What is a communication plan?
A communication plan is an overview of your marketing goals and the methods you intend to employ to achieve those goals. A good plan can really help you understand at what point you’re succeeding and where you could improve.
This promotes a steady return on investment (ROI) because it always gives you room to maximize your success by giving you areas and goals to focus on, instead of merely continually experimenting with your marketing strategy.
What is a good communication plan based on?
A good communications plan is based on the inclusion of four key elements: research, goals, methods, and costs.
Research should be the first step in any plan. Brainstorming is great, but you should never just go with your gut on something. Your gut should only be the motivator to get you into an in depth time of researching, marketing is all about knowing what you’re getting into.
Research however cannot tell you when you are successful. It can mention when your competitors are succeeding, or highlight who they might be, but only you can define what success would mean for you. This is why goals are so critical to the communications plan. Who are you trying to reach? How will you know when you’ve reached them?
The third element of a solid communications plan is methodology. So you know who you’re trying to reach, and you may have an idea of what they want, it’s time to state how you intend to go about giving it to this market. Include all types of media, and all relevant customer materials that you plan to produce in order to paint as clear a picture as possible. A good communications plan breaks down your methods step by step so that any one reading can understand what you intend to do.
The final element is the bottom line of any business plan, the money. How much is your plan going to cost? Be as detailed as possible so that people know what they are getting into if they are agreeing to invest in your plan.
The breakdown of a communication plan
The summary – Begin with an overview of what this plan will be like. This is to capture the interest of your reader and show what you intend to tell them upfront. What’s the problem, and how are you going to solve it? Don’t keep this information a secret or make the reader have to look for it too hard, or they may not consider it worth the effort.
The keys – Outline in detail what you intend to communicate, regardless of the message. Clarity here will establish your ability to be clear elsewhere.
This should come out in the form of somewhere between two and four points maximum.
This is where you should be outlining your goals for the messages you intend to communicate. There should be specific objectives to help identify success milestones in achieving your goals.
Identify your target audience(s) – Your audience, as the name implies, are the groups that you wish to have hear your message. This can include every one from the environmental group whose concerned with your project to the consumer base you’re hoping to build. Do not leave people out or you will pay for it in alienation of that audience later.
However, be careful not to over generalize your audience. Some people think that the bigger the audience the better, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, the more specifically you can identify your audience, the easier it will be to target them.
You need to talk about each audience that will be impacted by your message(s) and how that impact will happen. How are you going to reach them? List the tactics you anticipate using. Do your research so that you know which tactics are most effective with your audiences.
Listing your expectations of these audiences here can save you trouble later.
This is the section where you outline any obstacles to your plan, as well as any potential strengths or weaknesses of your plan. If you provide an obstacle, don’t shy away from explaining the anticipated impact or your response to it.
A heads up? The situational analysis is based on expectations, not really experience so far – although experience would be helpful. This section aims to evaluate potential problems and opportunities and establish potential solutions and strategies. It should be as detailed as it can be, but it can’t necessarily get too detailed until the plan has been put into action (see why evaluation is so important later).
The plan itself
This is the step by step break down of how you intend to achieve your goals. Don’t let the to-do element fool you though, each step needs to be laid out in detail. Who is this particular step targeting? What is it doing? When do you intend to do it? Who will oversee it? How often will you meet to discuss it?
Laying out all of this information beforehand will enable accountability and room for identifying strengths and weaknesses much faster than if you ignore this step.
Evaluate your plan. What evaluations will there be for your goals? How will you know when you have achieved success? What are the strongest points of your plan and the weakest points, and how will you identify more within practise? Set up a measurement system for your success so that you clearly have the ability to check in later and re-evaluate if necessary.
This measurement system should be clear and involve concrete milestones wherever possible. This will enable analysis later so that you know how effective your plan was and was not more than any one else, and you know which parts did the most work. This analysis is often done after the plan is implemented on a formal basis to ensure that you are using the data to the best of your abilities.
You can also include a component of client evaluation. Solicit feedback wherever possible. It may not be the most quantifiable data, but it will tell you firsthand where you can improve from the perspective of some one effected by your services.
Remember, the only true failure here is to not anticipate making mistakes and set up a system like this to help you avoid making these mistakes in the future. Don’t be worried, be pleased to set up clear measurements of your performance.