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Guide on Grants, Contributions and Other Transfer Payments

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6 Communications

A communication strategy outlines the best strategies and communications vehicles that will help target specific audiences (i.e. potential recipients and/or beneficiaries) in the most timely and cost-effective manner.

6.1 Goals of a communication strategy or plan

  • To generate a high level of interest and awareness among potential and existing participants in the transfer payment program.
  • To reach as many potential, eligible participants as possible.

6.2 Principle elements of a communication strategy or plan

Identify and discuss the following elements in your plan:

Public environment - Major issues related to the initiative that have received a high media and public profile: what do the Canadian public, media and key stakeholders think about these issues and related subjects?

Target audiences - Those people or groups to be targeted when developing and delivering the communications messages and activities, e.g., potential payment recipients, industry, interest or lobby groups, etc.

Strategic considerations - Strategic considerations describe how the initiative will likely be received, including any elements expected to draw positive or negative reactions. This section also covers the best ways and times to present the initiative and other major issues that could impact the initiative (i.e., by-election, economic considerations, local challenges, opponents, etc.)

Main/key messages - Three or four succinct speaking points that will be used by designated spokespeople when publicly discussing the initiative. They should capture the initiative's overall goals and highlights.

Links to other departments - Provincial/territorial or regional sensitivities or partnerships and interdepartmental and or third-party/stakeholder partnerships.

6.3 Items impacting on the communication strategy or plan

This sub-section outlines the various elements that impact on the complexity and the level of effort needed to develop an effective communication strategy or plan.

Knowledge of the potential clients: Is there an existing database of possible beneficiaries or is a large amount of research necessary?

Knowledge of the program: Will the target audience greatly anticipate the program or is it relatively unknown?

Is the program new or being renewed: The communication strategy will most likely differ depending on whether the program is new or a renewal (e.g., knowledge of potential clients).

Experience and awareness of beneficiaries: Are target audiences aware of, or experienced with, similar (or past) programs?

Access to information: Are the clients or recipients at a disadvantage and/or what is their ease of access to the program's promotional material?

Resources: What resources have been made available for the program (transfer payments, management costs)? What resources (human and financial) does the department have to promote the program? (For example, a class contribution likely requires significantly greater resources than a transfer to another level of government. As well, there is a difference between national and regional programs. The staff resources available for communication-related activities are likely greater for national programs co-ordinated at HQ).

6.4 Measuring and evaluating communication strategies and plans

Communication strategies and plans should be regularly and consistently evaluated for their effectiveness and efficiency. Departments should set measurable targets and objectives (e.g., "x" applicants aware program exists by "y" date; "x" participants sent promotional material by "y" date, etc.), as well as performance indicators at the program development stage. Ideally, a communications expert internal to the program would satisfy this requirement.

6.5 Communication products and activities

This sub-section outlines the tools and media that will be used to deliver communications messages to target audiences. Products such as news releases and brochures should refer to the following: the program's purpose, terms and conditions of support, how to apply for support and any eligibility and/or monitoring requirements.


  • A news release for distribution to newspapers and/or magazines giving details of the specific project and the overall program itself.
  • A website that gives program information and allows for feedback and questions from target audiences.
  • Brochures, pamphlets and posters that can be distributed to members of target audiences.


  • Identify spokespeople to deliver public information seminars that can be held at external venues (e.g., public libraries or city halls).
  • Arrange for live or taped interviews on local television and radio talk shows or public affairs programs.

For more information and assistance on this sub-section, speak to your departmental communications representative.

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