If i had a pound for every time i’ve heard that line.
Well written, well executed comms plans are an essential part of the business toolkit.
They aren't magical documents which can, purely by their existence, guarantee business success.
Whether you need to communicate good news or bad, ensuring the business is telling a consistent and well thought out story can make the difference between success and failure.
But too often, comms planning can become confused and planners can quickly lose sight of their original goal. Resulting in what i call 'kitchen sink comms plans'. Long, windy plans which lack focus. Plans with a bit of everything thrown in, in the hope that some messages and actions will make a difference.
Avoid kitchen sink comms planning by following these very simple 5 top tips for effective comms planning;
- Ensure you are clear which business plan or goal the comms plan will be helping to deliver ... I can’t overstate the importance of this first point strongly enough. Without a clear goal how can an effective comms plan be developed and delivered? The goal can be a fairly simple one based around an announcement, eg, "our 2011 resident satisfaction results are excellent, we want to share this good news with all our key stakeholders and ensure maximum positive profile for the Council"
If no defined goal exists, knock back the request for a comms plan until one does, or if necessary help define it.
- Develop a standard comms plan template that works for you. Keep it as short and simple as possible. It is a working document, a who's going to do what, when and why document. A document which sets out what business goal or plan the comms activity supports and what a successful outcome looks like (and how you plan to evaluate that success). It's not a dissertation.
- Create one combined plan for internal and external audiences. Don't be tempted to create individual plans, this will only lead to confusion and duplication of effort. A good comms plan should clearly set out at what point staff/colleagues will be made aware of any announcement, event or campaign launch. Well-informed staff can become a valuable resource in sharing consistent messages externally and so should be included as a central and key element all comms plans.
- Don't allow colleagues to see your ability to deliver a last minute comms plan as a get out of jail free card. How many times have I been told “but the event is next week. we've ordered pens and balloons - what else do we need to do?” I’ll wager that you’ve heard something similar too. Probably too many times.
Often colleagues in other departments get so wrapped up the detail that they sometimes forget that the right people need to be are aware of, and understand, what is happening.
If time is very short, be realistic about what can be achieved. In these circumstances keep messages and activity pre-event or pre-service launch as clear and simple as possible. Be supportive but also be firm and clear about what is possible.
- Always include a timed action plan into your comms plan. Assign actions to named individuals or teams. Ensure everyone named in the plan is aware of its exhistance, understands what is expected of them and has access to the resources needed to deliver what is required. Assign one person to be action plan chaser, a person who is responsible to chasing and ensuring completion of actions. Make sure everyone knows who this is.