In our last post, I talked about communications plans, what they are, and why we create them for clients. Just to sum up: we adore them, and you should to.
We’ve talked elsewhere about some of the components I mentioned, namely editorial calendars, style guides, and process charts. In this post, I’m going to focus on another component that we always include in a plan, which is an overview of communications objectives.
On its face, this sounds simple enough—your communications objectives should explain the goals of your communication. Why does your organization put out there whatever it puts out there? What drives the communication? What do you want the end result of the communication to be?
But the challenge is to make the objectives specific and descriptive enough to be useful. If you’re a business trying to reach potential new clients, whom are you targeting, and why? If you’re a nonprofit looking to expand community partnerships and volunteerism, what specific needs will these partnerships and volunteers fill?
It’s worth it to spend the time to create a detailed landscape of your communications objectives, especially as part of a larger strategic plan. Honing in on specific objectives (which should entail specific target audiences and desired outcomes) means that you’re more likely to be able to realize those objectives than you are if those objectives remain nebulous.
Specifically articulated objectives translate seamlessly to direct action.
For example, increasing awareness about your organization’s mission is a valuable and important objective for any nonprofit. But increasing awareness can look a million different ways, which renders it almost meaningless (rather than clarifying) and paralyzing (rather than galvanizing). But increasing awareness among key state legislators who could serve as potential advocates for a specific aspect of your organization’s mission? That entails clear action that makes it a million times easier to realize.

When we work with clients in our capacity as consultants, one of the things we often create is a communications plan. A communications plan addresses all the communications that an organization produces and lays out a comprehensive approach to providing stakeholders with information.
A well-crafted plan defines who should be given what information, by whom, when, and through which channels. Ideally (though not necessarily), it’s crafted as part of a long-term strategic planning process, to ensure that communications targets dovetail with the organization’s larger goals. So a communications plan serves to not only codify, but also streamline and improve the efficacy of an organization’s communications processes.
It’s a game changer.
The components of a communications plan vary widely depending on the organization and its needs, but it almost always includes an overview of communications objectives, target audiences, and desired outcomes; a parsing of communications by channel (e.g., electronic publications such as newsletters or blog posts, print publications, and even events and in-person communication); an editorial calendar that can be developed and managed in-house; and recommendations for improving content and workflow (sometimes including a style guide or process chart).
A good communications plan shows you where you are, where you want to be, and how to get there. For organizations where internal communications resources are stretched thin, or for those where communications processes are decentralized and difficult to coordinate, this sort of comprehensive picture is really, really invaluable.
Look out for future posts detailing the various components of a communications plan, how they’re developed, and how they can be used.