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If your business needs to deploy an effective and consistent messaging strategy, then it must create a comprehensive communications plan. This document will then serve as a roadmap for delivering your message to your target audience in an effective way.
In this guide, we’ll outline how you can perfect this document. As well as answering common questions such as ‘what is a communications plan?’, we’ll also discuss exactly what your plan should include and how our solutions can help you create one.
What is a communications plan?
Your communications plan allows you to deliver key information to appropriate stakeholders swiftly and effectively. It helps you identify the messages your business would like to promote, the people you’d like to target with these messages, and the channels you’d like to promote the messages on.
Communications plans can be used in a variety of circumstances. Although they’re often useful in times of crisis when a brand needs to convey a consistent message, they’re also used when a business is launching a new product or initiative.
What needs to be in a communications plan?
Writing an effective communications plan that covers all eventualities can be difficult. However, an effective communications plan will greatly assist your business with message discipline. To be effective and comprehensive, your communications plan must include:
- An audit of your current communications materials
- SMART goals based on the results of this audit
- A suitable audience for your communications
- The channels on which you’ll deliver your messages
- Details on the team members responsible for communicating key messages
- A plan for how you will measure results and the effectiveness of the communications strategy
Audit your current communications
Before you put together a new communications strategy, you first need to consider how effective your current communications are. By doing this, you can identify which tactics are working and areas where you’re currently experiencing problems. This can also help you find gaps in your current marketing approach that might be creating inefficiencies.
For example, if you’re creating a marketing communications plan that will support a new product launch and you audit your current efforts, you may notice that you rarely (if ever) discuss a topic that aligns perfectly with your new product. By spotting this at such an early stage, you can ensure this topic is a central part of your new communications plan.
When conducting your audit, you need to carefully gather and interpret as much data as possible. Using this data, you can assess the performance of your current marketing plan and then build a roadmap for your upcoming activities.
If you like, you can also supplement this hard data with other pieces of information, such as surveys of your current customers and focus groups. You should also consult with departmental heads, process owners, and other key staff members.
After carrying out your audit, you should then conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to understand your position in the market. If you’d like a greater understanding of the external factors that impact your business, you can also carry out a PESTEL analysis that takes political, economical, social, technological, environmental and legal factors into account.
Create SMART goals
Once you have completed your audit and analysed your data, you then need to create a series of SMART goals for your new plan. By this, we mean goals that are:
- Relevant and
When setting these SMART goals, you need to consider what action you’d like your audience to take, the content you can create that will generate that action, and how the content can be delivered.
For example, if you’re creating a marketing communications strategy for a new product launch, then one of your goals may be something like “gain 1,000 email sign-ups for the new product pre-sale link by launch day.”
Identify your audience
In order to communicate effectively, you must understand and know your audience (or audiences). After all, if you’re creating a crisis communications plan, then you’ll be communicating with different groups who will expect different pieces of information and tones. For example, you’ll likely communicate differently with your employees than you would with a government official or a media outlet.
So, ensure you understand exactly who you’re creating your communications plan for. Once you understand their requirements and characteristics, you can then create effective messaging for these individuals and deliver that message successfully. To help with this, it’s advisable to create simple audience personas that you can refer to when you’re creating your messaging.
Determine your communication channels
The channels you use to communicate with your audience will depend on the message you’re trying to convey and the people you want to hear that message.
For example, if you’re writing for a media outlet, then you’ll likely wish to create a press release that details your goals. However, if your audience is your company’s employees, then you’ll instead wish to craft an internal document that each employee can refer to. Alternatively, if you’re advertising a new product to existing customers, then you may deploy an email marketing campaign or a social media advertising strategy.
Once you’ve determined your audience and the channels on which you’d like to deliver your communications plan, you need to assign responsibility for delivering the message.
This way, you create clear lines of accountability and responsibility. This then makes it far easier to track progress. In crisis management scenarios when situations are tense and ever-changing, it also creates a sense of clarity and calm.
Outline and write your plan
At this stage of the process, you’re ready to write your plan. When doing so, it’s best to start simple and use a table or a chart. This will help you identify the key messages you’d like to promote, who you’re targeting with these messages, and the channels you’re going to use.
Once this general outline is in place, you then need to structure your communications plan and create processes. To do this, you should include details around:
- The purpose of the plan and what it aims to achieve
- Escalation framework, including the first line of defence and the names of the people on the greater response team
- The roles and responsibilities of each employee named in the plan
- Dos and don’ts for each team member
- How to measure the effectiveness of the communications plan
Although a single individual should have overall responsibility for the communications plan, it shouldn’t be written entirely by one person. Instead, the lead writer should work with other representatives to accurately identify goals and any potential risks.
A successful communications plan will get your message delivered to your audience effectively while ensuring that you accomplish your business objectives. However, it’s highly unlikely that your plan will be perfect at the first time of asking.
Due to this, once you’ve delivered your communications plan, you need to measure the results and report on its effectiveness. In doing this, you must highlight the aspects that went well and then determine areas where the plan can be improved for next time.
At this stage of the process, you must return to your SMART goals. This way, you can see exactly what your strategy achieved. Here, you may notice that either your plan underperformed or that your goals were simply unachievable.
As well as reviewing how you performed against solid metrics such as these, you should also consider your performance against softer metrics, such as how the language you used affected emotions. For example, if you noticed that your crisis management language actually created an environment of stress and fear internally, then it may need to be reworded for future instances. This way, you can ensure that your communications plan feels helpful, beneficial, and positive.
How Apteco software can help
With the help of our solutions, you can develop a comprehensive and impactful communications strategy. Not only can our solutions help you consolidate all of your information in one place (eliminating silos), but they can also track your interactions with your target audience across many different channels. Due to this, they can give you an insight into how to improve your communications with these individuals.
But, as well as helping you consolidate your data, our solutions can also help you build audiences for campaigns. In doing so, you can also create charts and grids from your data that allow you to check and understand the characteristics of your selected target group.
Plus, if you’re looking to get the right message in front of the right customer at the right time, then our campaign automation software is perfect for the job. It even allows you to perform split tests, so you can see which of your communications strategies is most effective.
Finally, our solutions can also make sure that all of your communications are timely and relevant. Through personalisation, you can recognise individuality in your communications and add a personal touch.