|Are You Executing Against A Communications Plan?|
Whether your organization is more like a multinational corporation or a local charitable opera company - a succinct communications plan that has been approved by senior management can increase the effectiveness and consistency of how your brand is delivered to the marketplace.
Over the past year, we've helped multiple clients develop communications plans and all of them have commented that having a plan in place has been invaluable in their daily marketing, public relations, and internal communications work.
A multinational corporation we work with was implementing a new brand strategy and a new name. They needed to share their new positioning with the current customer base, while reassuring customers that the best aspects of the product would remain intact. Developing a communications plan created the key messages required for future marketing tactics - messages that reinforced the main brand attributes that the company needed to build in order to successfully reposition itself.
A volunteer-driven opera company needed to make efficient use of limited marketing dollars as well as the time of the volunteers generating all the content. Having a communications plan that was approved by their board meant that they had both agreement and a description of who their highest priority audience was, which made it easier to determine which marketing tactics would be most effective. Having key messages detailed in the plan meant that they didn't have to reinvent the wheel each time they created a marketing or communications piece.
A national environmental group we've worked with operates with geographically dispersed communications personnel, who are working in multiple regions across the country. Having a local and regional mindset garners some benefits, but it also led to mixed messaging in the marketplace. The creation of a communications plan helped to get their national communications team aligned and working on the same page, drawing on the same key messages - ultimately leading to communications that were more efficient to produce and presented the brand in a far more consistent and effective manner.
So, what needs to be in a useful communications plan and how do you know if you've got a good one? Overall, a good plan specifies who you're talking to and what you're trying to achieve from your efforts. It also identifies exactly what you need to say, lists the tactics required to get the message to your audiences, lays out success measurements, and provides an implementation schedule for getting there.
When we build communications plans for clients, one of the first steps is prioritizing the organization's audiences (usually customer segments) into primary and secondary, and then we write a description of each main audience. Next, we define the communications goals for each audience (knowledge, attitude, and behaviour), which helps guide the development of the key messages. Messages should be succinct and shouldn't exceed five major points per audience.
Soon after, we move on to identifying and prioritizing the most effective marketing tactics required to deliver the key messages to our audience. Once the tactics are identified, a detailed budget can be created and gaps in both financial and human resources can be identified. Having the tactics in hand also enables us to identify success metrics for customer (audience) response.
The final piece of the plan is the building of the Gantt implementation chart, which clearly lays out each step required to launch a tactic and who is responsible. The chart can literally go on the wall of everyone involved in the development of the communications effort, creating a common understanding of priorities, timing, and responsibilities.
In closing, the experience of our clients has been that communications plans are highly practical and effective. We strongly recommend the development of a communications plan on an annual basis and / or at the roll-out of a major organizational initiative. They're neither time consuming nor resource intensive to develop, so take a look at your current plan and make sure its giving you everything it should.