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By Caroline Bini (Groupe One), Mathilde Gougeau (Groupe One)
This chapter does not deal with 'operational' communication with building companies or suppliers during the construction of Rooftop Greenhouse (RTG) buildings, but with external communication to reach your customers and include them in your RTG project. The present summary is mainly based on the GROOF project experience with the first 4 pilots RTGs and the shared experience of the 10 early adopters.
A communication strategy requires thinking about the meaning and the goals of the project, its contents, but also whom it is intended for and how it will be developed. In other words, which communication tools you will develop to reach your target audience and maximise the success of your building and your RTG, what kind of events you will organise for better visibility and networking around your project, which communication channel you will use, etc.
The goal of a communication strategy is to make project managers ask themselves the right questions, namely:
Make your message more coherent and understandable
Reach your target audiences (politicians, citizens, urban farmers, partners, customers, etc.), have an impact on them, make them follow your project and include them in your communication strategy
Increase the visibility of your project through specific online and offline strategies
If you spend the time necessary to prepare your strategy upfront, you will be ready once your RTG is built and when the time comes for you to implement the communication strategy.
DEFINE YOUR MESSAGE! WHY & WHAT
Why does my project exist?
After defining the roots and reasons of your RTG project in the previous chapter (project outline and strategy), you should have a better idea of what the “raison d’être” of your project is. The outline will answer the question of knowing “why” the project exists. What are the main objectives of your project? Knowing about your objectives, you will be able to inspire other people: what do people need to feel inspired, join your strategy and get involved in your project?
It is important that your communication strategy make the link with the purpose of your project because the messages and the way you express them will have to highlight the strongest added value of your RTG for each of the various target groups.
See this video of Simon Sinek that explains the importance of the answer to the question ‘Why’.
What is/are my message(s)?
Make your message clear enough to make it easy to spread to others! To answer the question “What”, define the project in 3-4 lines and answer the following questions: What are the key messages of my project? What does the target audience think before communicating? What do I want them to think after communicating?
A good message is:
Clear, simply worded and jargon-free
With a positive twist and containing a "promise"
Original, challenging, evocative for the target audience
For example, if you want to develop a non-profit RTG project and focus on social aspects and the production of local food, the two big points of attention in your communication and your message will be:
Insist on the freshness, local and high quality of your products
Your project is a point of convergence around food production, but also of events, workshops, and various activities.
You could find a motto such as: Together, let's gather and produce local food on our roofs!
Tools to develop your message
We invite you to consider your RTG project as a STORYTELLING; what can I say about my pilot project that will attract my audience, what is the background of my project, who are the people involved, what are the values supported by our project? Feel free to personalise your story and make it accessible, fun and attractive!
Example of one of the projects coached by Groof in 2019
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis
Based on these strategic elements, we suggest that a SWOT-ANALYSIS of your project could be made so that the strongest elements to be communicated on can be highlighted. The swot analysis will also point out the topics that can be perceived as obstacles or weaknesses by the project stakeholders. It is important to use the strengths in your messages and to set up plans to make the most of these opportunities.
More info in this online video.
DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE
Identify target groups
Once you have answered your message(s) and defined the purpose of your project, it is important to focus on your audience and segment it in different target groups. Who does your audience include? In other words, answer the two following questions:
Who do you need to communicate with?
Inside your organisation: colleagues, head of communication, graphic designer, social media manager, project manager, urban farmers, etc.
Define who in your team is working on communication and events: is there a dedicated person or team? Are they available? Or is the project leader himself/herself working on it?
Who do you need to include in your strategy?
Outside your organisation: influential partners for your audience and in your neighbourhood, citizens, stakeholders, local retailers, etc.
Define who you need to convince. Who do you need to involve in your project?
Typical target groups that we met when we set up the pilot projects included the building owner, building occupants (inhabitants or users), the press, municipal authorities, future customers, financial partners, people living in the vicinity of the building, potential future partners (farmer, grower, supplier, delivery company, etc.).
See Chapter on social aspects, including stakeholder mapping, to create awareness or empathy among stakeholders, raise awareness, manage expectations, and have an effective dialogue with them to ensure that people support the rooftop greenhouse (RTG).
Observe your target groups
Observe your targeted audience and analyse their needs, their hobbies, interests, geographical location, actions, online behaviours, etc. The better you will get to know them, the more you will be able to meet their needs and you will know how to reach out to them.
Practical exercise: Define a typical persona as precisely as possible and describe a customer success journey!
Choose a key person
Describe them, their habits, their needs, their values, where they live, their personal life, their interests, their profession, etc.
Tell us the story of this persona with your pilot project: how you will reach him/her, how you will interact and raise awareness on RTGs, etc.
Include your communication tools to reach this person (see the chapter “Define the communication channels”): how will they get to know about your project and get involved in it? In which field will they be active – on social media, in the street, in online searches, through word of mouth, mailing, events, etc.
Here is a short exercise in .pdf format to practice.
DEFINE YOUR COMMUNICATION CHANNELS
Once the target groups have been identified, it is useful to specify the best communication channels to reach them depending on their needs and behaviour. Where do they get their information from? Which channel do they use and when? Are they more receptive to visual/written/direct social contact?
Your existing communication channels
List the current communication channels that you own: website, e-mail account, newsletters, brochures, advertisements, etc.
Communication channels to be developed
List the channels and promotional tools that you would like to develop to reach your target groups:
Media coverage to reach the local, national, or international press through press releases, articles, storytelling, municipal magazines, local radios, TV, written press, etc. Is it necessary to organise a press conference, individual visits, and interviews with journalists?
Social media (Instagram, Twitter, You Tube, LinkedIn, etc.): which platform will make sense for my project? Who can work on it? Do you have enough content to manage a consistent communication campaign?
New website on your RTG project including articles and news, partners’ websites
Promotional videos to create the buzz around your project
Print promotional tools: roll-ups, posters, flyers with a common visual identity (colours, images, logo)
Direct social contact:
Development of the right partnerships with organisations that could spread your information
Visibility from the street (construction sign and others)
Word of mouth
Specific targeted phone calls to promote your pilot project
Informal meetings and exchanges with friends, the community, neighbours, etc.
By increasing the variety of channels, you increase your chances of reaching the right audience and easily convince them about your message and credibility.
Finally, you can plan the pace of your actions on these communication channels; how often will you post on social media, when will you post which content/article?
Adapt your message to your target group and your communication channel; what is the strongest message for each group and channel, how can you make your message stand out, make it more fun, sustainable, insightful, original for the purpose of your RTG project.
DEFINE YOUR COMMUNICATION ACTION PLAN
Your budget and human resources
Define your budget for the organisation of events and communication actions: who will oversee the communication campaign and how many people will be involved in the communication strategy? Do you have a budget for internal human resources, or will you have to externalise for specific skills (video production, graphic design, event planning, etc.)?
Get people involved in your strategy
Organise a brainstorming with your team and define an action plan that will include your events and your communication actions in a schedule sent to your target groups and communication channels.
Here are a few examples of communication actions for your communication channels:
Articles and latest news about updates on your project in an article, achieved technical aspects, what I found out through the construction of my greenhouse, etc.
Press releases to announce the opening ceremony and end of the construction in the press, press conference, etc.
Newsletter for monthly news, special news on an event or topic, etc.
Posts on social media: new images and photos of people working on the greenhouse, first vegetable production, photos of events/workshops/ visits, promotional videos, interviews of the project leader, etc.
Drive other people into action by creating calls for actions: join us, visit our website, discover our project through our workshop, follow us on our social media, etc.
Examples of events targeting specific groups:
Opening ceremony for a large audience
Open day for a target audience (municipalities, local population, partners, urban farmers, etc.)
Study visit: technical visit on a specific topic (construction permit, market gardening, urban farming, energy saving, biodiversity, etc.) with a specific target audience (researchers, farmers, municipal administrators, local population, etc.)
Specific workshops for anyone interested in greenhouses (researchers, entrepreneurs, etc.) / Educational workshops, teaching and training events for schools, students, architects, etc.
Conferences, seminars and roundtables, music, and cultural events
Existing local events to present the pilot project, co-event with a local partner (association, university, firm, etc.)
Schedule your communication action plan
Once you have prepared your events and your material, advertise it on your chosen communication channels at the specific pace decided upfront in your schedule, but keep it flexible to adapt your strategy to the context, novelties, and changes.
Click here to download a communication action plan in .xlsx format.
GENERAL ADVICE REGARDING COMMUNICATION
An inclusive and collaborative perspective!
Communication conveys your message: it should include your whole team, experts (to make the message understandable and more credible), the legal representative, HR & employees, other organisations that could help and join your project, etc. Use a well-structured collaborative internet workspace (e.g. Basecamp, Trello, Swello) for sharing documents, ideas, info, etc.
Develop an attractive visual identity
• Find a name for your RTG project that is easy to remember and to link to your message
• Develop a visual identity through a customised graphic charter (logo, colours, typography, etc.)
• Feel free to be creative and original in your communication, give a soul to your project by making it different and closer to your audience
How to deal with a communication crisis
The key to anticipate a crisis communication strategy is to build up a scenario with your team and answer these questions: what are the potential hurdles for firms, customers, and employees? Remain transparent to keep your audience confident. What can you reveal? Who are the best spokespeople on this issue? How can you address the issue to do things properly? When and how often should you communicate about that? Which channel will be the most effective?
Measure the impact of your strategy
How can you make sure that the message will be properly disseminated and will have an impact on the target audience? Track the behaviour of your target audience through online analyses, event visits, etc. Analyse the key performance indicators of your various channels and target audiences (segmentation): social media (shares, likes, clicks, views), website (visits, time spent per page, traffic), newsletter (subscriptions, clicks), etc.
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