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PB Communication and Dissemination

Communication and dissemination are essential parts of the PB process and should be strategically planned ahead. In the context of PB, the term communication means effectively disseminating targeted information for local audiences and acquiring the feedback. In this context, effectiveness means the use of awareness and interest in raising information content when targeting local citizens. Dissemination, in turn, means broadcasting key messages to the identified target groups without expecting the feedback. Prepared by an organizer, information on particular PB steps is sent out to and received by a target group for their awareness raising. Dissemination plays a crucial role in the transparency of PB, for instance, when a society is informed on the results of supported projects or the details of next PB steps.

Within PB, the main idea of communication is to show how a society can benefit from PB, starting from the promotion of potential benefits to multiple audiences and exchanging the information with engaged citizens throughout the cycle of PB. Dissemination usually covers project results only informing on how a society has distributed an available budget share and what are the impacts of participatory decision making. Dissemination also encourages society groups to use developed solutions.

This section reveals various aspects to be considered when setting and implementing the communication strategy of PB processes. The selection of study materials is presented here, however a complete Guideline of a Communication and Dissemination strategy can be found here.

Major Steps Within a Communication and Dissemination Strategy

Framework for achieving specific goals of PB

The Types of Communication

What needs to be integrated into PB communication

Stakeholder analysis (models)

Steps to identify and better approach stakeholders of the PB process

Establishing a strategic partnership

Practical steps and examples for creation

The design of the key messages

How to customize communication and dissemination messages

Visual identity

Examples of unique visual identities of PB

Communication Channels and Tools

Principles to be followed for selection


Aspects of internal, external and inter-institutional communication


Systematic collection of data during the PB implementation


Methods for data collection for PB evaluation

Additional materials

Major Steps Within a Communication and Dissemination Strategy

A Communication and Dissemination Strategy constitutes a framework for achieving specific goals of PB, depending on the needs of local societies. The strategy defines the focus areas of necessary intervention (according to priorities of a municipality), target communities, which need to be supported, the main principles and objectives of PB. Based on that, a detailed operational Communication and Dissemination plan (CDP) is developed to reach the objectives of a Communication and Dissemination Strategy.

The following steps for working out a consistent Communication and Dissemination Strategy are to be taken by municipalities regardless of a region, size, industrial specialisation, and other specifics:

  • Setting up communication objectives allow to establish directions and define expected results and impacts.
  • Identification and selection of local target groups is necessary to efficiently match PB activities with citizens potentially interested in the results, especially those less active in a civic participation.
  • Establishing a strategic partnership with local organizations, businesses and individuals directly and indirectly involved in work with citizen target groups to mobilize resources and support.
  • Identification of major barriers – necessary for envisioning potential challenges and properly preparing to overcome them.
  • The design of the key messages has to be carefully managed to ensure clarity, continuity, and diversity of delivered information.
  • The selection of communication and dissemination channels and tools – necessary to deliver prepared information to the target groups, taking into account their habits and the ways of acquiring information.
  • The coordination of communication and dissemination activities means the employment of planned information exchange via tools, methods, channels, and human resources to reach set objectives.
  • Monitoring and evaluating of communication and dissemination activities – necessary to assess the quality and relevance of implemented communication and dissemination activities to evaluate effectiveness and a short-term impact of PB.
  • Feedback communication is significant to demonstrate respect and appreciation towards participants' contributions and convey positive impacts of their participation.
  • Impact measurement needs to be managed to evaluate success and failure experiences to improve further steps or cycles of PB.

Encountered with scientific theories and practical examples, the Guidelines of a Communication and Dissemination Plan developed by the EmPaci project team describe each of the steps in detail.


Versions in the partner languages can be found in the Orgware materials” (à Link to Orgware (see start Menu, on the top right hand side))

The Types of Communication

It is widely known that individuals perceive information in different ways, therefore several types of communication are necessary to be integrated into PB communication. Different typologies exist, but generally there are 4 types of communication which are distinguished: verbal (oral), verbal (written), visual and non-verbal communication. Sometimes visual communication is recognized as a subcategory of verbal and written communication, due to the employment of written (printed) symbols.

In verbal communication words are used in delivering intended messages in an oral or a written form. These two differ by a form, as oral communication is used during presentations, video conferences, phone calls, meetings and private conversations, but a written form - in paper and e-documents, e-mails, chats etc. It is widely applied in both physical and digital environments, allowing PB process leaders to communicate with citizens during municipality meetings and online webinars talking about any stage of PB. Written communication provides the record of information for reference and is shared through pamphlets, blogs, letters, memos, posters and more, combining it with visual content.

As citizens have different learning styles, visual communication might be more helpful for some to consume ideas and information. Visual communication is seen as a valuable source for citizen engagement, as in a dynamic information exchange, visual communication supports verbal and often helps to memorize, turn attention to something or highlight the attitudes towards topics, especially if integrated into written verbal communication. This type of information includes signs, sketches, charts, graphs, multimedia, maps, colours etc. and is of special importance for people who better perceive visual content (compared to long structured texts or orally communicated messages).

Another type of communication is non-verbal, that constitutes the use of body language, gestures, and facial expressions to convey information to others. It can be used both intentionally and unintentionally. Non-verbal communication helps to understand others’ thoughts and feelings, therefore oral verbal communication used together with non-verbal should always focus on matching both for maximizing the effect. For example, if “closed” body language (crossed arms or hunched shoulders) is demonstrated by a speaker, the most engaging and positive oral message can fail in delivery, if a speaker is obviously feeling anxious, angry, or nervous. If citizens as recipients are displaying “closed” body language, the message should be adapted to the citizens’ needs for security or peace. When speaking to the citizens who look positive and open to new information, the certain levels of specific details can be provided instead of justifying a topic, and vice versa.

When planning a communication strategy, it is suggested to use all of the proposed communication types combined and integrated into diverse activities. As previously stated, some may better perceive visual information, some turn specific attention to non-verbal communication, some appreciate structured written information that can be reused again. To reach a maximum of target groups, especially those less active in the terms of PB, communication should include all types, both in physical and online environments.


Bright Hub Project Management Three Different Types of Communication: Verbal, Nonverbal & Visual, 2010, source:


Stakeholder analysis (models)

There are various stakeholders within the PB process. A Stakeholder is a person or an organisation, who is involved with an organization, a society etc. and therefore has responsibilities towards it and an interest in its success. The stakeholders of PB are: governing bodies (municipalities and affiliated entities, the government), local citizens, industry representatives, educational institutions, NGOs, the individuals of a municipality, as well as external organisations that have a particular interest in the implementation of PB. Each particular PB process requires a stakeholder analysis, that includes three sequenced steps:

  1. The identification and naming of all possible stakeholders to engage. These are target groups (formal or non-formal) and individuals and organisations, who have the power to influence, encourage or stimulate particular target groups (opinion leaders), as local NGOs, business entities, public institutions (municipalities universities, schools, public services etc.), non-formal groups of citizens, individuals and others.
  2. The analysis of all identified stakeholders. The target groups of involvement depend on local needs (priorities), the objectives of PB, network groups and available resources. The specific criteria for the selection of major stakeholders have to be applied while performing a stakeholder analysis. Two stakeholder mapping techniques (Improvement Service; Harwinder, 2019) are introduced as follows:

    The Power-Interest Matrix

    The Power-Interest Matrix introduces a stakeholder mapping technique based on their decision-making power and interest, which allows to categorise them. Stakeholders with high power and high interest require to be engaged regularly, whereas stakeholders with low power and low interest do not require regular and detailed communication, however, should also not be neglected (as the least motivated groups: youth, elderly, unemployed).

    Power-Interest Matrix

    Within PB, stakeholders with low interest and recognized low decision-making power should be kept informed to raise their interest and willingness to impact decision making.

    Another classification is presented by the Salience Model, which introduces three dimensions of a stakeholder assessment.

    The Salience Model

    Three dimensions of legitimacy, power and urgency are used in the Salience model to identify eight specific types of stakeholders. Three latent types (dormant, discretionary, demanding) are the stakeholders, who possess only one of three attributes mentioned previously. They are recognized as the least interested ones, having a “passive” stance to the process and need to be monitored over time. Discretionary stakeholders are the least requiring in terms of attention, as they do not really have a power nor demanding a need, for instance, schools, hospitals or charity organisations that receive necessary support. Demanding stakeholders that may create a “noise” and be irritants, but the lack of power and legitimacy (moral, legal authority or the like) will not make them “dangerous” for the process. Dormant stakeholders do not require active engagement, however need to be recognized, as may become “dangerous” if their needs are not met. Dangerous means readiness to sabotage or make trouble and negatively influence the image of PB, therefore dangerous stakeholders should be the objects of special attention and risk mitigation strategies. Dependent stakeholders lack the power, but have legitimacy and urgency, meaning they rely on more “powerful” stakeholders (e.g. NGOs, associations etc.) and can be easily influenced by those. Dominant stakeholders are those, who are powerful and legitimate, called as “the stakeholders that matter”, and need to be actively engaged and managed, for instance, municipal entities, associations of municipalities and policy makers. Definitive stakeholders are powerful, legitimate and have an urgent need, demanding the utmost attention in a timely manner. Not managed properly, these stakeholders can become “dangerous”. The last type of stakeholders constitutes those recognized as non-stakeholders, that don’t need to be involved.

    The Salience Model

    Applying Power-Interest strategies, the most attention-requiring stakeholders within PB are those definitive (have to be managed closely), dominant and dangerous (have to be kept satisfied). Dependent stakeholders have to be kept informed, dormant, discretionary, and demanding ones – monitored on a constant basis to ensure effectiveness of PB.

    Different strategies should be applied when communicating and disseminating information to distinct profile stakeholders.

  3. Find the common needs and interests among the different stakeholders. To make communication and dissemination as efficient as possible, the common needs and interests of mapped stakeholder groups need to be identified and strategic partnerships developed, if relevant. To identify the needs and merge target groups, that have common interests, the needs assessment is recommended to be conducted within each particular municipality.

Establishing a strategic partnership

A strategic partnership is an arrangement between two organizations to help each other or work together to make it easier for each of them to achieve their goals. If more than two organisations are involved in PB (e.g., municipality and different NGOs), a strategic partnership is of high importance. Strategic partners support municipalities in arranging and distributing information on PB activities across their networks, helping to reach those less interested in a policy and citizen participation. A strategic partnership (incl. partnerships on an inter-institutional level) can bring a great value to communication and dissemination activities when properly planned and managed.

There are a few practical steps with examples for creating a new strategic partnership:

  1. Identify potential partners - organizations, institutions, business entities and individuals - directly and indirectly involved in work with targeted citizen groups for the implementation of your Communication and Dissemination Plan. To establish sustainable partnerships, the database of potential local strategic partners should be developed, and their possible roles identified, taking into account their audience, resources and networks. Information of possible networks of partners should be assessed, including asking potential partners for recommendations on planned activities and other stakeholders to involve.
  2. Identify common interests of identified stakeholders - (win-win points) to ensure their commitment and active support will be driven by their motivations and the partnership will bring real benefits to the target groups they represent. Each of partner-organisations should be contacted in advance, explaining their expected involvement and benefits from supporting communication and dissemination processes.
  3. Document the arrangement of partnership - in a written form (e.g., a detailed agreement, a declarative memorandum) to oblige involved partners to engage according to agreed terms and PB stages.
  4. Set common and individual communication and dissemination tasks and expected results - individual goals and responsibilities will depend on what targeted groups are represented by partners and what are their resources. Some may agree to share information in own social media, some may be directly involved in the design of promotional materials.
  5. Improve Communication and Dissemination Plan - engage partners in a discussion and the improvement of a Communication and Dissemination Plan, as they know their represented target groups best. The final plan can serve as a basic guide for planning and managing your partnership.
  6. Quantify goals -To quantify goals the performance indicators should be used and adapted for local needs.
  7. Provide publicity to this collaboration - Use every opportunity to make information on PB significant and visible.

Additionally, a successful partnership can serve the quality improvement goals, not limiting to communication and dissemination only. Academic partners can be attracted to improve the capacity of a PB implementation team. Municipality representatives receive valuable data-based information on PB, while researchers from universities and research institutes gain a direct access to respondents and data.

More can be found here.

The design of the key messages

Taking into consideration particular needs of citizen groups (acknowledged during the needs analysis) and risks that may occur in relation to each of target groups, customized communication and dissemination messages should be developed. It involves adopting several communication types, paying attention to the content, form, and visual identity, online and offline.

There are basic steps for developing key communication messages that raise awareness and interest in PB:

  1. conceptualizing an idea about PB;
  2. identifying challenges that PB will be trying to solve at a local level;
  3. conceptualizing the impact of these challenges for local citizens;
  4. providing feedback as a part of two-way communication.

Communication content must be relevant. Messages must explain what will change from the implementation of PB and what solutions and benefits (e.g., economic, environmental, social) PB is offering for local citizens. These messages must be properly adjusted to meet specific needs and characteristics of each specified target group. Messages must be positive (to create a positive attitude), persuasive, clear, simple, focused, relevant for target groups and must be expressed in a form that raises awareness and interest depending on the type of an audience to which it is addressed. The languages addressing distinct groups may differ, as youth prefers less formal communication while elderly people would require a more formal tone. Also, if PB aims to reach different linguistic groups (e.g., ethnic minorities, refugees), relevant translations should be used accordingly.

Also, the messages should be appropriate to the particular stages of PB. Citizens need to be informed about particular stages and the ways they can contribute at the beginning of PB, stating the timeframe, processes and rules. There is no need to focus particularly on the criteria of the projects to be submitted by the citizens before a citizens’ needs analysis is carried out. The procedures of voting should also be explained just before the voting phase starts, not at the beginning of a campaign. This avoids overwhelming citizens with unnecessary and confusing information and allows to focus on specific tasks (e.g., submitting applications, analysing proposed projects, voting etc.).

The questions to answer during communication and dissemination

While creating the key messages (whether on a webpage, a poster, or social media), the main point is to be creative, concise and precise.

The online poster of PB in Kraków, Poland

The messages should be easily understandable: why citizens should participate, where they can do it, what benefits are offered, what PB is about etc., and include visual identity to be “catchy”.

Other examples can be explored in the Guidelines of a Communication and Dissemination Plan.

Visual identity

Visual identity is a crucial element of PB communication and dissemination, as it allows PB to be recognized and trusted each time civic participation is required. The very basics of each PB (similarly to any project or initiative that requires the participation of a large audience) include: colours, fonts, logos, slogans, graphic elements, photographs, and other visual attributes that make information to stand out and attract.

Each municipality is recommended to have unique visual identity of PB, similarly to how identities of each municipality websites differ. The usage of the same visual identity for years will attract more citizens and demonstrate sustainability of democratic participatory processes and increase trust of citizens.

Visual identity should not limit to a logo only. It should be present on all materials communicated and disseminated internally (within organisations or partnership) and externally. Even simple lines or ornaments of specific colours can make presentation templates, banners, samples, letter forms, specific disclaimers, and other information forms distinctive and memorable.

Visual identity of Bielsko-Biała municipality, Poland

More advanced visual identity strategies include the design of storylines, for instance, making the sets of photographs or graphics, involving stakeholders into the promotion of specific PB initiative or its idea in general.

The PB Project campaign on Facebook

While creating the key messages (whether on a webpage, a poster, or social media), the main point is to be creative, concise and precise.

Lahti municipality’s #Omalahti campaign materials for the use in Twitter, Instagram and Facebook


The Participatory Budgeting Project, source:

Lahti municipality archive

Bielsko-Biała municipality archive

webpages of respective municipalities in Poland - Poznan, Warsaw, Mazowsza, Gliwicki, Krakow

Communication Channels and Tools

Properly selected dissemination channels and tools help to reach the communication and dissemination objectives during particular participation budgeting stages. The use of channels depends on suitability for the specific target group and context of the municipality.

Several principles should be followed when selecting the communication channels and tools:

The use of existing channels

When selecting communication channels, the first step is to conduct the evaluation of previous experiences in communication and disseminating the information to citizens. The existing channels should be the priorities only if they have demonstrated to be effective in reaching and involving audiences. Existing channels are already known by citizen groups and they will be more likely to find your information – online or offline. Whether it is a municipal website, a municipal newspaper, social media or a newsletter, it should be adapted to a target audience.


Once the communication and dissemination of PB has been launched, it is important to keep citizens informed about what is going on within PB on a regular basis. The activities conducted via various channels have to be scheduled in advance, using a calendar. The regular messages will not only help in gaining more engaged citizens/followers, but also reinforce trust which is essential to the success of the PB process.


Using the mix of different on-line and off-line channels can help to increase awareness and make sure all distinct audiences are reached. It ensures a larger coverage and engages more stakeholders in promoting PB. The more differentiated channels and the tools of communication are employed, the more citizens will be reached. However, the resource efficiency has to be taken into account, as planning and implementing communication via each of the channels requires time and financial and human resources.


Sometimes it is worth money and time to develop and implement some special events/initiatives no-one has seen before in a particular municipality. Something unique can help to shake the minds of citizens, even if citizens are very much conservative.

Communication and dissemination channels and tools in the civic engagement practices are changing fast due to new trends in ICT usage. Social media is seen as a powerful and promising tool for communication and dissemination. However, selected target groups can also include those less familiar with digital social media and ICT in general, therefore PB information should never be communicated through digital channels only.

The use of existing networks

Engaging with the local communities and connecting with existing events helps to reach communities which are not connected on-line or exist in different information spaces. In this way students can be efficiently reached through educational institutions, employees through the internal communication of municipal organisations or largest companies operating in an area, elderly people through specific municipal services, youth through youth centres, etc. If personal relationships exist to members of any of the important target groups, communication activities like e-mails, phone calls and visits are preferred in establishing the partnerships.

The above mentioned ways of communication can also be aimed at target audiences where no personal relationships exist, but whose participation is necessary for a successful implementation of the PB.


The objective of the use of appropriate information channels are to reach as large audience of target groups representatives as possible. Recommended online and offline communication and dissemination channels are presented in the table below and in each particular PB initiative are strongly dependent on the target group preferences and habits. Local or national surveys often gather the information on ICT usage and should be checked prior setting a communication and dissemination strategy.

Communication and dissemination channels and tools