Definition – A communication plan enables an organization or business to design a road map to convey its message to the target audience. Communications planning empowers organizations to send a specific and result-driven message with clarity and measurable results.
Contemporary marketing strategies workaround effective storytelling which ultimately channelizes via a well-made communication plan template. This will enable businesses to have a clear understanding of how they will widen their reach and meet the right audiences with their messages.
So, if you also need to know what plan should include in your communication plan template, then this post will uncover the role of the communication plan in project management, public relations, project action plan, and all sorts of business communications. So, let’s get started –
What is a Communication Plan?
A communication plan is a policy-driven approach that helps deliver the information appropriately and effectively to respective stakeholders.
Specifically, it is an end-to-end plan to deliver strategic information to the desired audience to boost the business results. Communication plans deal with the organization you are trying to reach, the message to be sent there and the methods or the communication channels to be adopted to reach them effectively.
It should also specify who has the authority to communicate confidential or sensitive information and how that information should be disseminated or transferred.
Following are some of the important points that highlight the need for communication plans
1. Clarifying the objectives and goals of the agency
Considering the plan as a roadmap, a firm knows what the destination is, but it is not aware of its reach. The role of a communication plan comes here to solve the problem of clarifying the objectives of an agency.
2. Specifying relationships among audiences, channels, messages, activities, and materials
Researching the planning process of communication plans will help a firm identify whom it wants to reach, informing them what form of information it wants to extract from them and the channels to reach them.
The firm will find that each individual or organization they are looking for has unique features, different demands. To cope with this, planning plays an effective role here by communicating the most effective way to converse with them.
3. Identifying and implementing a variety of communication activities
There are several different methods to spread the message of a firm to an audience. This will help it settle on which activities it shall engage in to not get continuously pulled on different roads.
4. Clarifying stakeholders’, staff members’ and others’ roles in the process
People in an organization should know their contribution towards the organization and what departments they are responsible for. Having a well-defined plan will help in managing their responsibilities and their contribution effectively towards their firm.
5. Including stakeholder input in the communication process
Stakeholders are one of the most important persons of an organization. Having a specifically designed communication plan for stakeholders will describe how much the organization values their input.
6. Gauging the success of plans and areas in need of strengthening
Organizations often do a mid-way analysis or a course review to determine their strengths, weaknesses, and speed-breakers in their progress and form new methods and approaches to combat such issues. They can develop a unique, specified tailored evaluation strategy to gather all the information it needs to improve its plan.
How to write a Communication Plan?
Following are some steps that an organization should follow to write an effective communication plan:
1. Conduct an audit of your current communication materials
Before a firm decides to write down a plan, it shall be aware of where it will be applied to the business. It is vital to conduct an audit of the current communication environment within the firm. It aids in identifying the bottlenecks present in the organization.
To conduct an efficient audit, a firm needs to carefully gather and interpret data and information based on current marketing plan performance and develop a roadmap based on the previous outcomes. Moreover, a firm can also look for hosting focus groups or sending surveys to its targeted audience to find holes in the current system of communications.
2. Set SMART goals for your communications plan
For making a communication plan, setting SMART goals as per the results of your audit will be your next step. After preparing an audit, a firm has to lay down some specific goals based on its earlier outcomes.
An organization should consider that its goals and objectives should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. In other words, this step deals with identifying and stating the business objectives. For every goal an organization sets, the team needs to give its full contribution to these goals.
It implies that if the team is not aware of what they are aiming for, they will never achieve their goals. To get aware of such goals, there shall be a meeting organized for this purpose where proper underlined statements shall be written to make the objectives clear without any ambiguity.
3. Identify the audience for delivering your communication plan
A good communication plan involves listening to the listener, i.e., focusing on the audience. After forming and identifying the goals, an organization needs to determine and state its target audience. It can be employees of the firm, shareholders, media outlets, etc. Some ways to determine the target audience are:
- Surveying current customers to learn their preferences. A firm could use tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to gather data from their audience. It shall ask demographic-based questions to gather the actual information they are looking for.
- Digging into Google Analytics to learn more about who is currently visiting the website of the firm.
- Comparing the followers of the competitors on social media platforms with our organization and seeing the genre of people following them.
After gathering the data through the above methods, a firm shall design an option for a one-to-two-line description of its audience.
4. Outline and write your communication plan as per your audiences
After identifying the prospective audience, it is the time when an organization shall describe the world about itself. For that, a firm needs to outline and prepare a draft of its communication plan.
The best way is to create a chart and fill in the information related to the messages the firm wants to promote, its target audience and the modes or channels to be adopted. After generating an outline, the following is the structure of a communication plan that a firm shall prepare:
- Purpose (For what reason the communications plan is prepared)
- Escalation Framework (including the ‘first line of defense and greater response team’)
- Roles and responsibilities assigned to each employee
- Do’s and Don’ts related to the task.
- Maintenance of an effective response plan
While writing a communication plan, working with groups or representatives of the stakeholders of the organization helps in improving accuracy. Strategies aids in solving potential risks for goals associated with the plan.
5. Determine the channels for sharing the communication plan
The channels to be adopted by an organization depends upon the message to be delivered and the targeted audience concerning the message.
An organization should have specified distribution channels concerning its goals that are relatable to its communication plan. Some of the most commonly used channels used by companies are:
- Forming a Company Blog
- E-mail Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- SMS Marketing
- Media Relations
- Print Collateral
- Podcast Advertising
- Print and Television Advertising or Traditional Advertising
6. Decide which team members are responsible for delivering the message
After determining the audience and the modes of the communications plan, the firm needs to find out and select the team members responsible for delivering their goals and messages out to the world.
For example, if the HR team of an organization is pitching a new growth matrix to leadership, it might ask the Director of HR to deliver the initial pitch in the debut meeting.
Once the leadership is on-board, the firm might ask each Human Resource representative to deliver one training session to every internal team to make sure that every employee in the firm is aware of what are the things going internally and they get to know the reasons behind it.
7. Estimate a timeline for each step of the communications plan
A firm shall have an estimate of the time that is going to be spent in the performance of each step in the execution of the strategy.
For example, for a minor in an advertisement campaign, the advertising department might estimate the cycle for tackling the issue will take a month which may include meetings with the client, stakeholders, and other employees to discuss further processes.
8. Measure the results of the communication plan
You should measure the results of the communications plan after presenting it to stakeholders and determining the successful phased and areas for improvement.
Measuring every single thread of the company is a critical task to get an idea and analysis of the performance of each department, who achieved the desired target, which section needs more funds or employees to improve its efficiency.
The measurement of results or outcomes depends upon the methods adopted by a firm. It aids in getting a report of each department of the firm, finding the loopholes, and acting accordingly for improvement in the execution of the tasks.
Who should use a Plan of Communication?
Different types of organizations should make a communication plan for effective project management and business action plan. Let us have a look at the types of organizations that should make an action plan as per a communication plan template-
- In-house marketing and advertising teams – Small and Medium Businesses to big business enterprises, all should have a proper communication plan.
- Agencies around the world – A communication plan is important for agencies as well as their clients for effective project management.
- Non-profits organizations – A communication plan alleviates the task of social media, PR as well as project management for marketing and project manager.
- Marketing and communications consultants and managers – A project manager or marketing consultant should have a communication plan for working with clients while handling a project.
How to make a Communication Plan Template?
Key steps that should be incorporated in your communication project template are
1. Summarize your communications plan by including
- The basis for creating your communication plan
- The status of communication in your project or business team
- The responsibilities, objectives, and events of communication
- Different success criteria and feedback measures
- Planning in advance for risks and issues
2. Have an introduction
- Include a background with vision, objectives, goals, timeframes, scope, existing communications stakeholders/staffs, current communication tools, results of past communication surveys
- Incorporate a situational analysis by analyzing strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats
3. Incorporate the future state of your communication objectives
- Have objectives like increasing stakeholder awareness, team efficiency, and team culture
- Have proper communication guidelines to make your messages be audience-specific and result-driven
4. Include stakeholder details
- Incorporate details of your different target audiences like Project board (director, sponsor, other board members), Project team members, Project management team (project manager, project leaders), Project management office, Related project teams, Internal audit or strategy staff, Related business unit managers, Governance and regulatory bodies and External suppliers and contractors
- Understand the requirements of different stakeholders
- Include the key messages associated with project status, issues, risks, deliverables, and resources
5. Include your communication channels
- Include your communication delivery channels
- Ensure effective information collection
6. Make your communications plan
- Include communications schedule
- Have communications events
- Incorporate communications responsibilities
7. Incorporate project feedback system
- Include feedback measures
- Have a success criteria
8. Have an appendix
- Include documents relevant to your communication plan
- List any of your planning assumptions
- List risks that you have identified
A communication plan plays a crucial role in affecting the client-base and audience of an organization.
By stating clear goals, preparing a specified draft with a proper message and targeted audience helps in developing customer relations, and boosting the clients.
This task is mainly held by the marketing and advertising department of a company which is responsible for spreading the awareness and message of its organization.
How important do you consider a communication plan for successful project completion and business accomplishments? Share your views with us in the comment section below.