STEP 0 The CCP Foundations: The Strategic Setup

 Lays the strategic groundwork for developing the CCP.
 It makes explicit the cluster’s vision and values; scope of activities and business environment; main topics and goals. Describes the more specific communication’s objectives and aligns both.

Main purpose:
To be clear about why you are launching a CCP.
To build strong agreement on the vision, values and main goals of the cluster and to put in common a cluster communications strategy. At this stage, no opportunity to reinforce the sense of ‘cluster community’ shall be disregarded.
To match and integrate the CCP into the broader cluster strategy. The role and importance you will assign to the CCP is a step forward to its success.
To integrate and give all the cluster related projects, programs and activities a common orientation. It will help the cluster deploy resources more effectively.
By planning for your efforts, you will be positioned to be more proactive, focused and strategic, rather than systematically reactive.

Bullet Points

  • Know and understand your cluster’s strategy, business environment, IC capacity and potential.
  • Describe the cluster’s communication goals.
  • Build leverage and consistency between the cluster’s strategic and communication objectives.
Procedure and requirements:
Invite the CMs (catalyst and rest of cluster partners) to a half a day workshop. Assuming the vision and broad topics/goals of the cluster are already defined, craft the 2-3 communications objectives and strategy for the next 3 months that will contribute the most to their enhancement and achievement.
This material shall be sent to participants with 2-weeks’ time before implementation.
Take 45-60mins to answer in written the questions in Table 1.
At this stage you can already start completing Table A.1, a summary table which gathers all the information generated in the CCP key 0-4 steps in a structured way.

Outputs/ Intended outcomes:
Generate common knowledge and understanding of the cluster’s main strategic issues and reach an agreement on 2-3 communication objectives for the next 6 to 12 months.

The thoroughness of this process is vital for the strategic consistency of the CCP and half the way to its success!

Support material:

Table 1 – Strategic Setup: Matching communication strategy and objectives with cluster’s

Table A.1 – Audience-Message Framework: Matching communication messages and actions with target audiences

STEP 1 Who to Influence: Identifying the Audience

 Step 1 supports the CM in the process of getting to know the cluster’s target audience.
 It helps the CM to identify and prioritise who the target audience(s) is (are) and supports him/her in finding the best strategy to reach each audience group.
 ‘Identifying the audience’ is a necessary previous step to focusing on the key message.

Main purpose:
To understand the difference between ‘target audience’ and ‘target’.
To be prepared to produce a tailored and more effective message. A thorough audience identification process will help you frame the message.
To support the formulation of the best strategy to reach your audience groups. Placing yourself in the skin of your target audience is half the way to an effective message and a successful communication plan.
To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your communication flows.

Bullet Points

  • Defining your target audience requires that you have clear communication goals.
  • Identifying who the target is may not be that apparent or immediate process.
  • Getting to know the audience (what drives it), is both a technical and sensitive issue.
  • Prioritise your audiences and enhance the CCP’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Procedure and requirements:

This Step (together with Steps 2 and 3) could perfectly take the second half of a CCP workshop.
This stage can also be delivered, discussed and agreed online (e.g. CCP forum) (possibly not in the initiation phase).

Outputs/ Intended outcomes:

A prioritised list of target audiences and their specified profiles.
Better focused RC measures and indicators. By prioritising your target audiences you will also be improving the impact and the return of your cluster actions and the cluster’s IC.

Identifying your audiences will point you to specific content for your message and to the best method for delivering your message!

A brief note on the concept of ‘Target Audience’ and ‘Target’

To know how to reach a certain group of interest, first you might know who to reach. Your target audience (or just audience) is the individuals, groups, communities and bodies of decision makers who can influence your target. Your target is the individual or individuals who have direct decision-making power over the issue your cluster is working to address.
Defining the target audience requires that the cluster and particularly the people directly involved in the cluster’s communication strategy have made clear its goals, and are convinced of the value of its proposal and actively committed to it. You should be aware that the moment the cluster has decided to take a leap out of its comfort zone and reach potential partners (target) it will be automatically extending its tights, but also projecting an image and deepening its commitment with the initiative. Building credibility is a delicate and fine-tuning process, especially critical for the nascent cluster.
Sometimes your target audience is the target and sometimes it is not; they do not necessarily coincide. Differentiating and identifying both is a crucial previous step to build an effective and compelling message (Step 2 of the CCP). Go through the short story below about the GrInnANet experience; it may help you make this distinction. Once you are clear about who your audience and target are, and have clear the cluster and communication goals, try to answer the questions of the box on the right. Beware that you may have more than one target audience and target. And also, more than one target audience for the same target!

GrInnANet plans to extend its partnership

It was the mid of April 2011 and the cluster was not going as expected; it was being difficult to fully engage some of the partners. After a meeting of the CM catalyst with the CFT it became evident the cluster needed a turnaround. Besides, GrInnANet was challenged with the opportunity to incorporate a few French companies; they would contribute complementary IC and the necessary dynamics to rekindle the cluster. Before reaching the French companies, GrInnANet needed first to make sure that key –if not all partners, initially – were in board and utterly convinced of the benefits of their integration. So, the next step was to decide who to target and how to build consensus and support for the initiative. Target: key companies in the anodizing industry of the area of Vic. Target Audience: the president of AFAPIC, the Association of Metals of Catalunya, because he could influence the decision of the target (partner companies from Vic). The CMs of these companies had trustful linkages with AFAPIC based on many years of personal and business relationships, also consequence of their being located in the same region.

Making the distinction between ‘target audience’ and ‘target’ is also important when you are looking for other founding partners at the very beginning of the formation phase.
Initially, you may start by contacting those people within the potential partner organisations whom you know would share your vision and interests or have the (technical) expertise to push the cluster’s goals or specific R&D projects forward (target audience). Certainly, this is a necessary step you should go through but it might not always prove sufficient. To get prepared for a soft take-off you ought to make also sure that this person is entitled to commit the necessary resources (time of staff, budget, know-how) to the cluster’s initiative. Otherwise your cluster could find itself trapped in a sea of immobility and excess of ‘projectism’.

Checklist for identifying your target audience
Ask the following questions of your target audience:

  • Who needs to hear your message?
  • Who has influence over your target?
  • Who must be moved to action so that your goals will be met?
  • Who has the greatest impact on the outcome of your communication efforts?

(‘Projectism’ is the phase, typically at the formation stage, where the development of the cluster is mostly the consequence of the cluster focusing and implementing specific projects (including project planning, management of activities on the project and its outputs.)

Support material:

Table 2 – Audiences identification
Table 3 – Audiences profile

STEP 2 What to Say: Building Key Messages

 Step 2 is a practical guide to help the CM develop consistent and persuasive messages to address the cluster’s target audience.
 Make the CM aware that for a message to be effective the issue must be very clear (what the cluster wants the audience to know about the cluster), but equally important is that it generates in the audience the reaction it was intended to.

Main purpose:
To reach your target audience(s) compellingly –i.e. to mobilise your target audience in the desired direction and to act accordingly.
To fully understand your target audience(s). To this end, first, you might go through a process of empathic and true reflection about your target audience’s needs and wants. (Step 1)
To become aware of what might or might not work with different audiences before extending the message to larger audiences. (Refinement of Message)

Bullet Points

  • Put your cluster under exam –why shouldthe audience care about it?
  • Think of what you really need youraudience to do –keep communicationobjectives in sight.
  • Building effective messages is much of anart. Test and refine the message as manytimes as necessary before final delivery.
Procedure and requirements:
Proceed as in ‘How to get?’ Step 1.
This stage can also be delivered, discussed and agreed online (e.g. CCP forum) (It will depend on the degree of trust between participants –possibly not in the initiation phase).

Outputs/ Intended outcomes:
Strong and compelling messages adequately tailored to each of the specific audiences.
This step, in combination with the previous Step 1, is expected to enhance the social competence and, particularly, the quality of the relational capital of the cluster.
To improve the return of your CCP and the overall cluster’s strategic effectiveness and performance. If the message is not the adequate one, the CCP will hardly deliver its intended outcomes and could compromise the objective of the cluster.

Building a compelling and persuasive message is an art. It demands focus, time and expertise; it is not a one-shot move!

A brief note on building effective and persuasive messages

Messaging is not a one-way avenue of putting information out there for the general public to consume. It’s a two-way process of creating the most effective messages possible and listening to your audiences about what works and what does not. Remember that effective communication assumes an empathic relationship is established between the sender (the cluster) and the receiver (target audience) of the message.
The message needs to be inclusive and informative. Inclusive means that it contains everything necessary for the audience (the receiver) to understand the cluster’s (the sender’s) point. Informational means it is something that the receiver needs to know.
The goal in drafting a key message is to brief, in 1-2 paragraphs (5-8 lines long), the essence of the mission/vision and goals of the cluster, and to offer specific examples of its impact. For instance, especially at the initiation phase, examples of this impact can be individual stories that exemplify (1) behavioural changes observed in the partner companies as a result of the very process of cluster creation (e.g. benefits the cluster has brought to the individual company), or (2) how these changes have enhanced or are aimed to affect the business or behaviours of those with whom the cluster company partners (e.g. indirect benefits the cluster has brought to the stakeholders of the partner company). It is expected however that as soon as the cluster develops and concrete actions/projects bear fruits, these stories turn to focus on the outcomes of successful collaboration experiences.
An effective and persuasive message should have three parts. It should (1) identify the issue and desired change (WHAT the ISSUE is), (2) make it
relevant to the audience (WHY your audience should CARE), and (3) provide an action step that the audience can take (WHAT you want your audience to DO, THINK, or FEEL). Write your message as a complete sentence (no more than two/three). Try to use the most persuasive language and use the word ‘‘you’’ at least once; make sure that the language suits the idea(s) you are trying to convey, is unambiguous and familiar and, above all, reaches your target audience. After you have reflected on these three issues, you may want to answer the questions in the green box, on the right.
The frequency of the message is also of utmost importance. This will depend on the message’s channel and costs, and the specific characteristics and idiosyncrasy of the particular target audience.

An effective message is not built up in one stroke. Developing a persuasive and compelling message is close to an art; it requires expertise and experience and big doses of empathy from the builders.
You may want to take some minutes of your time to browse the video case-studies of the CADIC pilot clusters on In the words of the protagonists you will find vibrant messages about what the cluster initiative has meant for different cluster partners and the benefits it yielded.

Checklist for developing an effective message
Ask the following questions of your message:

  • How large is my audience?
  • What kind of message will they respond to?
  • What kind of information do they need from my organization?
  • What language will better suit my audience?
  • What actions I would like them to take once they have received my message?

Support material:

Table 4 – Building Effective and Persuasive Messages

STEP 3 Choosing Channels:How to Reach your Target Audience

Step 3 addresses how to reach your target audience and helps you in the process of producing the best match between the message (Step 2) and the target audience(s) (Step 1).
Maps and evaluates the channels currently in use by the cluster (cluster companies) and assesses the opportunity of introducing other mechanisms to achieve the objective(s) set in the plan and to better support/enhance IC flows.

Main purpose:
To identify the best way to get the message across to your target audience –e.g. news media, face-to-face, newsletters, email blasts, PDAs, etc. (Channel selection)
To become aware of different alternatives and their potential to reach different audiences –start by evaluating your current communication vehicles.
To increase the effectiveness of the message and the whole CCP.

Bullet Points

  • A wrong channel can spoil the whole process and cause the plan to fail.
  • Assess the effectiveness of the channel(s) currently in use.
  • Last technology-based channels may not always prove the best option –focus on your specific audience and message; avoid saturating the audience.
Procedure and requirements:
Proceed as in ‘How to get?’ Step 1.
This stage can also be delivered, discussed and agreed online (e.g. CCP forum) (possibly not at the initiation phase).

Outputs/ Intended outcomes:
A list of assessed channels or vehicles –i.e. stated effectiveness to convey the message and reach the target audience. This not only will add to the success of the CCP but of the cluster, particularly at the formation stage –the cluster is hardly known and the involvement of new members is key for survival.
Improve the visibility and image of the cluster/company in the market –e.g. for instance, you may avoid saturating the audience by reaching it via the most appropriate channel.
Promote cost-efficient use of current/potential channels.

Building a compelling and persuasive message is an art. It demands focus, time and expertise; it is not a one-shot move!

A brief note on the concept of ‘Channel’ and how to make effective use of them

The channel is the medium through which the message is conveyed. Examples of channels include:

  • Broadcast media outlets: radio and television stations
  • Print media: daily, weekly, monthly publications, as well as trade journals
  • Publicity: Advertising, flyers, posters, banners, similar media
  • Events: community fairs/festivals, street markets, trade shows
  • Email: email newsletters, messages in email
  • Online media: web sites, blogs, forums, podcasts, etc.

Your choice of a dissemination vehicle will be influenced by who your target audience is and what message you intend to address to them. For instance, if your target audiences are website players, you would be willing to develop messages that will suit this communication means.
Do not think that because ‘technology mandates’ the web or similar other tech-apps are always the best way to vehicle your message. Keep your target audience(s) in mind and on sight; they are the objective of your message.
Making effective use of the channel(s)
The field of communication has pointed to the need to utilize a variety of channels – including traditional as much as tech-savvy ones – and to be strong in multiple areas and technologies.
When you use multiple channels to convey a message, you improve the likelihood that it will be much clear and thus much more effective. This is so for two main reasons:

    1. Not all of us have the same ability to absorb information; some may understand best when the message is written –this allows the receiver to read once and again the message.
    2. You increase the chance of reaching your audience since you stimulate a number of different senses in the receiver (an email and call provide sight and sound). Combining different channels to vehicle one same message improves its understanding, thereby contributing to better fix the message in the audience.

Technology has changed audience behaviour in several areas, requiring a fresh approach. In a participatory media world where audiences have come to expect innovation and interactive dialogue, utilizing tech-savvy communications channels becomes essential.

However, you should be especially aware of your audience. There are subtle and cultural aspects of your audience that, if not considered, might render tech-savvy channels completely worthless.
Focus always on your audience! Not because you use more than one channel or cutting-edge technology your message will reach your audience more effectively.

Some technology-push behaviours you shall pay attention to
Ask the following questions of your message:

  • Immediacy – people want information now.
  • Interactivity – people expect to have a dynamic exchange with you and play both roles in the interaction (the target audience is not passive to the message, but rather responds proactively to it).
  • Attention span – people are being saturated with loads of information, and respond by grazing, moving quickly between topics and channels.

Support material:

Table 5 – Channels evaluation

STEP 4 Evaluation: Improving Communication Effectiveness

Step 4 is intended to measure the extent to which the actions undertaken because of the CCP have been successful in achieving the communication objectives.
Although evaluation appears as the final of a succession of other 4 steps starting with the strategic setup, this does not imply that evaluation and the corresponding corrective measures resulting from it should take place necessarily and only at this stage..

Main purpose:
To develop a set of quantitative/qualitative measures to assess the effectiveness/efficiency of the CCP (right target audience; effective message; adequate channels; etc.).
To enable the CM to introduce the necessary corrective actions in the CCP therefore improving the cluster’s communications effectiveness.
To develop and maintain support, trust, and credibility for CCP objectives and measures.

Bullet Points

  • Develop quantitative/qualitative indicators
  • Encourage feedback from key players
  • Make sure agile and flexible mechanisms are in place so that correction actions can be rapidly introduced
  • Learn from your mistakes as well as from your wise move
  • Evaluate the CCP’s effectiveness and the cluster’s overall communication regularly.
Procedure and requirements:
Proceed as in ‘How to get?’ Step 1.
This stage can also be delivered, discussed and agreed online (e.g. CCP forum) (possibly not in the initiation phase).
Encourage feedback from and involvement of all concerned with frequent, accessible avenues for constructive feedback. (Consider the pros and cons of involving other relevant audiences, different from those initially and directly involved in CCP. You may create an Evaluation Team with these ends).

Outputs/ Intended outcomes:
A set of qualitative/quantitative measures for evaluating the CCP success.
Improved communication effectiveness and efficiency –the right identification of the audience, a well-tailored message and the thorough selection of the channel will save the cluster resources and unnecessary misunderstandings.
Improved cluster’s IC –for instance, through enhanced knowledge transfer and relational capital.
Enhanced learning capacity.

The evaluation stage is a learning opportunity! It is a sine-qua-non condition of effective-and-efficient improvement measures for advancing in the management cycle and towards the cluster’s development aims.

A brief note on Evaluation

How we will know we are successful? What measurements shall we use to assess the effectiveness of the CCP?
Evaluation is about giving answers to these questions. Once the cluster has taken communication measures to action, evaluation should follow –i.e. a set of qualitative/quantitative measures (interviews, focus groups, surveys, indicators, etc.) to assess how the CCP is performing.
No communications plan is complete without a built-in evaluation component as a way to check accountability and make improvements over time. Evaluation assists the CM in introducing the necessary corrective actions therefore improving the effectiveness, efficiency and, ultimately, the impact of the CCP.
What to evaluate
As an indicator of what has been carried out, we measure output: number of press releases issued, events held, meetings, etc. Far more important is to measure outcomes: Did communication activities result in any opinion, attitude and/or behaviour change in the targeted audiences?

Go further and measure the effectiveness of the cluster’s relationships with targeted audiences –e.g. “Return on Investment” from communication programs and overall impact indicators of change (communication-related) in the cluster.
Ultimately, however, decisions on ‘what to evaluate’ depend on the specific communication objectives of the cluster as described in the CCP. Table 6 in p.73 gives you a sample of possible issues.
How to evaluate
There are a number of tools that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of a communication plan and its implementation. For a relatively straight-forward analysis and evaluation, you may consider selecting among the questions in Table 6 to form a basis for evaluating your communication plan and results. These questions may be posed in selective interviews, focus groups, or through surveys or observations to gather data.
When the evaluation involves calculations or the gathering of quantitative data –typically the case of output indicators – the CM should indicate a person to be accountable for providing those numbers. What is really important is that the analysis of the numbers as well as the conclusions and further actions emerging from the evaluation are too the result of thorough and informed discussions and agreement by all the involved persons.

Good evaluation criteria (1):

  • Accurate and Unambiguous -clear and accurate relationship exists between criteria and real consequences.
  • Comprehensive but Concise -cover the range of relevant consequences but the evaluation framework remains systematic and manageable.
  • Direct and Ends-oriented -report directly on the consequences of interest and provide enough relevant data to make value judgments.
  • Measurable and Consistently Applied -allow consistent across alternatives.
  • Understandable -consequences and trade-offs can be understood and communicated by everyone involved.
  • Practical -information can practically be obtained (data, surveys, etc.).
(1) Adapted from Keeney, R.L. and Gregory, R.S. (2005).

Finding the right evaluation concepts/indicators to monitor the cluster’s communication activities and assess the effectiveness of the CCP is a dedicated and sometimes painstaking task. Far more challenging is to extract value from the numbers and surveys to really affect and enhance the communications skills and capacity of the cluster.
Also, evaluation will be more credible if the results of the measures (indicators, surveys, focus groups, etc.) are openly and broadly discussed among all those who had a say in the CCP elaboration/implementation. Evaluation results will have the strongest impact, be more useful and better exploited if they are shared and communicated effectively. So said, the CM should ensure that evaluation results are communicated to decision-makers and other relevant cluster’s stakeholders in a clear and transparent manner to facilitate the use of evaluation results.
Last but not least, the evaluation stage –understood in the terms herein described – might add a great deal not only to the communications effectiveness of the cluster but also to the enhancement of the cluster’s learning capacity, social cohesion and overall IC.


Keeney, R.L. and Gregory, R.S. (2005), “Selecting attributes to measure the achievement of objectives”, Operations Research, Vol.53, Iss.1, pp.1-11