Environmental Communications Planning – Online

Next Dates: TBD

Please contact execed@nicholas.duke.edu with questions.


  • Early Bird Registration – $1,000
  • Standard Registration – $1,075
  • Duke University Alumni Registration – $900

A limited number of discounts are available for eligible registrants. For eligibility and application requirements, please see our Application page HERE

Program Description

This course is designed to give environmental professionals the necessary tools to write a successful and comprehensive Communications Plan. These plans can be used internally, to manage change or initiatives within an organization, or externally to communicate a message to stakeholders and/or the public.

Students will engage in the process of developing a full Communications Plan, including identifying stakeholders and appropriate media, crafting messages, and evaluating the success of the communications delivery. As part of the course portfolio, students will also craft two media pieces, an Op/Ed and a short article targeted to a specific stakeholder group. Students will receive individual and group feedback on their portfolio, with the goal of writing powerful, concise, and professional text.

This course is seven weeks in length and is taught in an entirely online, distance learning format, with both asynchronous and synchronous portions. Please note: Course does not offer Duke academic credit – All Certificate courses are non-credit professional development offerings.

No campus visits are required. Note: Webconference days and times are determined by instructor and student availability. Student availability will be elicited by a poll several weeks before course start. 

Our work will center around Modules, collections of online and print material that guide each step of the planning process.

Week One: Introduction to Communications Planning

We will introduce ourselves and begin to consider how this course will be applied to a specific project. Students are asked to design a communications plan for a current or future initiative, change, or campaign.

Week Two: Strategically Reaching out to the Public as an Engaged Professional

As we define our project’s focus, we will work on crafting a clear, concise, and compelling message and identify relevant stakeholders.

Week Three: Crafted Communications

Communications materials often need to be targeted to specific stakeholders and social media is a popular outlet. We’ll discuss the challenges of this targeting, along with internal communication routes.

Week Four: Measures of success/Adaptive Management

A crucial and challenging part of a Plan is the way success will be measured. We’ll delve into several ways of measuring success and how to integrate an Adaptive Management approach into your Plan.

Week Five: Individual Meetings with Dr. Rebecca Vidra 

Week Six: Putting it all together: Communications Planning

We’ll finish the course by sharing our Communications Plan portfolio and discuss timelines for implementation and next steps. Week 7 we will not meet as a class but you will use to finalize  your Plan.

Week Seven: Final Communications Plans Due

Course Details

Meeting Time

Weekly webinars for this course will meet: TBD

Tech Check: TBD

First Session with Instructor: TBD

If you are interested in taking this class, but cannot make this time for live webconferences, please contact us at: execed@nicholas.duke.edu. All sessions are recorded and can be viewed at later times. 

This course will require 40 hours over the 7-week class period.

Dr. Rebecca Vidra is on the faculty of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. She is trained as a restoration ecologist, receiving her PhD in Forestry from North Carolina State University and her MS in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her background and interests in environmental communications led her to Duke in 2004 as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow where she taught environmental writing seminars in the Thompson Writing Program. Rebecca teaches courses in Restoration Ecology, Environmental Ethics, and Ecosystem Science for undergraduate, graduate, and DEL students and is the Director of the Duke Environmental Leadership Program. Her teaching practice is most recently informed by work on contemplative practice within the classroom. Thus, her current writing focuses on the intersection of restoration and ethics in the field and in the classroom. She has consulted with dozens of environmental professionals on all aspects of environmental communication planning.

Technical Requirements

We understand that participants have different comfort levels with online learning coming into this course.  We are happy to answer any questions you have about online learning in general and our online learning software.

Internet Access
Course participants need to arrange to have reliable, high-speed internet access through their local internet service provider (ISP).  We encourage participants to arrange for broadband access to the internet via a cable modem, DSL, or a satellite connection. Slower or intermittent connections will not work as effectively for this course.  We cannot provide support for your network connection, nor can we help you with any home networking equipment such as firewalls, routers, or switches.  For any of those issues, you will want to contact your ISP directly.

Distance Learning Software
The course will be facilitated using online webinar platforms and Learning Management Systems.  Nicholas School staff will be available during the course to assist you with any training needed.  Contact information will be provided with your pre-course packet. The distance learning software will be available to you free of charge (except for the USB headset and WebCam for the webinar participation).

Pre-Course Packet

Prior to the course start date, you will need to purchase all materials necessary for the course. Information for these materials will be available online soon.

Project Expectations

This course is focused on developing your environmental communications plan, as well as giving you the tools to cultivate meaningful communications about your work project. Since the core of this course is to develop tools for producing an effective communications plan, it is important to begin the course with a project or a few ideas for a project. This project (whether it be a current work project, or a developed idea for a project you would like to do) will be the foundation for building your environmental communications plan. As such, it is recommended that you come to the course with a developed project/idea for a project, so that you can focus on gaining the skills and tools to develop your communications plan.

General Course Policies

Payment is due upon receipt of invoice or no less than 15 days before the start of the course. If special arrangements must be made for payment due to agency requirements, you must contact our office no less than 15 days prior to the start of the course at execed@nicholas.duke.edu to complete and submit a payment due notice form.

Failure to make payment arrangements 15 days prior to the start of the course may result in the forfeit of your seat and you will be held responsible for the full tuition of the course. Future registrations will not be accepted from individuals with unpaid invoices.

Course certificates will not be provided until payment is received.

Cancellation & Transfer Policy
All speakers and companies listed have confirmed their participation. If for unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances a speaker cannot attend, instructional time will be filled with comparable instructors. If a course is canceled due to insufficient registrations, tuition will be refunded. Duke cannot be held responsible for travel costs or arrangements made by participants.

Cancellation of registration requires 15 days written notice prior to course start date in order to receive a refund (please submit notification to execed@nicholas.duke.edu). Individuals who do not attend and fail to send written notice prior to the deadline will be charged the full tuition. You may send a substitute to attend the course in your place, however, a $100.00 administrative fee will be assessed for this change, regardless of when written notice is submitted.Any cancellation or substitute request must be received in writing.

  • 15 or more days prior to the course start date – Full tuition refund, minus a $100 administrative fee.
  • Less than 15 days prior to the course start date – Full tuition is assessed and a refund is forfeited.
  • Substitute within your organization can attend in your place for an additional $100.00 administrative fee.

In order to receive a refund, you must cancel your registration (in writing to execed@nicholas.duke.edu) by 5:00 pm on the refund deadline date for the course.

Course Completion: Upon successful course completion, students earn a Duke Letter of Completion. Course does not offer Duke academic credit – All Certificate courses are non-credit professional development offerings.