Your communications plan is a working, dynamic document that helps you stay on task, track milestones and plan your next steps. You will tie your plan to an overall goal, such as a product sales goal or corporate reputation goal, and include segmented targeted audiences and key messages to convey to each audience. Throughout the course of your career, you may need to create several communications plans, for both external audiences, such as customers and media, and internal audiences, such as employees.
How to Create a Communications Plan
Segment your target audiences. You need to identify the make-up of each target audience, the people to whom you will be communicating. Are they current customers, who may already be invested in a product and looking for a newer version? Are they users of a competing product, who may be looking for a reason to change? Are they early adopters, such as techno-geeks who are always on the lookout for the next, new, great device? Other examples of segmented target audiences include media, financial analysts and prospective employees.
Determine key messages. Your key messages are the main points you need to convey about a product, service, or your company. You will incorporate these messages into each communications piece as appropriate. Try to limit your key messages to three per audience, issue or product, as that will increase chances of retention. An example of a key message is “XYZ company recycles 60 percent of its office products, eliminating 250 pounds of landfill a day.”
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Write your objectives. Your objectives name what you want to accomplish with your communications. Examples of communications objectives may be “Build awareness of our company’s volunteer efforts,” or, “Increase media calls to our CEO requesting interviews.” Remember that each objective should be tied to an overall goal of the company, otherwise your communications is working in a vacuum.
Write your strategies. You need at least one, and perhaps several, strategies for each objective. For example, if improved media relations is included as one of your communications objectives, a strategy might be, “create a media plan targeted toward business media." If you are trying to increase employee participation in community volunteer efforts, a strategy might be, “Create internal procedures to foster increased volunteer participation throughout the company.”
Write your tactics. The tactics are the “work orders” of the plan, the detailed and specific activities that you flush from your strategy to meet your objectives. For example, setting up a media tour on the East coast is a tactic, as is holding a press conference. Developing an internal work group to create employee incentives for volunteering is also a tactic. When creating tactics you need to keep in mind costs and your manpower to gauge how realistic your tactics are.
At some point you may be asked to create a budget for implementing your plan; or you may be presented with one prior to creating it. Either way, keep your resources in mind as you are creating the communications plan.
Do not leave out critical players when creating your communications plan. Solicit cooperation and feedback to help ensure your plan is a success and not resented by other departments or personnel who felt left out of the process.
Based in Central Texas, Karen S. Johnson is a marketing professional with more than 30 years' experience and specializes in business and equestrian topics. Her articles have appeared in several trade and business publications such as the Houston Chronicle. Johnson also co-authored a series of communications publications for the U.S. Agency for International Development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech from UT-Austin.