Communications Plan



The Model Communications Plan in the toolkit offers suggestions for objectives and activities that state tobacco control program managers have successfully employed to support pricing strategies. After reviewing the Model Communications Plan, a collaborative process can be used to develop a plan tailored to each state’s needs. The blank template provided to develop the plan uses a commonly accepted format.



Model Communications Plan


Tobacco control program managers can increase the internal and external demand and support for policy interventions when they develop and implement an integrated, coordinated communications plan. Every communications plan must take into account the internal forces within state government that need to be addressed to create a knowledgeable, supportive environment for CDC-recommended pricing strategies. Also, the communications plan will address the need to create a consistent, authoritative voice as the “go-to” place for state and community partner organizations and the public-at-large. Finally, although the plan will help keep all planned communications strategies on track, there will always be unpredictable circumstances that need to be addressed by a quick response mechanism—another essential component of a strategic communications plan.


Click on each Model Communications Plan objective to read more about the rationale behind it and the related activities. The six key objectives in the plan are:

  • Objective 1: Communicate messages that will move internal and external audiences to support the pricing strategy.
  • Objective 2: Raise awareness among key health department decision-makers and stakeholders (e.g., chronic disease director, legislative liaison, commissioner of health, tobacco control program grantees, etc.) and leaders in other related state agencies by distributing monthly bulletins and the annual policy agenda.
  • Objective 3: Establish the Tobacco Control Program as the “go-to” authority in state government on anything related to tobacco control in general, and pricing strategies in particular.
  • Objective 4: Raise awareness of the impact of tobacco pricing strategies to external audiences.
  • Objective 5: Build and maintain communications with state and local coalition partners (organizations and individuals).
  • Objective 6: Expect the unexpected- be prepared to quickly respond to surprises.

The purpose of the state (or local) pricing strategy communications plan is to raise awareness of how pricing strategies reduce tobacco use and the death and disease it causes, as well as the economic benefits that result. The Model Communications Plan provides some general recommendations that can be tailored to a state’s media culture and political environment.


Each of these objectives can be achieved by implementing elements of the following activities:

  • Schedule (monthly, quarterly, annually): How often is enough for your communications to break through the clutter of competing messages to be heard without losing audience interest?
  • Communication Type (bulletin, scientific report, confidential memo, etc.): A variety of communications types should be considered to keep the communications compelling and relevant.
  • Audience: Who are the various audiences that you want to educate? Are they sufficiently targeted in the plan?
  • Method ( listservs, e-mails, social networking, press alerts, mailings, face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, paid and unpaid media): Using a variety of communications media and methods can be effective.


Why Plan Communications Strategies?


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw

This quote is a reminder that simply stating the facts about tobacco use is not enough to stop young people from using tobacco or provide enough incentive for most tobacco users to quit. For tobacco control programs, the art of communications involves careful, strategic planning to educate stakeholders and the public in order to gain support for CDC-recommended program and policy interventions. The evidence presented in CDC’s Best Practices shows a dose-response relationship in every program’s health communications interventions; that is, there is a threshold for the number of times a message needs to be repeated in order to incur the intended response among its audience.

Tobacco control managers can benefit from planning strategic communication strategies that raise awareness within their agencies, among external stakeholders, and with the public at-large of the dangers of tobacco use and the CDC-recommended interventions that the evidence demonstrates will reduce tobacco use. Ideally, there will be an 18 month to 2 year timeframe to build support for tobacco pricing policy interventions before their consideration by legislative bodies. During that time, a systematic approach to communicating key messages can build support among the public and policymakers. However, there are times when tobacco pricing policy issues unexpectedly appear and move through legislative bodies. Remember that strategic communications planning is also as essential in less than ideal circumstances to communicate key messages to support, and in some instances oppose, proposed tobacco pricing policy interventions.