When Less is More: Writing an effective communications plan
I’m often asked what I think is the best format for an effective communications plan. The truth is, there’s no single official template, but a good rule of thumb when it comes to developing a communications plan is less is more. A good plan does not have to be pages upon pages of explanations and details to be effective. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
Having worked at Toyota, a company known for its lean business philosophy and efficiency, I became well versed in a model we called the A3 planning process, named literally for the size of the paper we used. The value of this format is that it allows you to convey an entire strategy, start to finish, in a succinct, effective, and visual way. The A3 model is ideal for communications planning because it compels the writer to strip away the jargon and padding, and get right down to the most essential information, usually in a few easy-to-follow steps.
Goal(s): What are you trying to achieve through your communications? Goals need to be concrete and measurable - it’s not enough to say you want to raise awareness. Are you hoping to change someone’s behavior? Are you making a call to action for your audience to do something? Or are you aiming to increase sales of a new product? Be clear about what you want to happen, how the communications plan will achieve it, and how you’ll measure success.
Current state: Assess the current situation. Who’s the audience for your plan or program? What is their understanding and interest in what you’re communicating, whether it’s a product, service, or new way of doing something? What are the opportunities and challenges you could face in executing your plan, and how can you leverage or avoid them?
Programs: Now that you have a clear understanding of the current state, how will you customize your communications to your audience(s)? What programs will you implement to achieve your goals? What are the messages, and what channels will you use to deliver them? Keep in mind that each program you implement may require its own unique project plan to carry it out.
Metrics: How are you defining success and how will you measure it? Are you trying to increase sales of a product? If so, that’s something you can measure directly as it happens, as well as over time. Or are you aiming to improve employee engagement in your organization, which is a longer-term effort with several metrics to consider? You might look at participation in company events, an increase in productivity, or lower absenteeism, among many others. You might also consider an engagement survey a year out from the start of your plan to determine its effectiveness.
Roadmap: When does each program, or phase of a program, need to happen? Who needs to be involved? Who will be responsible for leading it and who will support? When and how will you evaluate and redirect the program if needed?
If you’re still unsure of how you can fit all of this critical information on a single page, check out this template and feel free to borrow it. Now you can spend less time developing lengthy plans and more time executing on your core programs.
Mira Sleilati is an internal communications and engagement professional who has worked with organizations large and small, across industries and sectors. Learn more at www.mirasleilati.com.