Yes, I said it: your communication plan sucks.
No, no – I didn’t mean yours specifically.
I’m sure your communication plan is great…just great…
But there are plenty of communication plans out there that need help! Here are five reasons that an organization’s communication plan could use some revision:
1. There’s no budget
Not everyone values communication planning the way that you and I do. (For shame!) If senior management doesn’t buy into the concept of the strategic communication plan, you are already set up for disaster. A great communication plan is one that’s written by a professional communicator who is given a real budget with which to implement it. This takes time, research, resources, and the participation of multiple teams or team members. The effort will pay off when it’s time to measure your organization’s success. It’s cliché but you do get what you pay for.
2. The goals don’t reflect your organization’s mission
A communication plan is as legitimate a tool as your business strategy. In fact, the communication plan should be based on your organization’s business plan, and have goals that reflect its measurable outcomes. But remember, goals are not tactics. You will use tactics to reach your meaningful, measurable goals and objectives, but they are not the end result. Make sure you can relate each goal to your mission, and if you can’t – throw it out!
3. Your key messages are all about you
I know it’s hard to believe, but no one wants to hear about your business, your goals, your budgets, or all of the great things you do – unless it directly relates to them. We have all heard of the “What’s in it for me?” concept from marketing, and it remains true in communication planning. Understanding your audience and defining the impression you’d like your messaging to have on them is vital to the success of your plan. Authentic, open communications will build trust between your organization and its audience. It will also help them to see the value in what you do, and in what you’d like them to do (i.e. purchase your product).
4. Evaluation? What’s that?
If you have to ask this question, your communication plan has serious issues. The whole point of a strategic communication plan is to generate tangible business results. Your goals must relate to your mission (as stated), and include outcomes that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART). The communication plan should be constantly referenced in order to ensure that goals are being met. If the tactics you’re using are not achieving measurable results that support your business plan, then you need to move on to tactics that will garner success. There’s no shame in admitting that a tactic is not generating results. The problem exists when there is no one critically evaluating the communication plan in order to effectively implement it.
5. It collects dust on your shelf
Most communication plans fall short at the implementation phase. The document itself might be brilliant. It may have approval from senior management. But in the end there’s a) no one budgeted to carry out the work; b) people do whatever they want regardless of what’s in the plan; or c) it’s put on a shelf, never to be looked at again. A communication plan is meant to be a living document – one that remains on your desk for reference, updating and evaluation. If your plan is collecting dust, or propping a door open, you have a problem.
Bryna Jones is the Director of Communications at Hardy Stevenson and Associates Limited, and a member of theInternational Association of Business Communicators. Bryna’s project experience includes communications and marketing planning, advocacy campaign development, social media strategy, government relations, and project management. She also has considerable experience in copy writing and public speaking.