Communications Plans, Part I: The Big Picture

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.