A communication plan is a tool used to reach certain audiences by means of information channeling and dissemination. A good communication plan guides an organization in its endeavor to reach its target audience. It must give in detail the methods and timelines to be used so as to accomplish its objectives.
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It gives an organization an effective platform in which to exchange messages, ideas and information, both within and without the organization therefore, enabling it to align its strategies with its mission and objectives (Bell & Smith, 1999, p. 146).The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) is charged with ensuring safety of the citizens in terms of health.
It deals with diseases ranging from viral, bacterial and even nuclear related diseases. Therefore, it must have an effective tool in which information is disseminated to the employees and target consumers. This paper is going to discuss the issues that affect CDC, its communication channels and ways to improve its communication.
After the September 9th terrorist attack in New York, the American citizens became more afraid about their security. The Centre for Disease control (CDC) is at the heart of medical field in the United States, it’s mandate among others include, keeping track of existing communicable diseases, vaccination against certain diseases like flu, tracking and preventing bio-terrorism and containing outbreaks of diseases, in extreme cases, quarantine the affected population.
Therefore, it is of importance for CDC to have a proper communication plan that will enable them to disseminate information to its audience, in this case, the general public, the hospitals under its mandate, the medical practitioners and other government agencies (Bell & Smith, 1999, p. 156).
The events that followed after the attack can only be described as life changing, since governments all over the world begun implementing strategies to counter such attacks. This communication plan is going to be affected by various factors (Bell & Smith, 1999, p. 254). Some of these factors are controllable and some are not.
The controllable factors include but not limited to, method of information dissemination; either through the print, electronic or social media. The method one chooses to disseminate information is at one’s peril, one has to choose a method and medium that will ensure maximum reach for maximum impact (Paul & Jonathan, 2004, p.32). Other factors include the kind of information to be disseminated.
You want to give your audience only the relevant information and information that is going to generate positive responses in terms of preparedness (Baldoni, 2003, p.61). As CDC, our work is in sensitive areas of health, some situations are life and death types, therefore, we only have to give information that is going to make the audience aware of a threat, but not enough to make them more afraid.
For government agencies and other related institutions. We need to provide them with as much information because they are a source of help and can lend a much needed hand.
Factors that are not at our control include the media reaction, public reaction and the processes of other institutions and agencies. We disseminate information with all the good intent, but we cannot control how the media will react after they get such information.
We live in a free world, where the media has the freedom to choose how to air it’s views, therefore, all the CDC can do is give the required information and prepare for damage control in case of a backlash. This is only in extreme situations. In order to do proper damage control, the CDC has to equip its experts with the right information to defend its actions.
This applies to the public reaction and opinion too. It is upon, us as an agency to elaborate where possible and give more information where needed. In terms of other agencies’ processes, the CDC has no control over, therefore, we can only serve to provide guidance and it’s upon the agency to use its resources to execute the plan.
However, as the agency responsible for preventing, controlling phenomena and treating diseases, we have to develop an effective mechanism for communication that will ensure that no misinterpretation on miscommunication occurs.
Communications Plan for the CDC
The Purpose of the Plan
The objective of this communication plan is to provide support to CDC’s strategic objectives and provide effective action plan for the organizational communication of the Centre for Disease Control for the next one year.
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It serves as a guiding document for all the communication that the CDC will undertake both within and without the organization’s structure in an effort to reach the American citizens, our health facilities, the security agencies, drug manufacturers and related agencies around the world (Janel, 1998, p.12).
This framework will ensure that CDC will be able to contain all the threats that America faces either nuclear related, bioterrorism or the day to day outbreaks of diseases. This will also ensure that we do not lose track of other issues that we are currently dealing with such as researching on new medicines and methods of controlling disease spread (Baldoni, 2003, p.67).
Targeted audiences and partners
The target population or audience of the CDC in this program include the following;
- American population: the general population is always at risk and are the direct sufferers of an incident.
- Federal and State governments: The federal government is in charge of CDC and is advised in health issues by the CDC, therefore the CDC should be ready to give the federal government information so that it can rally its agencies to take action.
- Health practitioners: These are the people responsible for providing health care to the population.
- National security agencies including but not limited to the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and Department of Defence: These are national agencies responsible for keeping external and internal threats at bay.
Specific groups of stakeholder
Federal and state Governments
As stated above, the CDC gets its mandate from the federal government. They play an advisory role and also coordinate action on the ground. The CDC will inform the Department of Health and Human Services of the foregoing through the use of external memos, phone calls and fax.
The Department of Health and Human Services requires all the information from the ground, the circumstances leading to the event and what the CDC is doing to tackle the foregoing.
Since it is an agency-agency communication, the head of operations on the ground will contact the head of CDC then the head of CDC will contact the person/department responsible for receiving information of such nature in the Department of Health and Human Services.
This communication will be done through the use of telephone call for conveying immediate information, and then followed by a fax detailing action and casualties. Later, an inter-agency memo is going to accompany the full report of the occurrence.
The CDC will also use it’s centres across the country to inform the state governments on what action they need to take in order to prevent a similar occurrence or how to advice its residence. This will be done through telephone calls, fax and/or reports detailing contingency measures.
The Centre for Disease Control’s mandate is to, as quoted from its mission statement: “Collaborating to create the expertise, information, and tools that people and communities need to protect their health – through health promotion, prevention of disease, injury and disability, and preparedness for new health threats” (CDC, 2011).
This mission statement mentions communities and people. As an American agency, the community here is the general public. Therefore, this is our target group. This group needs information on how to behave in case an emergency occurs. The CDC wants to keep people as far away from the incident site as possible.
In this case, if a bio-terrorist attack occurs in a subway station in New York the direct sufferers will be the subway users. The media, both electronic and print will be used, to disseminate information. CDC officials will appear in programs on television organized in a manner to ensure that there are audience to discuss issues, answer questions from the public and from the moderator.
The print media will be used to feature the CDC and the information it wants to disseminate. The CDC will use this medium knowing that the American public are watching as illustrated by Nielsen’s Three Screen Report- Q1 09 A2/M2:
|Overall Usage Number of Users 2+ (in 000’s)- Monthly Reach|
|1Q09||4Q08||1Q08||% Difference |
Year to Year
|Watching TV in the House||284,574||285,313||281,106||1.2%|
|Watching Time shifted TV||79,533||73,934||57,934||37.3%|
|Using the Internet||163,110||161,525||158,002||3.2%|
|Watching Video on Internet||131,102||123,195||115,970||13.0%|
|Using Mobile Phone||230,436||228,920||219,619||4.9%|
|Mobile Subscribers Watching Video on a Mobile Phone||13,419||11,198||8,817||52.2%|
Source: The Nielsen Company, 2009.
Secondly social media will also be used to reach the youth and the connected generation. Presentations to groups, brochures, flyers, and special events programs at town halls will also be used as follow up methods to ensure that all the population is reached.
As stated in roman number two above, the CDC is mandated to protect the citizens from any harm that may result from health complications caused by either pathogens or poisonous substances disseminated either accidentally or otherwise. The health practitioners are responsible for providing medical remedies to infected or affected citizens.
In case a nuclear disaster occurs, the CDC is mandated to advise the health centres on what medicine to give to people. Normally, the CDC publishes and distributes information on new medical discoveries, but in cases of emergencies, it will use its centres to spread the information. Alternatively, in cases where there are no centres, it will use fax and telephone calls.
National security agencies including but not limited to the FBI, CIA, Homeland Security and Department of Defence
These are the security apparatus responsible for ensuring the physical safety of American population. The CDC deals with issues touching on national security; therefore, it has a prerogative to disseminate relevant information to the national security organs. In this communication, the CDC will use its communications department to disseminate information to this apparatus.
The use of telephone calls, fax, memos, and reports will be affected in such communications (Fearn-Banks, 2007, p. 170). Telephone calls will be used to address urgent matters such as imminent attack, reporting an incident or enquiry. Fax, memos, and reports will be used as follow ups and explaining events further.
Success of this plan will depend upon the employees of the CDC. The employees are the cornerstone of these communications, since they are the ones who will be responsible for executing all the actions, either information collection, entering data or even posting the materials. We will conduct an evaluation of the whole process. These are some of the parameters we will use to measure success:
- Media airtime allocated to CDC programs: The more time allocated, the more likely we will reach many audiences.
- The tone of the coverage: Did the media convey the message in a positive light or it was critical
- The location of the media outlet: This matters because it shows which audiences we reached and the literacy rates of the population. The more populated the location and coverage area, the more people we will reach.
- How many fliers were given out and how many people attended events?
- How many phone calls, emails, or letters did you receive after the campaign ended?
All these parameters will help in measuring our reach and the impact of our campaign.
Just like any other plan, there are setbacks that can cause the whole process to collapse. As noticed, the whole plan uses conventional means of conveying information. We will initiate another round of campaigns to follow up on the previous plans. This will largely focus on the media both print and electronic in the form of features.
Baldoni, J. (2003). Great communication secrets of great leaders. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.
Bell, A., & Smith, D. (1999). Management Communication. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
CDC. (2011). Vision, Mission, Core Values, and Pledge. Retrieved from <https://www.cdc.gov/about/organization/mission.htm>
Fearn-Banks, K. (2007).Crisis Communications: A Casebook Approach. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Janel, R. (1998). Strategic Communications for Non-profit Organization: Seven Steps to Creating a Successful Plan. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.
The Nielsen Company. (2009). Television, Internet and Mobile Usage in the U.S. A2/M2 Three Screen Report. 4th Quarter 2008. Web.