How to Write a Communications Plan
Communications planning helps avoid costly mistakes and keeps your team on the same page. A solid plan helps ensure that your message is being delivered consistently and effectively. In this article I will introduce the RACE model, a simple framework for developing your communication plan.
RACE stands for:
Let’s walk through the steps and talk about how you can put this into action. We’ve put together a Communications Plan template PDF to help you outline your plan if you prefer to print a hard copy and follow along.
The first step is the research phase. This involves building an in depth understanding of the context and reasons for the communications taking place. Research sets the foundation for the rest of the plan, and so it is not wise to breeze through this step.
Doing worthwhile research for a communications plan requires you to step out of your own head and examine the situation objectively like a scientist. This will help you to better understand why the communications plan is needed, how it might be executed, and how to explain the situation to others and get them on board.
Your research section should include any relevant background information that a reader would need to understand the context of the plan and the “why”. You will also want to include any relevant data you discover that may impact the plan’s execution.
The second step is analysis. The analysis phase is where high level decisions and strategies are discussed. Through the research phase, you will have gained a deep understanding of the current matters the communication plan works to address. If possible, bring your insights and understanding of the problem to stakeholders to get their input or involvement in developing the analysis section.
If stakeholders are involved early on, it will help them understand and buy into the plan. It can also help you avoid making complicated revisions later on by getting crucial feedback at the beginning.
Your analysis section is very important because, based on your research, it informs your actual communication tactics and implementation of your plan. Analysis clearly answers the question “what needs to change and why?”.
The analysis section should include things such as a SWOT analysis, a high level strategy (or strategies), an audience analysis, key messages, goals, and objectives.
The third step is communication. The communication stage details exactly how the strategy will be enacted to meet objectives, breaking down any key tasks and dates.
This type of information is typically easiest to organize using tables, since there may be many steps and actions which need to occur. If the information is complex, consider supplementing it with a Gantt chart to clarify the timeline and actions taking place.
Each activity should clearly align with at least one of the objectives you laid out in your analysis section, this is important because it will help you to decide what activities are necessary or cut some if needed. Remember, make your plan realistic and as straightforward as possible. Consider which resources you have available to you and choose how to use them wisely.
If you are making a table you may want to include column headings such as:
Who (person responsible for taking action)
Audience reached (if you have multiple audiences or stakeholders)
Tailor your plan to the needs of your organization and end users, add only information that is meaningful to your audience to keep things clear and concise.
The final step is evaluation. Evaluation outlines how you will measure the success of your efforts. Writing this section into your plan is easy if you have developed good objectives through your analysis and clearly aligned them with tactics in your communication phase.
Each objective should be specific and measurable. Depending on your objectives and ground work completed in your research phase, you may be able to compare interviewee, focus group, or survey data to measure changes in opinion. You could also use observations or an ethnographic approach to measure changes in behavior. Online, website and social media analytics can be examined to check for increases in traffic or engagement.