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Even the best intentions sometimes yield less than favorable results without proper planning and communication. The same goes for any business. No marketing strategy can be effective without creating a communication plan.
If you are looking for guidance on how to create a communication plan, you're in luck.
In this article, we will go through the major steps that you should take if you want to create an effective, foolproof, and impactful communication plan to help you not only market successfully, but keep customers happy and retain more employees as well. We'll also give you tips for the follow-through, and how to maintain the plan you've put in place for your company.
Before you start creating a communication plan, take some time to review your current plan if you already have one in place. Perform these little checks before you go any further:
What is the scope of the plan? Audit all of your contacts, proofread texts, review design elements - everything.
Consult everyone involved in the current plan. What does your team think of it? What would they change if they could?
Run reports and study them. Look at your open rate and conversion rates, every piece of data you can get your hands on.
Perform a SWOT analysis - your current communication plan's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. From there, you can come to a decision on keeping and tweaking your current communication plan or scrapping it completely and making a new one.
If you do not yet have an effective communication plan in place, be sure to read on and take notes. We have a lot of helpful tips for you!
As with any other plan, you need to begin by defining your goals for creating a communication plan. Ask yourself and your team these questions:
What do you wish to accomplish?
What is your vision?
What are the short, medium, and long-term goals that will get you closer to your goals and vision?
After you've defined your goals and what needs to be communicated, this is the phase where you also need to get the buy-in of your stakeholders, establish trust and expectations and create a sense of excitement for what lies ahead.
The next step in how to create a communication plan is identifying your target audience. To make it easier for you and your team to make this determination, meet with them and find out the answers to the questions here:
Who needs to understand the vision so the company can achieve its goals in the project?
Who are your primary and secondary audiences?
Who will and should care or need to know about your message?
Who is talking about this topic, and which communication channels are they using?
How will your message impact or change their lives?
Be as personal and specific as you can get with the answers. This guarantees that your messaging is as effective as you want, enabling you to attain the results you hope for. People relate on a personal level, especially if they recognize that a company acknowledges their needs and pains, and is working towards providing an answer for them.
An effective communication plan's primary components are the essential points or key messages. What is it that you most want to share? These key messages should be tailored to your target audience. Remember to use language that is clear and easy to understand. These key messages will serve as a reference and can be reworked for use across multiple communication channels.
Different people care about different things. This makes customizing the different aspects of your message to the various audience groups that you wish to reach, helping you encounter less resistance.
Be sure to add the following steps to your communications plan template:
Develop each key message around an idea or single topic
Link each key message to a particular goal, audience group, or objective
Focus on what's compelling, beneficial, useful, or meaningful
Think about how each message can be rephrased, making it more relevant or interesting
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Which channels will be used to share your key messages and meet your goals for creating a communication plan? There are a lot of options for you to choose from:
Social media posts
Email marketing blasts
Blog posts or articles
Video presentation or documentary
In-person conference or seminar
Keep in mind that using a multi-faceted approach is sometimes the most effective way to go about things. To help you in your decision-making on which strategies and platforms to use, contemplate these things:
Your audiences: Which platforms do they usually use? What are they comfortable with? Which products do they prefer?
Your message: Do your best to match the message to the platform that you're using to keep the integrity of whatever it is you're trying to convey
Your resources: Consider not only the tools that are available to you but the resources that you can get with the budget or timeframe that you're working with
You can also add the following inquiries to your list:
How are other departments communicating?
Which platforms are your competitors using, and what is their key messaging?
What should you do differently?
How would your audience respond to your message?
Why would they respond?
After you've settled on your strategies and chosen your platforms, use the findings of your studies on your audiences to guide you in formulating your content and storytelling. You can also adapt and repurpose your content for different platforms and products while also staying true to your message.
Now that you've mapped out the strategies and methods for creating a communication plan, you need to factor in how you will actually disseminate the information that you need to get out into the world. You also need to look for who can help or assign certain phases in your communication plan to a number of people in your team. Take into account these details:
Channels - Which channels will you be using at a specific time? Review your mailing lists, social media accounts, email marketing and newsletter subscriber lists, and CRM since you will be using those to share and promote your various communication content.
Launch list - Ascertain organizations, individuals, and networks to leverage for your dissemination and launch. Put together a list of stakeholders and team members for this function early on.
Media kit - To promote your message, assemble a media kit of samples to share. This media kit may contain mock-ups of social media posts, email marketing, newsletter, or website graphics. Send this kit to companies and individuals - family and friends - and ask them to help disseminate your message through their own channels.
Media outreach - If your topic, product, or project is of interest to the media or the public - whether it's newspapers, radio, or TV - reflect on the use of a press release. Include a snippet of why you think your topic, product, or project is newsworthy. Once this part of your communication plan is all done, send the press release along with your media kit to media outlets, reporters, bloggers, and influencers.
Like everything else in life, timing is everything when it comes to creating a communication plan. Plan out a timeline to map out when each activity will take place or when each message will be released. Don't forget that communication in all the stages of your plan is critical, especially when you have a project to launch alongside it. All of your target audiences must be aware of each stage, and it might be a good idea to roll out teasers before the actual rollout to create a sense of excitement and FOMO.
When creating a timeline, an effective communication plan includes a list of who in the team is responsible for what. This way, everyone will know who to approach at any given phase of the plan. It might also help in creating a communication plan to contemplate these things:
When will the plan kick-off be?
When would the realistic completion date be?
What specific activities or tactics do you want to use?
Will you be launching a phase in time with a special holiday or public event?
What do you plan to achieve in a week? A month? And, lastly, a year?
Your communication plan should be rolled out at the same time as your project or product launch. An effective communication plan supports a project or product successfully by communicating with and engaging the audience in a language that is easy for everyone to understand.
Provide an answer to these simple questions before you set out:
What are the start and end dates for your communication plan?
How often do you think your audiences need to hear about the progress of your product or project launch?
Will you provide your audiences with continuous updates?
How will you alert them when something exciting takes place?
Will you let them know if something does not go as planned? If so, how?
Measure the results and make adjustments accordingly
When you create a communication plan, ask yourself early on: What will success look like? What do you want to see as a result of the plan that you built? Make a list of your desired outcome so you can compare the items there with reality at the end of your campaign to see how well you did in creating a communication plan. While it's running, track its progress to see if your plan is effective; if not, you can make changes anytime.
Meet with your team and other stakeholders and draw up answers to the questions below:
Are we effectively communicating with and engaging our target audiences?
Are our target audiences retaining and sharing our messages?
Is our messaging generating our desired outcome?
Are we repurposing content effectively for different audiences and channels?
Is our messaging consistent across multiple channels?
Is our messaging appealing to our target audiences on a deeper, more personal level?
You can also use tools such as Google Analytics to collect data to get a bigger and better picture. While you're in the process of creating a communication plan, bear in mind that things are always changing while the project is underway, so be ready to make adjustments as you go.
Creating an effective communication plan
The key to creating an effective communication plan is exactly that: communication. Anyone can plan but without the proper execution with the help of a well-equipped team empowered to collaborate flawlessly and effortlessly, nothing will work out. Make sure that every member of your team - whether they're working on-site or remotely - is fully aware of what the plan is and what should be happening at any given time.
While the campaign is ongoing, keep everything documented. This way, you can meet with your team at the end of the campaign and review what went well, what you did right, and what can be changed - just as you did at the beginning of the planning stage. The complete lifespan of the communication plan, thoroughly documented, can then be stored in a shared drive as one of your communication plan templates.
A communication plan is a detailed strategy for creating and disseminating messages. These plans are usually crafted in aid of a project and should include the following:
A communication plan is important in defining, clarifying, and confirming your goals and outlining how you mean to achieve them. It gives you structure in finding out whom you need to communicate with and how. The same applies whether you mean to use a communication plan personally and professionally.