If you see that question and gaze blankly into the distance you could be suffering from ‘no-plan-a-phobia’. It’s a common ailment that affects many marketers, especially with the growth of the online world and the explosion of social media. Look, there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s okay to plan and, in fact, it’s encouraged especially in those circles where successful people hang out.
What’s the purpose of having a communications plan? Don’t you just blog and tweet and the world will beat a path to your website and buy your stuff? Sadly, no. You actually need to think about what you’re saying, who you’re saying to, how you’ll say it and why they will even care. With so many methods to communicate at your disposal and limited resources to make them happen, you’ll need to be selective when planning your communication strategy.
Internal vs. External
With any business, your communication will fall into two camps – internal and external. Internal communications are those emails, manuals, meeting minutes and employee memos that are shared with folks working at the company. External communications are the ways we connect with people outside the company such as phone calls, voice mail, marketing materials, website, social media, invoices, press releases, surveys and speeches.
What to Consider When Planning Communication
When you sit down to map out your communication plan ask yourself these questions:
1) Why do you need to communicate? – what will be different as a result of the communication
2) Who will you communicate with? – make a list of all potential audiences (internal and external)
3) What do these audiences think about you now? – how can you find out? List what you already know based on past feedback and determine what you still need to find out and how you will do that.
4) What are the goals / purpose of the communication? – what do you want your audience to know, think or do as a result of the communication?
5) What key messages will you write for each audience? – the message may be the same for each audience or they may have differences.
6) When will you deliver the message? – timing may determine how you to communicate
7) How will you deliver the message? – to create general awareness, written communication may be enough in which case you’ll need to determine what platforms to use (e.g. website, blog, social media, print). If the message is complex or controversial you may need to plan for a face to face interaction.
8) What measurement method will you use? – once the communication has been sent, how will you know it was successful and that your goal was reached?
Once you’ve figured out the answers to these questions, map out the details of the execution. Keeping these considerations in mind, you can develop an editorial calendar that will act as a framework to guide all your communications.
The old cliché ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ isn’t far off the mark when it comes to communication. So many people spin their wheels because they lose focus and find their communication scattered all over the place. Don’t be one of those people. Here’s a handy marketing planning tool that might help you get on track.
What else would you do to plan your communication strategy? Share your ideas in the comments.
Marnie Hughes is an SEO copywriter, author and online marketer. She works with small and medium-sized businesses to develop their marketing and communications and expand their customer base.
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