An Activity Management Plan is a technical document rather than a bookshop bestseller. But that’s no reason not to communicate its contents with your target audiences.
You can click here if you would prefer to listen to an audio version of this article.
Anyone who writes an activity or an asset management plan (an AMP) for a council actually writes a book. It requires huge effort and is a major achievement. (See writing asset management plans for more advice on this topic.) However, finishing the writing process and getting the official tick from Audit New Zealand is only part of the process … you also want to communicate what’s in it with:
- staff who need to implement it (including the improvement programme) or to align their AMP with yours
- councillors and the senior leadership team, who need to know the implications in terms of how the AMP aligns with your council’s vision and other programmes, as well as risks and costs
- the media and the public, including submitters who want more information about the key projects highlighted in the Long-Term Plan (LTP) consultation document
- iwi, to enable meaningful input on the long-term economic, social, environmental and cultural implications of proposed programmes.
It can be tough to work through all the details of preparing an AMP, then to turn around and write an executive summary about it, as well as shorter, targeted summaries for key audiences. However, given the long and technical nature of an AMP, it’s important to take the time to engage with your different audiences in a format that works for them, and with their level of interest in the document.
Your primary audiences for the executive summary are senior council staff, councillors and Audit New Zealand. Elements to consider including in your executive summary are:
- the purpose, scope and structure of the document
- the strategic context of the AMP (without drowning your audience in lengthy lists of legislation and community outcomes)
- good things about the current situation as well as the upcoming challenges and costs (so that it’s not all doom and gloom)
- big new projects, new approaches and significant decisions to be made (the right debate)
- an overview of the budget.
The art of writing an executive summary is to be specific rather than general, but not get into the weeds of the details (remembering you only have about five pages to work with). You can click here to access my method for writing an executive summary – How to Write an Executive Summary in Three Days.
Once you have written an executive summary you’re happy with, it’s much easier to create the smaller, targeted summaries, and to prepare power point slides to support your discussions with councillors.
How a community engagement plan will help
It’s well worth coming up with a short community engagement plan to share the ideas outlined in your AMP with your target audiences in different and digestible ways. This will help them to provide you with meaningful feedback in a timely way (before the LTP is signed off and it’s too late to reflect their input).
The simplest way to create your community engagement plan is to make a list of the different groups of people who need to know something about your plan, and make a brief note on what information is likely to be of most value to them, as well as the ways to make it available (e.g. as memos, media releases, and website text, audio and/or video). Here are some more details on what to include in a community engagement plan.
Create several different activity management plan summaries
Ideas for selecting the raw material for your targeted summaries:
- for iwi, consider what the implications are for freshwater and coastal environments, or any environmental or community development programmes
- for other council staff, reflect on the overlaps between activity management plans (for example many parks, transport and stormwater management issues are inter-related)
- for residents who may want to submit during the LTP consultation process, consider which of your AMP projects will be highlighted in the LTP, which could be expanded upon in the summary.
The easiest way to create these summaries is to read your executive summary through their eyes, considering the language (which may be able to be further simplified), what content will be of value to them, and then add in any details from the body of your AMP.
Repurpose the text as video and audio versions
Now that you have your key content, you have an opportunity to try out different ways of sharing it. For example, reuse slides from the PowerPoint you created for your live presentation with the councillors as a video with voice over for inclusion on your council’s website. (A recording function is available under ‘slideshow’ in the menu bar of your PowerPoint application.) I made a version of this kind of video for my blog on how to write a community engagement plan. If you’re worried about the technical details, don’t be, as it’s likely your communications team will be able to help with these, so long as you can provide the core content.
Another option is to bring together the executive summaries for all of the AMPs created by your council in one document, as an overview of the council’s plans for the next three to 10 years. This will be particularly useful to councillors and council staff, to quickly gain a whole-of-council perspective on upcoming work programmes.
Once you have compiled this, someone (or several people) in your organisation could read the compiled version aloud, making a MP3 audio recording to publish on the council’s intranet and/or website. (I use Audacity to make recordings of my blog articles.) This will be of particular value to staff with limited time to read documents created by other departments, but with potential to find time to listen to the summaries (or skip to chapters of interest).
You can also create some social media posts using Canva to highlight the public availability of text, audio and video summaries on the council website.
Allocate time for discussing your AMP
By the time you get your asset or activity management plan drafted you are likely to be more than ready to move on to something else. I often feel the same way at the end of such a large project. However, taking the time to actively engage with staff, councillors, iwi and your wider community on the key elements of your AMP will ensure you have meaningful dialogue about the contents of your document.
How to write an Executive Summary
You can click here to access How to Write an Executive Summary in Three Days.