The C Factor

Anyone who works for central government knows that the government does not operate alone. To get results we rely on the help of individuals, businesses and civil society organisations, each of which has its own interests and dynamics. Many government authorities are investing in programmes that use the insights of these external parties to develop new and different ways of working. In essence it’s a way to take account of the diversity of those concerned and focus on issues from their perspectives. And the C Factor is a communication approach that helps you do that.

The C Factor

Goal

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Goal
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GoalX

What is the project’s goal?

Explanation

All government action must have a clear goal. It is therefore important to identify from the outset exactly what the problem is: what needs to be tackled or changed? Once the problem has been identified, a clear goal can be set. This is also a good time to verify that all team members and other parties involved are working towards the same goal.

  • The goal must correspond to the stated problem.
  • Try to formulate the goal independently of the intended results and solutions.
  • Goals can evolve, especially when you're dealing with a long-term project. It is therefore good to regularly check if your goal is still the same. It is also useful to do this whenever new parties get involved.

Questions to consider

  • What problem or issue do we want to resolve?
  • What real-world change do we hope to see following the project?
  • At what point can we say that the goal has been met and the project is successful?
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Initiative
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InitiativeX

What is the reason for this initiative?

Explanation

Information about the reason for a project can shed light on the urgency, context and political or administrative importance of the issue. The approach you use for the project depends in large part on the degree of flexibility you have.

  • If an issue is being addressed due to a specific agreement on results, for example, there may be less room for participation and dialogue than when the source of the initiative is different.
  • The aims of the project’s initiator should ultimately be reflected in the results. It is therefore advisable to always keep the original reason for the project in mind and to ensure the continued involvement of its initiator.

Questions to consider

  • Did the project proposal come from inside or outside the organisation?
  • What is the social impulse for the project?
  • What is the legal or administrative context of the issue at hand?
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Phase
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PhaseX

What phase is the project in and what is the timetable moving forward?

Explanation

The phase the project is in has a significant impact on the attention the project receives, the level of disagreement it elicits and the scope for initiating dialogue with the parties concerned.

  • Most projects have several substantive and process-related phases. A phase is completed once a milestone has been reached, a decision has been made or an interim result or product has been delivered.
  • Once a policy has been formulated and the proposal goes to parliament, traditional political weight is at its peak, as is media attention and the need for communication about the political dimension of the issue.
  • Although not all projects aim at steering policy through parliament, sensitivities are at their highest during the shift from design to implementation (as this is the moment that decisions are made), after which there is less scope for input from external parties.

Questions to consider

  • What are the various phases of the project?
  • What activities, decisions or results are involved in each phase?
  • Have any deadlines already been set?

Method

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Action
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ActionX

What action or means can be used to achieve the goal?

Explanation

Depending on the phase and nature of the project, it may not always be possible to answer this question. As a communication adviser, you may be responsible for working together with other parties to think about what action would be effective. This is a good time to review existing plans and find out what the relevant communication expectations are.

The type of action chosen is closely related to the government’s role in the project – is it one of justice, results, partnership or responsiveness? In each role, the government has a different position and may take different actions, and all this will ultimately be reflected in the communication.

Please note: In the absence of any legal or financial incentives, it is unlikely that you will be able to effect a change in people’s behaviour through communication alone. If that is your goal, the Communication Activation Strategy Instrument (CASI) is a more appropriate tool, and should in that case be used instead of the C Factor.

Questions to consider

  • What action will be taken? Will it take the form of a financial incentive, legislation or law enforcement?
  • What role does the government see for itself here?

Method

Context

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Actors
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ActorsX

Who are the relevant player/actors concerning this issue?

Explanation

The first thing to do when trying to understand the context of a project is to get as clear a picture as possible of the parties concerned and of any experts that may have useful knowledge on the issue.

Questions to consider

  • What people or internal/external parties are relevant to the project?
  • Do we have a clear picture of the target audience, implementers, decision-makers and influencers?

Method

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Force field
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Force fieldX

What are the positions of the various players and how will the project impact them?

Explanation

Once you have a sense of the various players, it is useful to consider their interests and positions regarding the issue. It’s also important to consider the project’s impact: who will be impacted by the project and how? The greater a party’s interests in the issue and the greater the impact the project will have on them, the more important it is to get them on board early on.

Questions to consider

  • What do we know about the interests and positions of the players?
  • Have any supporters or opponents been identified?
  • What will this project change for the various actors?
  • How significant an impact will it have on the actors?

Methods

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Relationships
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RelationshipsX

What is the relationship between the parties and the government and between the parties themselves?

Explanation

The government does not achieve its goals by working alone. More and more parties are working together to carry out social projects. Up-to-date knowledge of the dynamics between these parties is valuable when it comes to entering into a partnership or establishing a new working relationship.

Questions to consider

  • What is the relationship between central government and the main players?
  • What is known about the relationships between the various players?
  • What parties have already spoken publicly on the issue?
  • Have any supporters and/or opponents been identified?

Method

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Involvement
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InvolvementX

Which parties can help achieve the goal?

Explanation

The analyses conducted earlier on actors, interests and positions can be useful in determining which parties are open to partnerships to ensure the project’s success. They can also help you determine which parties you can expect resistance from. In both cases it is useful to understand the various influences they may have on the project and/or on other players by getting them involved.

Questions to consider

  • What parties should be involved and to what extent?
  • How much flexibility is there for parties to offer their input or to work on the project?
  • Who must be kept up to date?

Method

Strategy

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Target audiences
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Target audiencesX

What audiences will our communication target?

Explanation

Use the information you gathered earlier about actors and the force field to determine what audiences your communication plan is meant for. This could be the target group of the policy, but it could also be the competent authority with a decision-making role or parties for whom something is going to change.

Questions to consider

  • What target groups are vital to achieving the project’s goal?
  • Who definitely has to be involved? (or to put it another way: who will be a thorn in your side if they are overlooked?)
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Outcome
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OutcomeX

How in particular should communication contribute to the project?

Explanation

There are various ways communication can play a role in a project. It can serve to inform, involve, consult or mobilise the target audience. Determine your communication objective for each target audience.

It is possible that this question will elicit a number of communication expectations. This is the time for making choices about what can be achieved through communication and what will have to be achieved another way, through other means.

Question to consider

  • What do you hope to achieve with the target audience?
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Approach
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ApproachX

What communication approach will we chose?

Explanation

Your own identity and role as a government authority have a significant impact on how you position yourself vis-à-vis the target audience. Do you want to provide them with recognition and stand alongside them, or is it more appropriate to stand apart as a government authority? This is a time to reflect on how you want to achieve your goal and what the appropriate position to take is in your communication.

Questions to consider

  • What is the most appropriate approach given your role (and that of the government)?
  • What are the main principles governing communication on this issue? For example, do we want to be fast or thorough? Do we want to involve experts and ambassadors, or would the minister be a suitable spokesperson?
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Frame
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FrameX

What frame best supports the message being communicated?

Explanation

An important part of successful communication on a given issue is choosing the right frame and being aware of the existing frames of your target audience. The frame affects the target audience’s perspective on the issue. A good frame says a lot about how you intend to position the issue.

Questions to consider

  • What are possible frames you can use for this issue?
  • What are the dominant frames within your organisation?
  • What frame is most compatible with the concerns and ideas of the target audience?

Narrative

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Listening
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ListeningX

How does the target audience think and talk about the issue?

Explanation

A good narrative is a relevant narrative. So coming up with a story that resonates begins with listening and imagining what moves the target audience. Sometimes you may discover that different segments of the target audience have different problems and concerns, and that these things must be addressed separately. A good way to listen is to engage directly with your target audiences, but there are also a number of other methods you can use.

Questions to consider

  • What do people in the target audience experience as problems or issues?
  • What words do they use to describe them?
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Answers
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AnswersX

What is relevant for the other party?

Explanation

Your narrative should make a connection between what you have to say and what is relevant to the other party. Highlight the issues that matter to the target audience as well as the actions or arguments that address their questions, concerns and interests.

Questions to consider

  • What can you offer to address the target audience’s problems?

Methods

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Overarching narrative
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Overarching narrativeX

What message is the common thread that runs through your communication with all target groups?

Explanation

An overarching narrative, or message house, can be used to make sure there is a common thread throughout your communication and will make your communication clearer and more effective. The stories for the various target audiences must be built on the same foundation. A strong overarching narrative will make your particular story relevant to your main target audiences and the other parties concerned.

Questions to consider

  • What is the essence of the project and therefore crucial to include in the central message?
  • Are you able to formulate a response to the target audience’s main problems?
  • Can you support everything with arguments, evidence or examples?

Method

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Tone
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ToneX

What words strike the right chord?

Explanation

Words have certain associations. If you know how the other party talks about an issue, you can use their language to connect to their experiences.

Questions to consider

  • Are there any important words or terms for which you need a shared definition?
  • Are there any words you should avoid?

Plan

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Means
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MeansX

What means of communication are best for reaching the target audience?

Explanation

Now that you have determined your strategy and message, it’s time to find an appropriate form for your communication. The means of communication must be appropriate to the phase of the project, the issue in question and the communication goal. And above all, the message must reach the target audience. To this end, it is also useful to research the media consumption and communication preferences of the target audience.

Questions to consider

  • What channels and means of communication are most familiar to the target audience?
  • Are there existing channels or means of communication you can make use of?

Method

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Communicator
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CommunicatorX

Who is the most obvious communicator for the message in question?

Explanation

Often, communication will target places already frequented by the target audience, or where they expect to find information about the project. If this entails using another organisation’s means of communication, it’s important to agree on who will be seen as the source of the message.

And if new means are developed, you can opt – in consultation with the parties concerned – for a different communicator than your own organisation. The key here is that the target audience views the communicator as a logical source of the message and that the organisation in question is also prepared for any questions that may arise.

Questions to consider

  • What party does the target audience expect to hear from on the issue?
  • Is there a public figure who can or should be involved?
  • Is there a communicator that the target audience may trust more?
  • What party is in charge of media communications and public information?
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Calendar
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CalendarX

What events are included in the communication calendar?

Explanation

Most projects have a number of milestones and communication opportunities (a conference, New Year’s address, etc.). You can also create opportunities of your own. Find out what the relevant milestones are for each target audience and organise communication around them. The calendar ensures cohesion and continuity in your communication.

Questions to consider

  • What important substantive or process-related milestones can you identify that lend themselves well to communication activities?
  • When is it necessary to approach parties within the ring of influence so that they can fulfil their roles?

Method

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Organisation
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OrganisationX

What is the budget and how is the communication organised?

Explanation

In order to establish a realistic and feasible communication plan, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the communication budget and to know who you can work with. It is good to know immediately who will be working on communication, especially when you are collaborating with other departments or organisations.

Questions to consider

  • Who will be part of the communication team and in what capacity?
  • What is the source of the budget and who has ultimate financial responsibility?