You may be asking yourself, “What exactly is a communications plan?” Before we answer that question, let’s take a step back and talk about the word communications and what it means to us. Communications is simply about how you communicate… to your board, your stakeholders, your customers, your employees, your partner organizations, your volunteers, your donors, the public at large, and so forth. We consider communications to be a pretty broad concept that encompasses a lot of other things, including marketing, advertising, and public relations.
So, what is a communications plan? It’s a road map to guide your communications efforts and keep you on track toward your business goals. Each communications plan should answer a few key questions:
- What are your business goals? (The “why” of your plan.)
- Who is your audience?
- What are your key messages?
- Where can you engage with your audience?
- When and how should you communicate about your organization?
That last question — when and how — covers a lot. It’s the part of your communications plan that contains clear action steps for your communications strategy. For example, reviewing and revising your website to incorporate key messages and update content, developing a clear social media strategy to engage with your customers, or creating a series of print pieces to support your sales team. Each action item in the plan should have a deadline to keep you moving forward, but it’s also important to realize that not everything can be done at once. Identify the priorities in the plan to address first, and then assign reasonable deadlines from there.
The most critical thing to know about a communications plan is that it should be a living, breathing document. The plan serves as a foundation for how you communicate, and it should be regularly referenced and updated as things change within the organization. That last thing we want to see is someone mark a communications plan as final and shove it in a drawer. We know it happens sometimes, but organizations are much more successful when they embrace their communications plan as a guiding document for their organization.
Wondering where to start with developing a communications plan? Have an existing plan but not sure it still fits your organization? Give us a call to discuss your organization’s goals and communications needs.