Cornell UniversityThe Nature Conservancy

Informative Communication

Photo © Alex Potemkin - iStockInformative communication means a pro-active approach, rather than a reactive or ad hoc response as issues crop up. Being proactive can avoid problems that arise from an “information vacuum.”

Informative communication boosts success rates

Many communities point to well-timed, effective communication as an essential part of building community support for launching and sustaining CBDM programs.

Communication plans increase effectiveness

A communication plan makes it easy to stay organized and meet your program's evolving communication needs. Key messages and tactics will change depending on what phase your community is in.

Communication needs vary by CBDM phase

Consider how your community's information needs will change over time. For example, during decision-making, gear communications toward the range of management options under consideration and plan for an announcement once a decision is reached. During implementation, citizens will want to know times and places for deer management actions or how community safety will be ensured.

Communication plans answer four key questions

A communication plan can be simple and straightforward or highly complex, depending on the community’s needs. There is no set formula, but any good communication plan will answer four basic questions: 1) Who will you communicate with? 2) When will you communicate with them? 3) What are the key messages they need to get? 4) How will you communicate with them?

Include five key elements in your communication plan

Our Resource Library includes communication plan templates in Microsoft Word and Excel formats, as well as a generic example.

  • Objectives and desired outcomes. Identify the primary purpose of the communication plan and how it supports the goals of the community’s deer management program.

  • Strategies. Describe the approaches you will use to achieve the objectives and desired outcomes.

  • Tactics. List the methods to be used in communicating messages to key audiences—from brochures to presentations and press releases to social media.

  • Key audiences. Identify stakeholders who will have a significant influence on the CBDM process.

  • Messages. Create a succinct set of messages that tell a complete story about your CBDM program in a simple but complete way. Supporting points providing more detail may be listed under each message. Using this simple message structure helps guide the development of all communications related to the project.

Enhance your communication plan

A number of other elements can enhance the effectiveness of your community’s communication plan. For example, consider including a short statement describing the context and background for your CBDM program. A timeline for completion and frequency of communication may also be helpful. Finally, a schedule for updating the communication plan can ensure that it stays relevant over time.


Common Questions

Stakeholder engagement can be accomplished in many ways, so it does not look exactly the same in every community. Some communities get input from public meetings or comments on proposed actions; some collect information using surveys of community residents. Other communities involve stakeholders more directly, using in face-to-face deliberations like focus groups or workshops. Over time communities may gather information using a combination of several approaches. The best approach for engaging people will depend on factors such as: the level of conflict over deer, the number of stakeholders affected, how interested and aware stakeholders are in the deer management issue, how much information decision makers need from stakeholders, as well as any resource limitations your community might have. For more discussion on this, please see Decker et al. 2002.

The best practices outlined on this site have provided you with some actions that can help create a context that fosters success (stakeholder involvement,  informative communication, education and learning). Also, keep in mind that "success" may be hard to define, and setting goals that you are able to monitor and evaluate is an important component for tracking progress. Decker et al (2004) also suggest the following components of a successful process:

  • A structured process for making community decisions that includes multiple, diverse perspectives
  • Shared understandings about desired goals and a desire for achieving generally acceptable solutions
  • An understanding that this will be an ongoing process. CBDM is not usually a one-off task and often requires a long time-horizon
  • A commitment to evaluation of the decision-making process and the subsequent management program is also critical so adjustments and modifications to a program can be made as needed

Browsing our library of cases may be helpful to you in finding communities that may be similar to your own, in order to get a sense of how those communities’ processes progressed. However, keep in mind that what worked in one community, no matter how similar it seems to your own, is not guaranteed to work in yours.


There are many kinds of experts you might consult throughout your community’s CBDM process. Different experts have different kinds of expertise, including expertise implementing the types of management alternatives a community is considering, expertise on state wildlife management laws and policies, and expertise on process management and public involvement. Some wildlife experts may work for or have worked for a government agency or organization, have university credentials, or be a certified wildlife biologist. It may also be helpful to get a sense of what kinds of experiences the expert you are considering has had with respect to deer management. Your community may benefit from consulting more than one expert for different phases.