Before You Write Your Plan: Communications Plan Checklist
Writing an in depth communications plan can be time consuming and feel complicated if you don’t reflect beforehand on some basic things. Here are some considerations you will want to think about before you get started:
Who should be involved in writing the plan?
There is nothing worse than taking a stab at a complicated communications plan, only to realize later that an important team member was not included. This kind of mistake can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunications. It can also lead to time consuming revisions if an important decision maker’s feedback is not incorporated early on. Invite people in and communicate every step of the way.
Who will be implementing the plan?
Yes, there is another audience you need to consider when writing your plan, beyond the target audience of your strategy and tactics. It is the actual end user of your plan. Who are the people who will actually be using the plan? Think about how to write and format your plan in a way that will be most usable to them.
Who will be affected?
Always consider which stakeholders may be impacted by the implementation of the plan. Neglecting this consideration can potentially damage relationships and burn bridges. This might not be important to you if you are simply planning a short online campaign, but if you are doing any type of public engagement take the time to consider what impact your project could have on people. Take time to reflect on and answer the hard questions these people may have for you. If you do not have answers, consider if your project is actually ethical and whether you should even proceed.
Think about who needs to be at the table and be invitational. It’s okay to have different levels of engagement, not everyone will want to be involved, and there may not be time for all decisions to be made collectively—but make sure you try to involve relevant stakeholders, you will find that they will have input and feedback that can make your plan better and more effective in the long run.
Practitioners tend to skip over really involving stakeholders due to the time consuming coordination and potential emotional labor. Don’t. If someone that needs to provide input is excluded, you will only hear about it later, either more angrily or through back-channels. Bypassing stakeholder engagement can even completely derail your project in the long run.
Who is the target audience?
Giving thought to your audience before starting on your plan can help guide you in the research phase and help you to better understand the current situation. Knowing who you are targeting early on can lead to deep insights by targeting your primary research and more effective strategic decisions as you fully develop your plan. You may even learn that your audience is a slightly different group than you originally thought!
You don’t need to know everything about your audience right from the start, but keeping them in mind as you begin the process will ensure your plan stays relevant throughout.
As you can see, people are the key ingredient to consider in your pre-planning. Think about all the people affected, both within your organization and external, and it will make it easier for your to write an effective communications plan.
Once you’ve read over the above questions, ask them of your plan. Interrogate them further:
Who are the people at all levels that need to be considered?
How will you engage with them?
How involved will they be?
Make a list or mind map of all the relevant individuals and groups of people you can think of, you can use this as a starting point to organizing your team and beginning your research.