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Situational Analysis

“Situational analysis” helps develop a basis of understanding of the environment in which a plan is delivered. It provides a common reference point for the planning process and prioritises actions.

The analysis can provide an appreciation of the risks and benefits to the project and the organisations involved from the way in which the communication process is implemented. It takes a snapshot view of an organisation or situation and where things stand at a certain point in time. It is sometimes accomplished by means of a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats), which examines all aspects in relation to the success or results of the project in question.

Clearly, if the communication activities are poorly designed and implemented due to a poor understanding of the situation on the ground, the project could be fatally impacted due to a lack of public trust and confidence. This can help identify where the potential weaknesses in the plan are, enabling responses to be developed if necessary before irreparable damage is done. The analysis will also identify where opportunities may exist to develop strategic alliances with groups of supportive stakeholders and indicate where extra efforts can be made to develop these.

The analysis can also help identify capabilities within an organisation in terms to fulfil the requirements of the communication plan before it is developed to implement the strategy. It also serves to highlight areas in the strategy where improvements may need to be made, to take account of the current or developing situation. By keeping the analysis updated, it may also identify where something may not be working as expected within the implementation plan.

Identify Vision/Mission/Goals

In strategy development, it is necessary to determine and understand the primary objective and goals of the strategy. This may be as simple as informing as many stakeholders as possible, or it may include specific goals such as reaching certain stakeholder groups, undertaking a specific number of meetings, or even gaining support to move the project forward. Whilst it is possible to have multiple aims for a communication activity, it is important to set goals that can be practically achieved.

To ensure the proper level of public participation, planning the strategy should begin early (during the project’s initiation phase) so that communication and participation can be integrated with the project’s decision-making process. A well-defined goal, one that is not too vague or broad, is key. If the goal is too vague, then the message will not be salient to stakeholders within the decision-making process. If the goal is too broad, then the message will lose all impact and in either case your success will not be measurable.

For example, at the beginning of a process to develop the use of nuclear energy in a member state, the main aim is likely simple communication of the science behind the technology, with information provided on both the potential benefits and disadvantages and an explanation of why the policy has been adopted. Where facilities already exist, the aim may be to communicate information regarding operational experience, or details of new developments or events. If the project involves development of waste management or disposal facilities, the aim likely includes details of comparable facilities in operation elsewhere, or of the scientific consensus underlying the proposal.

The key to developing sensible objectives is that they are SMART:

  • Specific: The objective is clear about what you are going to do and exactly how are you going to do it. Questions to ask include: “What am I going to do? Why is it important? Who is going to do it?”
  • Measurable: You should be able to measure the objective (Example: X percent people contacted, number of presentations completed).
  • Achievable: The objective is achievable given local conditions, time period, resources allocated, etc.
  • Realistic: The objectives can be achieved using the time and the resources available.
  • Time-bound: The objective is clear concerning how much time it will take to achieve.

Objectives are usually written in an active tense and use strong verbs like “plan,” “write,” “conduct,” and “produce,” rather than “learn,” “understand,” and “feel.” This will encourage development of positive approaches and feasible objectives.

Finally, developing a communication strategy that is acceptable to all parties can have several benefits, including:

  • Help find solutions with a better long-term outcome for the project and stakeholders
  • Reduce objections to projects
  • Foster local pride and a sense of ownership among stakeholders
  • Enhance the understanding of nuclear issues by the public and help to deliver more sustainable outcomes.

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