Creating a Communication Plan for Your Business

Knowing how to properly communicate your company’s message is vital for business success. With a solid and comprehensive communications plan, you’ll have the tools and resources you need to reach your target customers. Crafting a plan takes time and consideration. Learn what a communications plan entails, know what types of businesses most benefit from using a communications plan, understand the steps to create your own communications plan and review answers to frequently asked questions about making a communications plan. 

 

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What is a communications plan?

A communications plan is a specific and targeted information delivery system companies can use to communicate news, provide marketing information and respond to crises when needed. Often, public relations teams, marketing teams or both manage the creation and execution of communications plans. Companies create communications plans for product launches and other planned out company activities alongside the development of the product or service. 

Some businesses also create internal communications plans for sharing messaging and news within the organization. This is most common for large, widespread corporations that may have thousands of employees working all over the world. Internal communications plans are less vital for companies that can gather all their employees in one place for a meeting. 

It’s important to understand that communications plans are proactive in nature, even for crises. The goal is to establish responses to potential incidents well in advance for effective message control should that situation emerge.

Related: Improving Organizational Communication: An Intro

 

What types of businesses benefit from having a communications plan?

Any company that interacts with customers, clients or stakeholders should establish lines of communication in preparation for planned launches and events in addition to potential challenges or crises. These types of organizations or internal departments most benefit from creating communications plans:

  • Marketing departments: Any company that has a marketing or public relations team on staff should utilize communications plans. 
  • Marketing agencies: Agencies who handle marketing for other companies will create communications plans for their own company and for their clients. 
  • Non-profits: Non-profits sometimes require specialized communications plans depending on their field. 
  • Communications consultants: Any freelancing communications consultants should have communications plans for themselves and their clients. 

Related: How to Address Poor Communication in the Workplace

 

Steps to create a communications plan

Depending on what your company does, you may require several specific communications plans to ensure you’re prepared to share news with the public regardless of what that news is. Follow these steps to help you establish a comprehensive communications plan for your business: 

 

1. Establish your brand

In order to ensure your messaging and communication efforts all adhere to the same values and mission, create a brand statement that neatly summarizes what your company stands for and believes in. Consider using a template like this to help you write your own: 

[Company name] exists in order to give [benefit 1], [benefit 2] and [benefit 3] to our customers and [other stakeholders] by [description of product or service].

 

2. Know your value proposition

You will plan most of your communications in advance to coincide with product launches, marketing campaigns and other proactive business developments. Knowing the value your company brings to the marketplace is a vital part of crafting an effective message. Determine what about your product, service or company sets you apart from your competitors. 

 

3. Determine your business objectives

Establish the business goals you hope to achieve through the successful deployment of your communications plan. Develop SMART goals to ensure all the actions you take in your communications plan will provide real value to your organization. SMART goals are: 

  • Specific: Your goals should be specific rather than general. 
  • Measurable: You should be able to quantify your goals. 
  • Achievable: Your goals should be realistic for you to achieve. 
  • Relevant: The goals you select should apply to your overall communications plan. 
  • Time-bound: You should be able to achieve each goal within a specific time frame.

 

4. Identify customer personas

In order to effectively execute your communications plan, you need to know who you’re targeting with your messaging. In most cases, this will be your customers and potential customers. If you haven’t established comprehensive customer personas, do so at this stage in your communications planning to ensure you’re using all your resources and tools for maximum impact. 

 

5. Consider other players

In some cases, particularly moments of crisis, you may want to share your messaging with entities and organizations beyond your target customer market. List other potential groups you’ll contact, like:

  • Journalists and the news media
  • Governmental agencies and organizations
  • Partnered businesses or other industry players

 

6. List necessary information

What information you intend to share with your audience may depend on the specifics of the situation. For example, if you’re establishing a plan for a new product launch, you’ll likely want consumers to know about your company’s history, reputation and commitment to quality. If you’re responding to a crisis, by contrast, you’ll want to share company information relevant to that situation. 

 

7. Select communication channels

Determine exactly where you’ll share your messaging. For planned events and campaigns, this often includes: 

  • Your company’s website and blog
  • Customer email marketing
  • Your social media accounts
  • Text marketing
  • Media outlets 
  • Traditional print marketing
  • Podcast marketing
  • Radio and television advertising

 

8. Create a messaging matrix

Your messaging matrix is essentially an easy-to-read document that compiles all the most important information about your communications plan in one place. List the following information: 

  • Your brand statement as created in step one
  • Your target audience as established with your customer personas from step four
  • The essential problem or issue your company is solving
  • The primary message you’re sharing through your communications 

 

9. Mark campaigns and events 

For advanced planning product releases and other events, determine important dates for sharing your message. Consider working backwards from the event or launch itself and determining important dates for engaging with your target audience from there.

 

10. Know your goals

Use your business objectives to help set SMART communications goals. This way, the specific actions you take will connect directly back to your overall business development. 

 

11. Plan communication

Create a calendar on which you list every single planned communication. Include:

  • Channel
  • Audience
  • Resources
  • Date
  • Time
  • Manager

 

12. Review analytics

Once your communications plan is in process and again at its conclusion, review the analytics of your posts and interactions. See what messages worked well, which channels received the most customer engagement and how closely you were able to meet your objectives and goals to help you create better communications plans for future endeavors. 

 

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Frequently asked questions about creating a communications plan

What should a communication plan include?

At its core, a communication plan should include all the relevant details needed for the campaign as a whole so anyone involved can execute it. Generally, this includes the following information: 

  • Brand statement
  • Value proposition
  • Business objectives
  • Audience
  • Information to share
  • Communication channels
  • Messaging matrix
  • Important communication dates
  • Communication goals
  • Marketing calendar

 

What is a communication plan example?

Communication plans are often lengthy, thorough documents that include specific messaging examples and a detailed calendar of posts and communications. In addition to this overarching document, many communications plans include a messaging matrix which is an abbreviated plan that highlights the most important information present in the plan. Review this example of a messaging matrix to help you establish your own:

Brand statement
Arthur’s Ice Cream exists in order to provide a quality product at an affordable price to our customers and retailers by using farm-to-table ingredients and hand churning production methods.
Target audience
The target market for this product is young parents in their late 20s and early 30s, interested in providing their families with a high-quality treat from a local business. 
Issue
There are very few options available for busy families who want a locally sourced ice cream they can conveniently purchase at the grocery store.
Message
We communicate the value of our product through customer testimonials and a commitment to local ingredients and hassle-free purchasing. 

 

Why do you need a communication plan?

Communications plans provide a number of benefits to the companies that choose to use them. Consider these primary advantages of creating a comprehensive communications plan: 

  • Establish clear and effective business goals.
  • Understand relationships between your target audience and various marketing channels. 
  • Improve communications strategies and skills.
  • Help employees know their roles in the communications process. 
  • Develop company camaraderie. 
  • Ensure internal and external stakeholders understand one another through the plan. 
  • Allow stakeholders to contribute to the overall communications plan. 
  • Secure input from all interested parties. 
  • Use the information and analytics from the plan to develop more effective future plans. 

Taking the time to develop an effective communications plan for your company’s business activities will ensure you’re able to communicate what you want when you need to with your customers. Make sure you also consider communications plans for potential crisis situations or other challenges your business may face so you can control the story.

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