Considering effective communication with all stakeholders is absolutely fundamental to a project’s success, the development of a communication plan is often among the first tasks to be dealt with. A BRIDGE program management plan would always include such a plan – which documents all aspects of communicating with stakeholders during the life of the program.
Keeping in contact with relevant organisations, both formally and informally, is necessary for any BRIDGE program. The reporting requirements will often be spelt out in a written agreement. Informal exchanges of views are also important to maintain goodwill between organisations.
Stakeholders need to be ‘kept in the picture’; they need a copy of the product and should be invited to the opening and closing of the workshop. They should be sent newsletters or progress reports including regular updates on developments, successes, evaluations, feedback, recommendations, and changes to the program. While they may not always require formal written reports, they will still need to be kept informed on a regular basis.
Formal meetings are one important aspect of communication and can, if not correctly managed, result in a waste of time, money and energy. Certain meetings play a structural or process role in projects, for example, the inaugural meeting that is required at project launch. Other meetings include design reviews and periodic progress reviews. The project manager should know what meetings are required, when they are required and how they should be conducted.
Ultimately, the client organisation, donors and implementers need a record of the process, spelling out outcomes and achievements. They should, therefore, be provided with written reports on an agreed regular basis (weekly, monthly or at particular milestones). Such reports should always be honest and accurate, covering both positive achievements and developments, and any significant challenges.
There may be sponsors who are not directly involved in the conduct of the workshops, but who need to be kept informed and given progress reports. This would probably happen automatically, but should be the regular initiative of the organisers of the program or the program manager. Similarly, clients need to be regularly kept abreast of developments, with written reports and updates.
Information management and documentation
Because programs generate and absorb significant quantities of information, it is important that an effective information management system be in place. The purpose of such a system is to manage the means that allow information to be effectively acquired, stored, processed, accessed, communicated, and archived.
There should be a valid audit trail of this communication process. Generally, computer-based technology can significantly impact the effective management of information. Ensuring that a comprehensive, valuable information systems plan is available for the program as a whole should be an important responsibility of the program manager.
Information distribution involves making needed information available to program stakeholders in a timely manner. It includes implementing communication management plans as well as responding to unexpected requests for information.
Apart from formal written progress reports, information management of a general nature is a core role for the organisers of a BRIDGE program. As emphasised throughout this manual, it is strongly recommended that all documentation be forwarded to the BRIDGE Office.
It is also recommended that all electronic data relating to the BRIDGE program be periodically backed-up and files emailed (or sent) to the BRIDGE Office. Also refer to 7.2 Transition: Reporting, Documenting and Updating BRIDGE for guidelines as to what documents should be sent.
Where a media campaign is launched to publicise a specific BRIDGE program, all stakeholders should be consulted to ensure coordination of efforts, which, in turn, would translate into consistency of messages. Any media interviews should preferably be undertaken by local facilitators or participants.
Journalists in most countries are trained to write stories in an ‘inverted pyramid’ style, starting with a lead paragraph that conveys the essence and essential facts of the story, which is then developed in detail in subsequent paragraphs. Aside from making it clear to the reader from the outset what the story is about, this also allows the item to be cut from the bottom upwards, without losing its essence. Such a technique should, as a whole, also be used when drafting press releases.