by Kristina Kovačič and Enes Didić (Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and State Property, Croatia)
What is communication?
Communication is of Latin origin (communi – care) and means ‘to share’ or ‘to make something common’. In this sense, communication is the act of transferring information from one place, person or a group to another.
What is a communication plan?
A communication plan enables the sender to effectively deliver information to the people for whom the information may be relevant. The plan identifies the messages to be promoted (what), the target groups (to whom), and the channels through which the messages can be communicated (how). In short, communication can be approached as something tactically or planned. Not leaving communication to coincidence is of particular importance for policies which do not have powerful legal, regulatory or financial instruments, such as the Territorial Agenda 2030.
The Territorial Agenda 2030 is currently being prepared for endorsement by the responsible ministers, along with the launch of dedicated pilot actions, in December 2020. An important precondition for the successful implementation of the new Territorial Agenda 2030 is high visibility, i.e. effective communication on different channels. A survey carried out during the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU as well as previous analyses, show that one of the main obstacles for achieving the objectives of previous Territorial Agendas (2007, 2011) was a lack of awareness and knowledge of the content of the documents both among policy makers from EU sector policies and planning practitioners. Targeted communication activities could be a major step towards addressing this lack. Hence, the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU engaged in preparing a strategic approach for communication activities and developed the outline of a communication plan. The outline highlights three key elements to be considered: Objectives, target groups, and tools and activities.
Well-designed communication activities can increase the impact of the Territorial Agenda 2030, its objectives and priorities as well as its implementation mechanisms. They are essential for raising awareness and for informing relevant target groups. They can also contribute to engaging with various stakeholders and to improving their involvement as part of a collective approach towards the objectives of a Just and Green Europe.
To reach the target groups, it is important to identify them, i.e. determine who shall be reached through communication activities. The unique characteristics, needs and motivations, should be reflected when working on a communication plan. For the Territorial Agenda 2030, two general types of target groups can be distinguished. The core target group consists of stakeholders at EU and national levels who are directly involved in territorial policy making or sector policies with a strong spatial dimension. The wider target group consists of stakeholders at local and regional levels often confronted with the impact of sector policies and implementing territorial policies. In addition, national and European associations representing regional and local interests can be considered relevant because they are important multipliers and catalysts.
Tools and activities
Communication tools and activities are another key aspect of a future communication plan. There are various tools and activities that could be used in conducting communication activities towards target groups. The website (www.territorialagenda.eu) is an established and central tool to inform about the making of the Territorial Agenda 2030. It is important to ensure the maintenance of the website beyond 2020. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and others can also be used. A hashtag (#TerritorialAgenda) can help to find relevant tweets and follow the process over time. Decentralised communication should also be considered, especially to reach out to different communities within single countries. NTCCP and DGTC members can draft short contributions for their own institutional websites and newsletters. In such contributions, they could inform about progress made in the pilot actions, for example. Besides written and online communication, physical or virtual events could be organised. Relevant events could be related to existing formats such as the European Week of Regions and Cities or ESPON seminars at EU level. They could also be organised by national, regional and local bodies in the framework of Presidencies of the Council of the EU.
The preparation and further development of communication activities are an ongoing and challenging process. This process needs to be ambitious to make a real difference, but also pragmatic to fit into the framework of intergovernmental cooperation. The work started by the Croatian Presidency is currently continued by the German Presidency. It should be further developed by future presidencies, with special focus on informing about the objectives and the implementation activities after the endorsement of the Territorial Agenda 2030 in December 2020. To ensure a strategic approach for communication, it will be important to share communication activities among all partners in the Territorial Agenda process and coordinate targeted efforts between Presidencies and Presidency Trios. A back office or secretariat could help to ensure coordination, consistency and continuity and, this way, contribute to making the Territorial Agenda 2030 a success.