There are two ways to write a communication plan. The first is to create it on the fly and hope it works. The second is to develop an intentional and message-driven annual comms plan that supports your organization’s strategic goals. While the second approach may seem daunting, it will make your communications more effective and provide you and your team with a roadmap for the year. How? An annual communication plan allows you to:
Take the time to review your organization's strategic goals, operating budget, and mission and values to create a plan that directly contributes to and reflects each of them.
Identify overarching key messages that reflect the year’s focus, as well as messages for individual campaigns and projects.
Create a calendar to understand the sequence of major campaigns and projects to identify complementary messaging, as well as overlapping priorities.
From here, you can create the messages, strategies, and tactics for each project and campaign.
BEFORE YOU WRITE A COMMUNICATION PLAN
Review your organization’s mission, vision, and values. Every campaign or project the comms team produces should support the organization’s mission and values. By reviewing them at the beginning of your planning, you can keep them top-of-mind as you write key messages and related content for different channels.
Use the strategic plan and annual operating budget to identify projects that will require communications support. If you are lucky, the budget will be finalized and include the strategic plan initiatives each project supports. If not, review the strategic plan as a reminder of your organization’s one-, five-, and 10-year goals. With long-term goals in mind, you will be able to create messages that put your messaging in perspective.
Identify the comms department’s projects and campaigns. Most likely, you will also have departmental goals, projects, and campaigns that are not explicitly cited in the strategic plan but ultimately support the organization’s goals that you will want to include in the plan. Include those as well.
Create a calendar that includes all projects and campaigns with nonnegotiable dates, such as holidays or grand openings. Then, begin adding in other projects.
WRITE YOUR COMMUNICATION PLAN
You are now ready to develop your communication plan using the steps below.
Set your goals. Ask your team what it is you want to achieve with your campaigns and projects. For instance, if you are a nonprofit and your development team has asked for assistance with Giving Tuesday, you will want a campaign that engages donors and drives them to go to your website to donate. Working with the development team, determine a goal for dollars raised or donors who give and measure against this goal throughout the campaign.
Identify your audiences. Every brand has multiple audiences. If you are a nonprofit, for instance, your three primary audiences may be clients, donors, and board members. Their needs and interests, and the channels you use to reach them, may be very different. Therefore, it is important to identify them and create messages and strategies targeted to each one.
Identify overarching key messages. Overarching messages bring focus and purpose to annual projects and campaigns. They also provide the foundation for your campaigns and projects and reinforce your organization’s mission, vision, and values. They do not have to relate directly to every project on your calendar, but they will encompass the organization’s major goals for the year. For example, if you are a liberal arts college launching a new internship program, announcing partnerships with industries that will help students build workforce skills, and breaking ground on a new library that will encourage collaboration, one overarching message may be:
Identify audience-specific messages for individual projects and campaigns. For each project and campaign identify the targeted audience(s) and key messages for each one.
Board of trustees
Identify audience-specific tactics. Choose tactics that will reach the audiences you are targeting. In other words, meet them where they are. Do they use social media? If so, what platforms are they on? Does the audience respond better to in-person events? The channels used for each audience may be different.
Choose a project lead and set launch and milestone dates. Milestone dates should be used to review data and determine if your goals are being met. If goals are not being met, determine what is working and what isn't and make changes as needed. Continue to monitor.
Once you have written your communication plan, you can use your preferred management software to outline the steps and milestones for each project and campaign.
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