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24 June 2018
TTI-PEC Approach to Developing a Policy Engagement and Communications Workplan Print
Friday, 28 November 2014 17:05

Uptake and use of research evidence is more likely to happen if there is an understanding of the needs of users.  The Think Tank Initiative Policy Engagement and Communications Workplan (TTI-PEC) toolkit is a useful resource when thinking through a comprehensive Policy Engagement and Communications strategy and workplan.

Communication and Uptake

The PEC methodology is a structured way of documenting a theory of change, mapping target audiences, developing an engagement and communications strategy, identifying channels for communication and monitoring and evaluating the results of the implementation of strategies and plans. Over the course of 15 months thirteen think tanks in the TTI  worked to diagnose their capacity needs and develop a Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) workplan. Through this process a toolkit was developed.  It contains guiding principles, tips and suggested approaches to improving the planning, packaging, dissemination and evaluation of policy engagement and communications strategies.

One of the mentors of the project, Mo Adefso notes that “communicating research… should be approached logically and with intent”. For this reason it is important to have a basic results chain which reflects inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and the intended impact – the long term results of implementing a plan.


Developing a theory of change

Usually we instinctively know why we are doing the work we do and how we want it to change the current conditions, but we don’t often develop a theory of change that formally articulates the change we are aiming to achieve.

“By identifying the key beneficiaries and influencers it is easier to understand the challenges and identify the best ways of influencing them to ensure Research Uptake”


Mapping your target audiences

A number of DRUSSA blogs have discussed the importance of stakeholder identification (for example this one). By identifying the key beneficiaries and influencers it is easier to understand the challenges and identify the best ways of influencing them to ensure Research Uptake.

A key part of this process is gaining an understanding of the environment in which a Research Uptake Strategy is being implemented and there are various ways to do this including Stakeholder Analysis, Force-field Analysis, Problem Tree Analysis, SWOT Analysis, Triangle Analysis, Netmapping and Drivers of Change.


Developing a Strategy

The PEC toolkit outlines a number of components that are necessary when developing strategy:

  1. ·        Reviewing the external and internal factors and actors which may impact on the strategy
  2. ·        Defining an overall communications goal and objectives
  3. ·        Making decisions about responsibilities for implementation and monitoring
  4. ·        Ensuring you cover internal communications
  5. ·        Defining key messages
  6. ·        Deciding on channels of communication and tools of communication
  7. ·        Ensuring that there is adequate budget and other resources available
  8. ·        Developing milestones and deadlines
  9. ·        Considering special circumstances, for example around copyright
  10. ·        Deciding how you will evaluate that the strategy has indeed led to changes.


Channels and Tools for communication

The toolkit also provides guidance on some of the channels and tools for communication and emphasises the importance of information partners. In order to increase the outreach of your communications it is useful to ensure that you are able to bring in the support of information partners, either those who will amplify your message (the media) or translate it (knowledge intermediaries). The toolkits provides insights into how to engage the media, both print and online, as well as radio and television, particularly with regards to framing the message to suit the audience, and building the reputation of the institution. In addition it provides a number of basic rules regarding using social media, including twitter and writing news and press releases.

There are always a range of possible tools for communication, including electronic newsletters and policy briefs, and the toolkit provides useful tips about the best way to use these tools.

“communicating research… should be approached logically and with intent”


Monitoring and evaluation

The toolkit provides some ideas about what metrics can be used to monitor and evaluate an Engagement and Communication strategy, including those related to exposure (citations, media mentions etc), resources (funding, reputation), demand (downloads, digital traffic) and policy impact (feedback and policy recommendations).  


Alison Bullen is a content manager for the DRUSSA Programme