked to find and read one related blog or media outlet, and post comments or links to project when appropriate.
  • Document and share established message themes for consistency throughout the organization, promotion channels, and promotional materials.
  • Create a social media calendar with weekly messages for Facebook and Twitter posts/tweets; use a free publishing tool, HootSuite (see Social Media), to schedule posts in advance.
  • When posting on educational forums, blogs, and communities such as Classroom 2.0, ensure that posts lead back to ABC Education.
  • Establish bi-weekly meeting to review metrics, tactics, engagement, etc.

Step 5: Evaluate Your Efforts

Tip: Capture metrics on the effectiveness of different channels, tactics, and activities in a document as you go. Host a team meeting/session to evaluate the effectiveness of your overall strategy using these metrics. This will help you adjust your plan as needed instead of waiting until the campaign is over! It will also, of course, be a big help in the evaluation.

After three months, ABC Education revisited their initial outreach audit, the plan, and the metrics. They considered ways to revise the themes and messages based on feedback from teachers and partners, as well as upcoming opportunities. But before they did anything else they celebrated their results!

For PDF versions of this Planning Guide, Best Practices, the Performance Scale and Rubric, and the Sample Brief go to the Resources section.