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Western Regional Strategy Committee Strategic Communications Plan 2017-2018 A blueprint for effective internal and external communications to encourage meaningful engagement and implementation of the Cohesive Strategy.


WESTERN REGION NATIONAL COHESIVE WILDLAND FIRE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN 2017-2018 TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction .......................................................................................... 2 Plan Summary....................................................................................... 3 Purpose ................................................................................................. 4 Strategic Communications Planning ................................................. 5 Situational Analysis ............................................................................... 5 Vision Statement and Guiding Principles .......................................... 6 WRSC Communications Goals ........................................................... 7 Desired Outcomes ............................................................................... 7 Current Tools and Methods ................................................................ 8 Strategies and Actions 2017-2018 ..................................................... 9 Monitoring ............................................................................................. 12 Conclusion ............................................................................................ 12 Appendix A ........................................................................................... 13


INTRODUCTION The Federal Land Assistance and Management and Enhancement Act of 2009 (FLAME Act) called for the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy and it was finalized and delivered to Congress in April 2014. As the western arm of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy (Cohesive Strategy), the Western Regional Strategy Committee (WRSC) is formally chartered by the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) to facilitate and support the implementation of the Cohesive Strategy across the West. We believe successful implementation of the Cohesive Strategy is dependent on purposeful, effective communications and engagement that lead to greater understanding, acceptance and alignment of the Cohesive Strategy with organizational missions and goals. Effective Communications = Implementation of the Cohesive Strategy Over the past century, all fire was portrayed as destructive and unwanted, with sincere but misplaced focus on removing fire from the landscape. Misunderstanding the role of fire can make collaborative fire and land management more time consuming and difficult, thus endangering human life and health. Our mission is to correct this outdated understanding and misrepresentation of wildland fire, and fire management to the greatest extent possible, and bring support to the collaborative, community-based actions that will reduce fire’s destructive effects. It is not enough for the wildland fire and land management agencies to agree on what actions to take. Support for those actions by communities, environmental groups, elected officials and the public at large is necessary to achieve the vision of the Cohesive Strategy: To safely and effectively extinguish fire when needed; use fire where allowable; manage our natural resources; and, as a Nation, live with wildland fire. The WRSC is driven by this vision as we fulfill our charter to facilitate the implementation of the Cohesive Strategy. Our work throughout 2015 and 2016 has supported WRSC’s belief that our collective, strategic communication with stakeholders is the vehicle by which we facilitate implementation of the Cohesive Strategy. What and how we communicate and interact with stakeholders is our top priority each year and is reflected in our yearly Program of Work. WRSC leadership and members have agreed to make every effort to provide information, increase communication and stimulate dialogue in alignment with this Strategic Communications Plan to help stakeholders in the West learn to live with wildland fire.

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PLAN SUMMARY This WRSC Strategic Communications Plan outlines actionable objectives and an implementation approach to guide communicators and others in designing, preparing and executing strategic communications about the Cohesive Strategy in the West. Communications and outreach work will be conducted throughout 2017-2018 by WRSC members and partners to advance key messages about the philosophy of the Cohesive Strategy leading to progress towards the vision in the context of the three goals – Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe & Effective, Risk-Based Wildfire Response.

OBJECTIVES •

Educate and inform stakeholders about the importance of Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe, Effective, Risk-Based Wildland Fire Response and how collaborative efforts can address and resolve western fire issues, including the ecological benefits and impacts of fire.

Inform and educate stakeholders about the need for understanding risk, the trade-offs associated with risk-based decisions and the willingness to take short-term risks for long-term gains.

Inform and educate stakeholders about wildland fire and how agencies and organizations are working together through collaborative efforts across boundaries and with community engagement to reduce the impacts of wildfires on landscapes and communities.

Create a useful database of information tools and consistent messages about the Cohesive Strategy approach to achieving the vision and goals based on collaboration and best science.

ACTIONS Communications Consistency Ensure consistency in all communications and key messaging, internally and externally in a timely, accurate and proactive manner. •

Continue to conduct ongoing informal analysis of known and potential audiences to create and adapt appropriate messages for internal agency and organizational use as well as external use.

Keep consistent “look and feel” throughout all current and future dissemination methods to promote recognition of the Cohesive Strategy and collaborative efforts to achieve the vision and three goals.

Share progress and accomplishments of Cohesive Strategy implementation.

Stakeholder and Partner Engagement Increase stakeholder and partner engagement in efforts that support Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe & Effective, Risk-Based Wildland Fire Response. •

Develop relationships with partners and stakeholders through face-to-face interactions.

Provide consistent information and messaging to partners and stakeholders for use in internal agency and organizational communications about the Cohesive Strategy.

Maximize and leverage campaigns by partners to strengthen messages across agencies and organizations where possible.

Technology •

Utilize multiple technologies (current and future identified) to enhance the delivery of all communications.

Research and implement new methods and technology to increase accessibility and viewership of communications messaging. 3


PURPOSE The purpose of the WRSC Strategic Communications Plan is to build on the past success of regional communications efforts and provide an outline for the communication and outreach activities of the WRSC that lead to greater understanding, acceptance and alignment of the Cohesive Strategy with organizational missions and goals. This plan will be implemented as outlined below throughout 2017-2018. A Communications Framework to support the Cohesive Strategy at the national level was published in April 2014 to provide communication guidance and support to agencies, organizations, stakeholders, and interested individuals involved in implementing and institutionalizing the Cohesive Strategy. National communication objectives for institutionalizing the vision, goals and national direction from the Cohesive Strategy include: •

Increase knowledge of the goals, guiding principles, core values and national priorities in fire and land management organizations and expand other stakeholder knowledge and understanding;

Improve stakeholder and public knowledge of wildland fire fundamentals;

Mobilize higher education and extension resources to provide opportunities for stakeholders to improve their collaboration knowledge and skills;

Improve and expand communication between scientists, program managers, specialists, and stakeholders implementing the Cohesive Strategy to ensure that the best science and proven professional practices are used;

Promote evidence and local knowledge-based wildland fire prevention communications and education;

Encourage and support a continuous, rolling and collaborative dialog among stakeholders and across regions to enhance shared understanding, roles, mutual trust and willingness to pool resources and take joint actions.

As a subcommittee of the Wildland Fire Leadership Council, the WRSC regularly reports to and interacts with members of the WFLC and its National Strategic Committee (NSC). Continuous dialogue at this level is critical to the continuity and consistency with the national implementation efforts and communications strategies. The WRSC also regularly networks with and participates in the efforts of the Northeast and Southeast Regional Strategy Committees to align with implementation and communications efforts that cross-geographical boundaries and landscapes. This WRSC Strategic Communications Plan details the specific strategies and tactics to further those efforts on a regional and local scale. This plan includes communications and outreach work to be conducted throughout 2017-2018 by the WRSC Coordinator and WRSC members, including Senior Regional Leadership and Western Collaborative Advisory Team (WCAT) members, and partners to advance key messages about the philosophy of the Cohesive Strategy leading to meaningful progress towards the vision of the Cohesive Strategy in the context of Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe & Effective, Risk-Based Wildfire Response.

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This document is intended to be a living tool to support the Cohesive Strategy implementation efforts of the WRSC. Overall success is shaped by the quality of the WRSC’s communication efforts and stakeholder involvement. Effective communications and outreach are the essential ingredients to achieving success at every level of implementation across the West. WRSC communications are strategic, proactive and continuous.

STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLANNING “Strategic Communications” means using organizational communications to create, strengthen or preserve, among key audiences, attitudes and beliefs favorable to achieve organizational goals. The purpose of strategic communications planning is to define strategic, actionable goals, and an implementation approach, to guide communicators and others in designing, preparing and executing strategic communications. A strategic communications plan will: •

Reflect the culture of its organization and its style of communication,

Facilitate the prioritization and implementation of strategic communication programs and actionable goals,

Define substantive and operational communication approaches and the resources available to implement them.

SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS The WRSC is well positioned to contribute to emerging and existing collaborative efforts across the West and nationally within agencies, Tribes and other land management-interested organizations. This is due in part to the WRSC membership, which is diverse in knowledge and expertise and has broad outreach potential and spans of influence within a variety of networks and organizations. These efforts are coming about as a result of collaborative leadership and in response to science-based information about threats to natural resources and emerging strategies to abate these threats. Collaboration and engagement of all stakeholders will allow for and lead to: •

A greater understanding and acceptance of risk,

The prioritized investment of resources, and

A greater collective investment in reducing wildfire risk, and maintaining that reduction.

The WRSC’s alignment with these efforts will afford helpful opportunities to communicate about the value of collaboration across boundaries, community engagement and alignment with the Cohesive Strategy. The WRSC now focuses directly on implementation across agency and landscape boundaries by utilizing existing networks and systems as the vehicles by which the Cohesive Strategy is demonstrated, proven and implemented. 5


Utilizing the Senior Regional Leadership component of the WRSC, we will take advantage of high-level agency and organizational leaders with broad networks and existing systems to foster communications, relationship building and partner engagement to: •

Support regional activities that lead to achievement of the vision and three goals,

Create and foster collaborative environments that include community engagement,

Identify and facilitate removal of barriers, and

Emphasize and share best practices that will reduce overall risk on the landscape, across boundaries.

These will be accomplished by the actions and communications of senior level leaders and other WRSC members across the region, within their own agencies and organizations. This level of support and facilitation will be critical to implementation of the Cohesive Strategy across the West.

VISION STATEMENT & GUIDING PRINCIPLES Vision Statement Through effective communications, the WRSC is committed to excellence in both its internal and external communications – adapting to changes in communication practices, emerging media, methods and technologies while reviewing messages and audiences in variable communication contexts – to achieve greater understanding, acceptance and alignment of the Cohesive Strategy with organizational missions and goals. Guiding Principles

We embrace the responsibility to communicate effectively with stakeholders.

We provide timely, accurate, and complete information to stakeholders.

We standardize the form and appearance of our communications so stakeholders can easily recognize our messages and information.

We strive to deliver consistent messages based on current information and best science.

We continually identify and refine key messages to share about achieving the vision and three goals.

We utilize a variety of methods to communicate most effectively with all target audiences.

We focus our time and resources on the most effective methods of communication that can be provided directly by the WRSC Coordinator, WRSC members and partners.

We continue to seek new opportunities and tools to communicate with our stakeholders.

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WRSC COMMUNICATION GOALS The goal of the Western Region’s communication effort is to increase understanding of, support for, and ultimately, implementation of the goals and vision of the Cohesive Strategy by all stakeholders through consistent messaging and targeted outreach activities. Educate and inform stakeholders about the importance of Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe & Effective, Risk-Based Wildland Fire Response and how collaborative efforts can address and resolve western fire issues, including the socio-economic and ecological benefits and impacts of fire. Inform and educate stakeholders about wildland fire and how agencies and organizations are working together through collaborative efforts to reduce the impacts of wildfires on landscapes and communities. Inform and educate stakeholders about the need for understanding risk, the trade-offs associated with risk-based decisions and the willingness to take short-term risks for long-term gains. Create a body of information that can be utilized by anyone to disseminate useful information about the Cohesive Strategy approach to Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe & Effective, Risk-Based Wildland Fire Response based on collaboration and best science.

DESIRED OUTCOMES Although we will measure the specific actions on page 11 as achievement under this Plan, it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of a communications strategy when the core outcomes are changes in behaviors and attitudes, and cultural shifts. That said, the implementation of this strategic communications plan will contribute to the following outcomes: •

Agencies, organizations and stakeholders will understand the Cohesive Strategy as a whole and continue to support the vision and goals of Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe & Effective, Risk-Based Wildland Fire Response.

The numbers of stakeholders actively engaged in making progress towards the vision and goals will increase.

Regional and local stakeholders will serve as advocates of the Cohesive Strategy.

The number of positive discussions, articles and media mentions about the Cohesive Strategy and/or demonstrations of its implementation will increase.

The number of collaborative projects to reduce wildfire risk will increase.

Public information and public education campaigns by stakeholders will seek to: o Increase awareness of fire’s role in wildland ecosystems and its contribution to the many benefits wildland ecosystems provide. o Encourage communities to adapt to wildfire in their environments to live safely and successfully with fire. o Encourage the broadening of organizational missions to include and improve fire 7


education, fire prevention, hazard mitigation, community engagement, and other wildland fire and land management approaches. o Increase open, two-way communication externally and internally. o Deliver strong and consistent messages that reinforce and reflect the goals of the Cohesive Strategy. o Generate opportunities for stakeholders to tell their stories rather than rely exclusively on others to interpret their actions, issues and decisions.

CURRENT TOOLS AND METHODS The Western Regional Action Plan Addendum directs us to identify and develop community collaborative information needs. Target stakeholders have been identified for specific messaging needs. The table in Appendix A will assist the WRSC to continue to develop key messages and methods of communications appropriate for each of the target stakeholder groups. Effective communication can be tailored to the interests and needs of different audiences. There are multiple successful examples of robust communications activities that have been established since the release of the Western Regional Action Plan in April 2013. The current Communications Toolbox for facilitating implementation of the Cohesive Strategy includes the following:

WRSC Meetings – Through monthly strategy conference calls, individual meetings with the Coordinator and task group calls, members and partners receive information/make decisions about the regional effort and are expected to carry this dialogue forward to their specific agencies and organizations for further dissemination.

Learning Laboratories – Facilitation of focused, interactive shared learning opportunities specific to a geographic area and/or topic designed to illicit peer-to-peer learning in the context of Cohesive Strategy.

Targeted Workshops – Facilitation of place-based, interactive workshops about the Cohesive Strategy, how it is being implemented on the ground locally, and how implementation can be advanced through increased collaboration across boundaries with community engagement.

Speaking Opportunities – Individual presentations made by the Coordinator, the Co-Chairs, members and partners. As these presentations occur, a library of materials is archived for future speakers’ use.

Key Messages – Ongoing informal analysis of known and potential audiences to determine and adapt key messages for strategic communication – tiered to the challenges and strategies outlined in the National Strategy, WFLC’s Strategic Priorities and relevant social science.

Newsletters – The WRSC electronic newsletter was established in July 2013 and is published at least once per month. Stories highlight specific examples of success relating to implementation of the Cohesive Strategy, to encourage similar behaviors across the West. An archive of past newsletters is kept at http://westerncohesivestrategynewsarchive.blogspot.com.

Regional Website - http://westerncohesivefirestrategy.blogspot.com was established in June 2014 to share stories and information related to Cohesive Strategy implementation on a frequent, informal basis. The site also serves as a discussion site for members and stakeholders. The site

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interactive, allowing users to comment on stories and post items of interest to the group. All communications drive users to this site. •

National Website – The main website for the national Cohesive Strategy effort is www.forestsandrangelands.gov. This website hosts several Forest Service initiatives, of which the Cohesive Strategy is just one. It includes the National Cohesive Strategy page with supporting pages for success stories, foundational documents, and regional efforts. The National Website is not interactive, but it hosts information relating to the goals and development of the Cohesive Strategy.

Western Region Page on National Website – The Western Region has a dedicated page above at: http://www.forestsandrangelands.gov/strategy/Regional_Strategy_Committees/West/index.shtml and is linked directly to the regional page described above.

Brochures – The Western Cohesive Wildland Fire Strategy brochure is available for download and printing from the Western Regional website above. A National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy brochure is also available on the Communications Tools page of the national website. These brochures complement each other and are appropriate for groups and individuals seeking historical and general information about the Cohesive Strategy effort.

Social Media – The Facebook and Twitter accounts represent the national effort, with all regions contributing information and posts. They enable interaction and the quick dissemination of messages.

Digital Library – The digital library is a growing file, currently located at http://westerncohesivefirestrategy.blogspot.com where viewers can retrieve collections of success stories, communications materials, presentation materials, helpful guides, etc. The library also links to other resources including Fire Adapted Communities, Ready, Set, Go! and Firewise websites.

E-Mail Lists – Several mailing lists exist with thousands of addresses for the Western Region and are utilized for all communications not specific to WRSC membership. The lists grow as new stakeholders engage.

STRATEGIES AND ACTIONS 2017-2018 The WRSC recognizes the depth and importance of communications as the foundation of our task to facilitate implementation of the Cohesive Strategy in the Western Region. The WRSC has achieved great progress to date and will continue its communications efforts to meet the current and future needs and expectations of its membership, stakeholders and partners to implement the Cohesive Strategy and achieve its vision. The WRSC acknowledges that successful communications is dependent on the contributions of all its members. The WRSC Coordinator will be the primary lead for communications efforts and may utilize an ad-hoc task group or contract with appropriate communications and marketing professionals to carry out actions. Resources to implement this Strategic Communications Plan are currently provided through a grant from the US Forest Service through 2018. 9


To meet the WRSC Communications Goals on page 7, this plan focuses on three areas: 1. Communications Consistency 2. Stakeholder and partner engagement 3. Technology Communications Consistency Ensure consistency in all communications and key messaging, internally and externally in a timely, accurate and proactive manner. •

Continue to conduct ongoing informal analysis of known and potential audiences to create and adapt appropriate messages for internal agency and organizational use as well as external use.

Keep consistent “look and feel” throughout all current and future dissemination methods to promote recognition of the Cohesive Strategy and collaborative efforts to achieve the three goals.

Share progress and accomplishments of Cohesive Strategy implementation.

Stakeholder and Partner Engagement Increase stakeholder and partner engagement in efforts that support Resilient Landscapes, Fire Adapted Communities and Safe & Effective, Risk-Based Wildland Fire Response. •

Develop relationships with partners and stakeholders through face-to-face interactions.

Provide consistent information and messaging to partners and stakeholders for use in internal agency and organizational communications about the Cohesive Strategy.

Maximize and leverage campaigns by partners to strengthen messages across agencies and organizations where possible.

Technology Utilize multiple methods and technology (current and future identified) to enhance the delivery of all communications. •

Utilize all current and future identified dissemination methods including: o o o o o o o o o o

WRSC meetings Learning Laboratories Workshops Speaking opportunities Other Face-to-face opportunities Key messages and success stories Newsletters Web interface (blog) Websites Guest posting or blogging on other’s sites/blogs

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o o o o

Brochures & other collateral materials Social media Digital library E-mail distribution

Research and implement new technologies and methods to increase accessibility and viewership about the Cohesive Strategy and the WRSC’s ability to facilitate implementation of it.

Specifically, the WRSC Coordinator will facilitate the following: q Update the WRSC during monthly strategy calls on activities and outreach occurring each month that facilitate the implementation of the Cohesive Strategy, including specific information for dissemination through members/partner networks. q Attend, network and present/share appropriate information (key messages, success stories, etc.) at known and future speaking and face-to-face opportunities such as conferences, workshops, learning laboratories, etc. q Attend, network, present/share key messages and success stories at partner meetings such as the Western State Foresters semi-annual meetings, the FAC Network Annual Meetings, etc. q Informally assess specific needs from stakeholder audiences and develop messages and outreach opportunities as appropriate. q Create and distribute monthly eNewsletter and archive on website. q Regularly update website with new information stemming from activities in this Plan. q Update social media (Facebook and Twitter) at least weekly. q Provide partner organizations with at least three guest articles, information and success stories for their websites, newsletters, blogs and magazines. q Maintain digital library. q Develop/update and publish/print various collateral materials. q Maintain and grow email lists and use to forward information. The members of the WRSC (Senior Regional Leadership and the Western Collaborative Advisory Team) agree to facilitate the following. q Update the WRSC during monthly strategy calls on activities and outreach occurring each month that facilitate the implementation of the Cohesive Strategy, including specific information for dissemination through members/partner networks. q Attend, network and present/share appropriate information (key messages, success stories, etc.) at known and future speaking and face-to-face opportunities such as conferences, workshops, learning laboratories, etc. q Attend, network, present/share key messages and success stories at partner meetings such as the Western State Foresters semi-annual meetings, the FAC Network Annual Meetings, etc. 11


q Distribute monthly eNewsletter and other shared information within their networks and stakeholder groups.

MONITORING The WRSC Coordinator will facilitate the ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of these strategies and activities through a task group organized for that purpose. The task group will also evaluate emerging tools and methods of delivery on an as-needed basis for inclusion in the plan. The task group will revise and distribute an updated plan at least every two years.

CONCLUSION What we as agencies, organizations, Tribes, communities and individuals do with the Cohesive Strategy is completely dependent upon our ability to communicate the philosophy and benefits of collaborative, community-based efforts, based on sound science. The task before us in the WRSC is to be the facilitators of Cohesive Strategy implementation. As stakeholders in the West continue to take action that leads to greater understanding and acceptance of risk, the prioritized investment of resources, a greater collective investment in reducing wildfire risk, they will, as the Cohesive Strategy vision states, ultimately, learn to live with wildland fire. Effective Communications = Implementation of the Cohesive Strategy

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APPENDIX A Generalized Target Stakeholder Audiences for Messaging Public Land Managers & Grantors

Organizing Groups & Standards/Codes

Neighborhood/Community Groups & individuals

(State, federal, regional) State Forestry agencies, National Association of State Foresters, Council of Western State Foresters Federal: Forest Service, US Fire Administration, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Western Forestry Leadership Council

(Administrators and NGOs)

(Local)

Regional land management Tribes

Governors State Emergency Management Divisions and FEMA

Municipal – cities, managers,

Firewise & similar prevention and preparation groups

Counties – Commissioners, Supervisors, Administrators, etc.

FireSafe Councils and local coalitions

Community Development Planners & their professional organizations Developers & their professional organizations Regional groups, The Nature Conservancy, Prescribed Fire Councils, Fire Learning Network, non-governmental organizations, etc. Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project groups and other Forest Collaboratives Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network Hubs Fire Departments & professional organizations Insurance Industry International Association of Wildland Fire, National Association of Counties, Western Governors’ Association, National Wildfire Coordinating Group, regional Coordinating Groups, University Extensions

General public Teachers, University Extension offices Home Owners’ Associations, Road Districts and other organized (or not-alreadyorganized) groups

While not exhaustive, the list in Appendix A illustrates the types of individuals and groups to consider as messages are created and organized for dissemination. It is important to note that some organizations and agencies may fit into more than one group. The Public Land Managers & Grantors Group represents those who are likely to know that fire is essential to fire adapted ecosystems, and may need information about the overall philosophy of the Cohesive Strategy and how partners are working together to increase cooperation and maximize the impact of limited dollars for mitigation and restoration.

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The Organizing & Standards/Codes Group represents those who benefit from the same type of information described above, but have greater interaction with the public and may require more familiarity with resources to act as conveners to address fire related issues. The Neighborhood/Community & Individual Group includes those closest to the landscape that can benefit from specific mitigation and prevention information geared to individuals and residential properties.

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WRSC Strategic Communications Plan 12-1-16  
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