12 Steps To Creating a Communication Strategy

Updated July 21, 2022

A communication plan clearly outlines the message, objective and process of a company’s outreach activities. This document helps project managers lay out an approach to how they want to address their clients’ needs. Whether a project is small or large, formal or informal, having a well-prepared communication plan can help ensure a more organized, efficient project. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of communication plans, why they’re beneficial and how to create your own communication strategy.

Related: Learn About Being a Project Manager

What is a communication plan?

Put simply, a communication plan is a roadmap for getting a message delivered to a targeted audience. Communication plans are often used by organizations to facilitate correspondence during a major project, however, they are also used to direct marketing communication strategies. A communication plan will specify three major components:

  • How will important information be delivered throughout the project?

  • Who is in charge of delivering this information?

  • What is the timeframe and frequency for information distribution?

Remember, not all projects are created equal. Therefore, a communication plan will specifically correlate to each individual project. Small projects will have very different communication needs than larger projects. For example, a small project may have a single main contact versus a large project which will have many stakeholders, or key players, involved.

Project communication plan must-haves

Generally, a communication plan states who needs to know what information and in what format. There are a few points to address when creating a project communication strategy:

  • Identify the key stakeholders in the project.

  • Identify the primary client contacts.

  • Identify the types of communication strategies that will be used and when.

  • Develop a timeline of when important meetings will be held, especially after major project milestones have been reached.

Goals of a strategic communication plan

Communication plans are critical in business. Their role is to inform all parties involved about project updates and deadlines. The majority of communication plans will have similar goals. They are as follows:

  • Keep all stakeholders up-to-date on the budget, timeline and needs of the project.

  • Provide transparent insight into any roadblocks or important decisions made along the way.

  • Supply opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback.

Benefits of developing a communication plan

Projects are full of opportunities for communication mishaps. It is important for organizations and companies to avoid miscommunication because it can cost a lot of lost time and money. Communication plans help keep all stakeholders informed and on track, especially the client. The more detailed the plan, the more likely it is that you’ll avoid miscommunication and potential setbacks.

There are many benefits to developing a communication plan template. They include:

  • Keeping meetings clearly organized

  • Alleviating potential risks

  • Improving communication among stakeholders

  • Encouraging camaraderie and collaboration

  • Keeping stakeholders informed

  • Setting clear expectations and attaining goals

Keeping meetings clearly organized

A good communication plan establishes clear meeting guidelines. It outlines who will meet, when they will meet, and most importantly, why they will meet. It also keeps meetings from meandering. This allows team members to get back to working on the project as soon as possible without wasting precious time.

Alleviating potential risks

With any major project, it’s important to recognize that things will occasionally go awry. A communication plan allows project leaders to develop a contingency plan if a significant issue does arise.

Improving communication among stakeholders

Determining which channels you will use makes communication extremely efficient. Choose a method, and make sure the stakeholders are aware that you will be using this mode of communication. Methods may include phone calls, emails, faxes, group chats or online teleconferencing. When everyone is using the same mode of communication, processes will be streamlined and communication will be more fluid among key players.

Encouraging camaraderie and collaboration

The more effective your team is at communicating, the stronger they will become when working together. Encouraging interaction will improve collaboration.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Keeping stakeholders informed

Providing the client with scheduled updates and asking for feedback can help with a project’s progress. Additionally, establishing who the primary point of contact is will help avoid any miscommunication between the client and the business.

Setting clear expectations and attaining goals

It is important for the project leader, team and client to all have clarity from the very beginning of a project. Establishing and maintaining clear expectations will promote more successful outcomes.

What is a marketing communication plan?

Communication plans vary depending on the goal of the desired messaging strategy and the intended audience. A marketing communication plan template focuses on informing an audience, rather than stakeholders, about a brand’s purpose and mission. In this case, an organization will lay out exactly what they want to communicate to their intended audience, how they want to say it and the channel and frequency of that communication.

How to make a communication strategy

You can create a communication plan in 12 steps:

  1. Establish a mission statement.

  2. Identify the objectives of the business or the project.

  3. Identify the target audience.

  4. Identify the unique selling proposition (USP).

  5. Draft a call to action.

  6. Decide how to share the message.

  7. Determine the publishing frequency.

  8. Determine the message you want to send.

  9. Figure out important events and campaign plans.

  10. Identify communication goals.

  11. Use a calendar to execute the communication plan.

  12. Analyze the results of the communication plan.

After each step has been drafted, add the content into a communication plan outline or template.

1. Establish a mission statement

A mission statement will identify the end goal that your organization wants to deliver to a client or to their customers. A template can help your team format the appropriate mission statement. For example, “[organization name] aims to provide [benefit], [benefit] and [benefit] through [service or product].”

2. Identify the objectives of the business or the project

Business objectives are goals that need to be reached in order for your organization or company to be successful. Every step of your communication plan should relate back to the objectives. Identifying project objectives can be developed through a team approach, whether it’s through a meeting with the organization’s leaders, a manager or a marketing team.

3. Identify the target audience

A target audience is comprised of the individuals that the organization is attempting to reach. It is essential to clearly identify the group of people who are most likely to purchase a service or product. This can be completed by gathering data via surveys, Google Analytics and website traffic. Another strategy is to take a look at any competitors’ social media following. See what type of audience they are attracting and use that to your advantage.

After reviewing the data, you can develop a persona for your target audience and write a one or two sentence statement about them. For example, “Our target audience is comprised of working mothers who are between the ages of 25 to 45. They are actively involved in their home, local community and in the workforce.”

4. Identify the unique selling proposition (USP)

A USP is what makes one product or service better and more desirable than that of the competition. Whether your organization offers a new, unique product or lower prices on an established favorite, identifying the USP will greatly impact your communication plan. It is critical to identify how you will set yourself apart from the competition.

5. Draft a call to action

Once you have identified your target audience(s), outline what actions you want them to take after hearing or reading your message. Using the right phrasing is critical in this step. Your call to action is the motivating push for people to invest in your service or product.

6. Decide how to share the message

At this point in the plan, the team must choose what channels to use to spread your message. The most common outlets include blog posts, email newsletters, press releases and sale offers. Social media is also a huge marketing tool, so consider using demographic data to learn where your target audience is most present.

7. Determine the publishing frequency

After your channels have been selected, decide how often the team will post and publish content. Research when would be the best time to post on social media. For example, data suggests that 80 percent of the U.S. population resides in the Eastern and Central time zones. Therefore, if your target audience is American consumers, consider posting content during times when these individuals are most likely to be active on social media. With social media, developing a publishing schedule and focusing consistently is key.

8. Determine the message that you want to send

People will be drawn to your product or service to solve a particular problem that they are experiencing. Therefore, your message will need to identify the problem, offer your solution and supply the call to action created in step six. For example, “Are you experiencing [the problem]? [company name] can help with our [service or product name]. [Fill in the call to action from step six].”

9. Figure out important events and campaign plans

Take a look at a calendar to plan ahead. Identify any potential events that your team may want to center some campaigns around. These may include anniversary sales, holidays and company-wide special events.

10. Identify communication goals

Next, it is time to set communication goals that the team needs to achieve. These goals should relate to the objectives that were developed in step two. Once the goals have been established they need to be measured by metrics and data points. A communication goal may sound like, “Our [team name] will reach [number or metric] every [set time frame] by [date].”

11. Use a calendar to execute the communication plan

At this point, you and your team have created a full communication plan. Now it is time to implement it. Using a calendar, identify the important events with the length of each associated campaign. During this phase, you may also schedule newsletter releases, promotional events or blog posts. Social media posts related to the campaign can also be placed on the calendar.

12. Analyze the results of the communication plan

The final step is to use metrics to measure the results of your communication plan. Was your strategy successful?

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