Effective Communication

This section provides guidance on ensuring clear and compassionate communication with community members.

Effective communication is a critical part of fostering trusting relationships with community members. Tailor your communication approaches to the needs and interests of your community while following general principles for clear and compassionate communication. When developing documents for the community, be sure to follow guidelines for plain language and clear communication. Remember that the information you need to communicate is often technical in nature, yet most community members are not technical specialists. Health assessors should write clearly without sacrificing accuracy.

To determine the level of concern in the community about the potential contaminant exposure, use the Community Concern Assessment Tool pdf icon[PDF – 69.4 KB].

Your site health communication specialist can help you incorporate clear writing principles in your documents. Community engagement specialists, technical writers, and community members can also review your written materials and provide feedback. This will help ensure that your communications are clear and your messages are understood by the target audience.

In addition to written communication, you also will be communicating verbally. Keep in mind that a number of community members often will, understandably, have strong feelings and opinions about the site. Communication is not only the exchange of information, but just as importantly, it involves listening to, understanding, respecting, and responding with compassion to the feelings and concerns of community members.

Steps to Ensure Effective Communication Planning

These steps can facilitate communication planning:

  1. Review the site and community background information and identify communication challenges.
  2. Develop communication objectives.
  3. Develop a community profile.
  4. Develop key messages, talking points, and Q&As.
  5. Develop a communication plan for sites or topics that are identified as high priority/high visibility.
  6. Implement communication strategies.
  7. Evaluate your communication efforts.

Public health professionals and other experts have developed nine basic principles for engaging communities. Incorporating these principles throughout the PHA process will help build trust and credibility between the ATSDR site team and the community.

Principles of Community Engagement

The Principles of Community Engagement – Second Edition is a resource that describes nine principles to help public heath assessors and others form effective partnerships and successfully engage communities.

CDC's Health Communication Gateway

CDC’s Health Communication Gateway is a one-stop shop for health communicators provides resources for writers, suggestions for outreach channels, and tools and templates.

ATSDR Communication Toolkit

The ATSDR Communication Toolkit provides customizable tools for simplifying communication and responding to different levels of community concern.

Page last reviewed: April 14, 2022