Planning your communications strategy

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In a time where news travels the world in a nanosecond, having a plan for how you communicate and engage is no longer optional – it’s essential.

A communications plan defines how you will deliver your message with internal and external stakeholders, including staff, clients, referrers and the public, including through the media.

The plan needs to frame your objectives, key messages and channels, as well as potential risks that need to be managed. It should also provide enough context to guide the tactical plan that needs to flow from it.

I can support your communications but providing strategic and tactical support. This includes developing your campaign plan, writing stories for your newsletters or website, developing your social media content plan, writing speeches and media releases and producing special publications like your annual report.

Every communication needs to take into account a range of aspects, including these:

  1. Audience – it’s important to be realistic about who is interested or needs to know the message you want to get out. The more relevant and valuable the message is to the receiver (not the organisation), the easier it will be to spread the word. This will affect how the strategy is structured so that the message gets out effectively to the relevant group or groups.
  2. Message – what do you want the audience to know and how are they likely to respond? It’s important to think about the perceptions you want to give or manage and include answers to questions you know they are likely to have. If the communication could result in a customer or public backlash, a specific plan is needed to equip the organisation and key employees, to act quickly to minimise negative perceptions of the brand.
  3. Intent– is your purpose to keep people informed or do you want them to respond? A clear call to action and way to respond that works is needed if you want them to engage in some way. You’d be surprised how many times a link goes to the wrong place or doesn’t work, and email address goes to a person who hasn’t been briefed and doesn’t know what to do with messages.
  4. Tone and style – obviously this needs to be appropriate to the the type of information, organisational tone, audience and medium being used to spread the message. For example, the way I’d write for social media is different to when I’m writing a speech or media release.
  5. Spokesperson – for media and newsworthy announcements, the person nominated as spokesperson needs to be able to speak credibly about the topic and authorised to speak on behalf of the organisation. They should have had some level of media training and a specific briefing and key messages for the specific announcement. It’s also important that they can free up their diary to be available for interview in the days ahead. There’s nothing more annoying to the media or stressful to the communications team to send a media release only to find the spokesperson is jumping on a plane and won’t be contactable for 24 hours.
  6. Channels – the nature of the message, audience and organisation will determine how the communication should be distributed. For example, it might be appropriate to send a letter and email to your database, as well as publishing a story on your website and sharing a link to it via a social media post. It’s worth remembering that it’s easier to stand out in a letterbox than in an overflowing inbox.

Ultimately, the goal is to effectively deliver a message to the relevant people whilst building positive perceptions of your organisation, even when you need to deliver unpalatable news. To do this, you need good intuition and thorough planning.

If you’d like advice on any aspect of the communications mix, please contact me.