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15 September 2014

Communication plans - the first step to effective communication

These days leadership is synonymous with communication, you can’t have one without the other. Well you can, but odds are that if leaders in your organization are poor communicators or place little priority on communication, the company's reputation suffers and employee engagement will be low - which translates to lower profitability and reduced performance.

With so much at stake, it is in a company’s best interests to ensure leaders are effective communicators. One way to do that is to provide them with tools and training to increase their communication skills. A good place to start is with planning.

Making a communication plan requires the same rigor or discipline applied to other areas of business, like operations, finance, sales or marketing. Communication professionals who face leaders that adopt a “let’s just wing it” or ad lib mentality can ask them questions to help change their mindset such as,“ Would you ad lib a presentation or project to a customer?” They can also outline the consequences of not planning communication with a view to the time, money and resources wasted. And explain that planning forces accountability and helps their team drive results.

Creating a communication plan

Step 1 – Assess:  Determine the needs of your various stakeholders (audiences) and your business needs. 

  • Use surveys to see what’s on the minds of your stakeholders
  • Map out your business priorities to better focus your communication objectives, activities and timing
  • Research what your competitors are doing, decide how you can differentiate your business, and then identify your USP's

Also important during the assessment phase is to figure out if your company communications are effective. You may think you communicate well, but it is good to identify the gaps in perception up front and get started in the right way.

Step 2 – Plan:  Build a communication calendar and craft your key messages. Think of your communication calendar as your roadmap. It lists your stakeholders, your purpose in communicating to them, the channel(s) you will use to deliver your messages, the frequency, how you will measure and budget needed. 

When crafting your messages, be sure to keep them simple, clear and defined so your stakeholders understand the solutions and benefits the company has to offer.

Step 3 – Act: Launch your communication activities. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Stay on schedule.

Step 4 – Check: George Bernard Shaw said, “The greatest problem in communication is the illusion it has been completed.” Check to make sure your communication is being understood and having the desired result. Use formal tools such as surveys and informal tools such as discussion groups and one to one meetings. Ask for feedback. Adapt.

How often do you make a communication plan? Have you got the planning tools to make your communications more effective? Do you need help? Contact us now.