The Hollister Communications Plan Process

Posted on Jan 26, 2017 in Blog, Fundamentals

In 1984, soon after I established Cheney & Company, I attended a fantastic conference session led by Peter Hollister of Hollister, Trubow & Associates. Peter outlined a process for developing a strategic communications plan that makes perfect sense today. Here it is in a nutshell—with only a couple of updates!

One-time participative management meeting

Agree on your school’s position and mission

  • Hint: Include school leadership
  • Hint: Prewrite a positioning statement draft to jump off from

Identify themes and messages

  • Hint: A capsule of your positioning statement

Set communications program goals

  • Hint: Think student and faculty recruitment, philanthropy, neighbor and peer relations

Agree on priority constituencies

  • Hint: Internal audiences need to march to the same drummer. If inside doesn’t believe in the culture, forget reaching outside.
  • Hint: Narrow your primary audiences to 10 or fewer and plan tactics specifically around them

Steps for each priority constituency

Set relationship objectives

  • Hint: This means establishing measurable outcomes
  • Hint: Invite a representative of each audience to work with you on the plan

Identify research needs

  • Hint: What quantifiable and qualitative data searching do you need to get a baseline for today

Develop barriers list

  • Hint: Catalog reasons why your messages aren’t getting across or being accepted

Outline activities and actions

  • Hint: Define how to move people from awareness to information to evaluation to trial to adoption to reinforcement (the famous diffusion process)

Set evaluation standards

  • Hint: Measure the effectiveness of your communications outreach (phone, focus groups)

One-time, participative follow-up meeting

Assign resources

  • Hint: Choose most effective tactics—website, social, email, print, phone, event, etc. for each priority audience
  • Hint: Include staff time and costs

Presentation and adoption

  • Hint: Get buy-in from school leadership


  • Hint: Building consensus and understanding of key players leads to success

Peter said, “One half of positioning is speaking loudly. The other half is living up to it. You have to say five messages a hundred times. They have to be memorable.”

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