How to write a communication plan

Often one of the biggest mistakes businesses make when introducing an initiative or implementing a change is ineffective communication.

Developing a communication plan is a simple way to ensure that the message you want to get across is getting through to the right people.

While developing a plan doesn’t guarantee success, it does allow you to take a much more strategic approach to communicating the initiative or change, which creates a greater likelihood of a successful implementation.

These are some of the things you should consider when developing a communication plan:

What is the purpose?

Write a brief overview of what you are communicating and what you want to achieve. For example, if you are introducing a new service your overview could be: “To inform our clients and employees of the introduction of XYZ service at the beginning of the financial year.”

Who needs to know?

You need to identify your target audiences, which in simple terms is about the various groups of people you need to inform. In the above example it may be existing clients, prospective clients, employees and industry media publications. It’s important that you don’t bundle everyone into one group and communicate with them in the same way.

This step of the plan may also help you to identify audiences you may not have considered had you simply emailed everyone in your network. For example, you may not have considered including industry media as a target audience.

Issues and solutions

Take a bit of time to consider the positive implications of this change or initiative, and any concerns people may have. For example, a new service may provide a low-cost solution for your clients but could add extra workload for some members of your staff.

Identifying the pros and cons of the initiative, and considering these for each target audience, will help you to formulate your messaging. You will know the areas to highlight as well as any concerns you may need to address.

Key messages

Once you know the purpose of your communication, your audience/s and the possible implications, it will be easier to formulate your key messages. These are short statements that you can use in your communication tools.

You may have different key messages for each audience – what you want to say to your clients is likely to be different to your communication with employees. This doesn’t need to be too complicated. For example, your client message may be similar to your employee message just tailored according to the different requirements of each audience.

Plan

Now it’s time to get down to the tactical side of things. This is where you decide what tools and communications channels you’ll use communicate with your various target audiences, and the timeframe in which you will do this.

An easy way to do this is to outline it in a table. Some of the headings you may want to include are:

Tactic – This could include an email from the CEO, a social media post, media release. You should have a number of tactics for each target audience. For example, you may inform staff at a staff meeting and follow it up with an email from the CEO, as well as further information on the company intranet.

Communication channels – This is how you will disseminate the information. For example, the channels for your media release may include emailing to industry media contacts, emailing local media contacts and posting the release on the media section of your web page.

Who – Identify who will produce the materials required, who needs to provide input and who needs to approve the final product.

Audience –Identify the target audience for each tactic. Some tactics may reach multiple groups, eg a social media post that clients, prospective clients and staff will see. However, you may also need to develop materials tailored specifically to certain target audiences, eg. the wording in an email from the CEO to your clients will be different to an email to staff.

Measuring success

It’s important that when you’re communicating something of importance that your message does not disappear into an empty void. But how do you know that you have successfully communicated? If it is an important change or initiative you may want to carry out some type of formal testing, for example a short staff survey.

Online channels are relatively easy to measure as you can access click rates on a page or likes and shares of a social media post. A word of warning though, just because 70 per cent of staff clicked on a news story on your intranet it doesn’t mean that they all read it properly or comprehended it.

Final word

Depending on what you need to communicate, your communication plan can be as simple or complex as required. The important thing is that you take some time to consider all aspects of your communication approach to ensure it is effective.

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