What Makes a Good Strategic Communications Plan?

]What Makes a Good Strategic Communications Plan? With Deanna Murray

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Hello, my name is Deanna Murray and I am a marketing and branding specialist who helps businesses realize their true potential by making their brands come to life.

A strategic communications plan is a detailed outline of how a marketing team plans to get brand and product messages out to target audiences. Strategic Communications plans are essential to clearly outlining the communication functions behind advertising, promotions and public relations.

It also helps companies manage costs and stay within budget.

After the implementation of a strategic communication plan, professionals can assess what worked and what didn’t work and revise accordingly.
There are many different ways to go about devising a communications plan, but the best ones contain these six components: objectives, audience, messages, timetable, budget (including staff and hiring) and management buy in.

Let’s dive into each component individually:

Objectives:
When determining your plans objectives, look at the already-established items within your business. This includes your company’s mission, goals and core values already ingrained in the day-to-day workings of the business.

Unless you are going through an entire rebranding exercise, these items should be commonly-known and widely communicated. If they are not, there is a problem.

When you look at the mission and goals, the objectives should immerge. More than likely, these objectives have come down from management. But when you place them in a communications plan, you have the opportunity to make sure they align with the mission and company goals.

Tip: When you’re putting together a communications plan and you see a disconnection between objectives being asked of an organization and the overall mission of a company, do not let it slide. Go back to management and ask for clarification and market direction. It could be a simple misunderstanding but it’s best to make sure.

Audience:
The audience section of your communications plan should outline in great detail who you are targeting. Whether it be baby boomers or young adults, it is very important to nail down the demographic and how it is going to be reached.
If this section is not fully baked, the communications plan will fail. Strategy is all about preparing and if you do not know what audience you are preparing to reach, then your efforts will fall blindly to the wayside.

Tip: Audience and reach are two areas of a plan that can be measurable almost immediately. When you are implementing this intended audience section, if you are not getting back the results you hoped for, pause the campaign and regroup. It is easy to get results almost on a daily basis in regards to campaign success. Utilize it and adapt according to what analytics are telling you.

Messages:
Big dollars are spent on tailoring marketing messages to a desired audience. This section allows you to specifically outline what you are communicating to whom and what the media outlet is.

All of these messages should roll up to the master objectives and company mission.

Tip: Another marvel of today’s technology is the ability to change messages – especially in digital media – if it is not working. Don’t hesitate to do it if the message is not working. Adapt and be flexible. Have creative personnel and copywriters at the ready. Small changes can make a big difference.

Budget:
Ugh. The most dreaded part of ANY plan. If you’re like most businesses, plans are big but budgets are small.

In this section, it’s time to outline what will be happening when and by whom and at what cost.

The budgeting section houses high-level time tables from beginning to end, tells who will be doing what and if new hires are required and what everything will cost.

Tip: Some communication plan authors choose to put in contingency budgets or ABC budgets based on spend. You know your management and what will be best for you to include.

Manager Buy In:
Now that you have all the bright ideas written down and have resolved that they support the main company’s mission – and you’ve outlined the messaging and the budget, it’s time to get management’s approval.

If you’ve done due diligence throughout the writing of this plan this will probably be a breeze – but if not, don’t lose hope. Most communications plans aren’t accepted in the first or even second go-around.

It’s important to remember this is a living, breathing document that changes as data is received. So the creating of it is no different.
Remember to believe in your plan and defend it when you feel it warrants it. Be smart and listen when trying to get buy-in. And be able to back up what your plan says with facts – not hunches.

When management has enough faith in the plan to give the go-ahead, that doesn’t mean you never touch this thing again – it just means you’ve put a strategy in place that’s been signed off on.

Tip: Once a communications strategy is implemented and becomes a tangible force, it moves, grows and breaths as the consumer guides it – for better or for worse. Make sure you are flexible enough to move with it and smart enough to know when to react and when to just let things sit.

I sure hope this information helps – leave a comment or a question – I’d love to hear from you! And if you get a chance, check out my weekly blog on build.automate.com.
This is Deanna Murray saying see ya — and we’ll talk again soon.