Strategic Communications Plans are designed to serve as unified platform on how your brand represents itself internally, externally and around the world. They can be used for both entire organizations and for specific campaigns (such as product launches or informational outreach).
Should your small business, startup or larger enterprise not have one, it’s high time to sit down with the management team and other key stakeholders to develop one.
Why you need it
Communication plans are essential to every business. They:
- – Provide consistency to messaging and creative
- – Keep everyone on the same page – both employees and audiences
- – Save time and money in the long term
- – Help identify key milestones, deadlines and deliverables
Without a communications plan, different departments can and will generate different messages. Uniformity is absolutely critical for younger startups or if you are an established enterprise going after a new market. Audiences can get easily confused by conflicting messages, which can guide potential customers straight towards competitors.
The most important pieces of any communications plan are:
- Research – Good research is essential to every business. For your communications plan, spend some time doing in-depth analysis of your industry trends, top competitors and even new regulations in the works that could affect your company or your customers.
- Ask yourself: What is the problem or opportunity for your company? What trends are occurring in the industry? What are competitors doing?
- Key Messages – The core of every marketing communications plan is messaging. Defining your key message points will take some time and creativity, but it is all worth it when can pin down exactly what you want to say.
- Ask yourself: What information do you want to convey? Limit it to no more than 4 points.
- Goals & Objectives – There is, of course, a reason for developing your plan. This is where you can specifically define what is it you want to achieve.
- Ask yourself: What is meant to be accomplished? Use SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound).
- Audiences – There are many factors that can determine a company’s ideal target audience and just as many ways to segment them. General demographics play a large part, but so do culture, economics and sometimes beliefs.
- Ask yourself: Who are you trying to reach? What motivates them? What interests them? Make sure to segment and prioritize specific audiences.
- Channels – Where you place your message is just as important as the content that’s in it. Take time to think about all your options for placement, great locations for your messaging may not be where you’ve advertised in the past.
- Ask yourself: Where do your audiences go for information? Consider the type of information you’re sharing. What is the best way to deliver it? TV, radio, print, online, outdoor and social media are all channels to keep in mind.
- Evaluation –Begin evaluating your communication plan as soon as possible. This will allow you to pivot as necessary to ensure audiences are reached and the message(s) are understood.
- Ask yourself: How well is your plan working? What can be adjusted so that we meet our goals?
There are many places where a communications plan can go astray and lose effectiveness, resulting in wasted time, effort and money. Some danger areas when creating communication plans include:
- Developing the plan alone – No matter how well you might think you know the subject matter, multiple perspectives help refine key points and generate more ideas to consider. Buy-in from internal stakeholders is essential to a successful communication plan.
- Viewing communication as one-way – Build in feedback loops for both employees and external audiences. They will help catch any flaws in the plan and can aid in the evaluation process as well.
- Confusing business objectives with communication plan goals – Don’t tie company revenue targets to the goals for a strategic communications plan. Yes, a good plan can help you increase your profits, but that isn’t the primary reason for its existence.
- Keeping some or all of it secret – Unless there is a very strong reason to keep it under wraps, restricting internal access to a plan not only limits the time and monetary savings it provides, it can also alienate employees and lead to inconsistent messaging.
- Resisting change – Yes, it may have been a lot of work to put together, but communication plans should be living documents that adapt as new situations arise. Don’t enshrine it on a pedestal; keep it ready for upgrades as needs arise.