LTER Network embarks on Strategic Communication Plan

Network News Spring 2009, Vol. 22 No. 1
Network News

The LTER Network represents a vibrant scientific community and a vital national resource. Among other discoveries, LTER scientists have unraveled complex problems associated with emergent diseases, invasive species, climate change, and natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Yet, "LTER" is not yet branded (i.e., a household word) in the mind of the public. Clear opportunities exist for better coordinating public communication and outreach across the Network and for improving the dissemination of information to LTER clients and the public.

To enable more effective communication with the public, the LTER Executive Board has asked the Network Office to develop a Strategic Communication Plan for the LTER Network. The plan will incorporate input from all LTER sites as well as advice from the broader community of communication experts. The end product will be a "living" Strategic Communication Plan for the LTER Network. The plan will address:

  1. Who LTER wishes to communicate with
  2. Why LTER wants to communicate with them
  3. What LTER desires to communicate
  4. How the information can be communicated most effectively
  5. When and how often LTER needs to communicate with its stakeholders.

The plan will include:

  • Suggested public communication and outreach tools and products
  • Proposed activities and tasks (e.g., development of an LTER media kit)
  • Timelines, metrics and milestones

It is envisioned that the strategic plan will achieve several outcomes. First, the plan will encourage LTER sites and the Network to become more proactive in seeking publicity for achievements by LTER scientists and educators. Second, findings attributable to LTER site scientists will be increasingly cited in important media outlets (both professional and public), and LTER scientists will increasingly be invited to participate in public decision-making (e.g., providing expert testimony). Third, LTER will achieve greater name recognition throughout the world for the quality of site and Network science. Fourth, the strategic plan will specifically address new ways to employ information technology to engage underserved groups in the research and education activities proposed in the LTER Decadal Plan.

The strategic planning effort will include virtual and face-to-face planning meetings whereby participants assess LTER strengths, barriers and opportunities; identify and prioritize strategies, tactics, and actions; develop timelines, metrics and milestones; and assign responsibilities. The Executive Board and Science Council will review the plan, and it will be revised accordingly. The final plan will be published and broadly disseminated to sites, scientists, and educators where it can serve as a reference and a road map for action.

At this stage, we welcome your engagement in the process. We are especially interested in forming a planning committee that includes LTER communication experts and other stakeholders, as well as nationally recognized experts in both traditional and non-traditional (e.g., podcasts, social networking) communication mechanisms. If you are interested in possibly participating in the planning effort, or you know someone who would make an ideal participant, please send your nominations and/or self-nomination to