Communications expert Sarah Browning gives us some tips on creating a great communications plan.
Communication is only worth the time and effort if it’s truly effective and adding value. But how can you be sure that’s going to be achieved? The best way to get the results you need is to start with a communications plan.
Here’s a step-by-step approach to building an effective plan:
Begin with the purpose of your communications. What are you trying to achieve? What do you want people to do, say or feel as a result of your communication? You stand a much better chance of achieving your purpose if you’re clear from the start what you want to do.
Next, think about the audience for your communications. This may be a small or big group, more than one group or an individual. They may be from one department or across your whole organisation. They may be based in a factory, work in an office or be on the road. Think about the roles they perform, the channels they have access to and the topics they are interested in. The aim is to put yourself in their shoes, consider things from their perspective.
Be clear about your messages. What do you want to say? And what does your audience want to hear? This isn’t necessarily the same thing! When putting together your key messages, keep it simple. If your project is complex, try to break it down to must-know and nice-to-know information and think about phasing your messages over time.
Remember to think through your key dates and any time-specific factors for your audience. For example, do you have a launch or deadlines? If you work somewhere with fixed busy periods, such as month end or start of term, these are best avoided. Try not to clash with or contradict other initiatives – if this happens, everyone loses out.
This is the part that many people want to start with – what channels or media will you use? But tempting as it is to start with the tangible output, I’d strongly urge you to resist. If you follow a step-by-step plan, by the time you get to this stage, your channels should more or less choose themselves. Knowing what you want to achieve, who and where your audience are and what you’re going to say makes it much easier to identify what will be successful.
6. How’s it going?
Keeping your communication two-way is vital in ensuring its effectiveness and success. Ideally you need to be checking how things are going at every stage. Find out what people are saying and keep your ear to the ground. Build these chances to gather feedback into your plan.
And that’s it – your plan is done!
One final point: it’s great to have an effective plan in place to guide you, but remember that all communication involves human beings and things won’t always run smoothly. So be prepared to be flexible too!