How would you handle this scenario?
Let’s say I ask you to throw a special party for 100 guests that would include a delicious meal with dessert, musical entertainment, a formal presentation with speakers and themed decorations. We’d need invitations and vendors, and it’s all up to you to plan it. Good luck!
Feeling nervous? Not sure where to start?
Your first plan of action should be to get a plan on paper with all the detailed steps needed to make it a successful event. This process will help you take control over the chaos in your mind, so you can focus on the task at hand. And it’s this same technique that should be used when deciding how to promote an organization each year.
Benefits of communications plans
“We’ve always done it this way” is a common excuse for avoiding change when planning new promotional strategies. TechTarget says “an effective communications strategy can help break down resistance to change by getting everyone on the same page and helping stakeholders become engaged and endorse the need for change.”
Having a detailed communications plan:
- Creates a sense of focus and control. Remember that feeling of panic from the party analogy? Communications planning calms that panic by creating a roadmap that keeps the team moving along toward the end-goal.
- Sets expectations for everyone’s duties. Communications planning removes uncertainty, because everyone knows what they’re responsible for completing.
- Ensures consistent communication among internal and external stakeholders. If everyone works from one, documented plan, there’s a better chance for consistent communication.
- Establishes ways to monitor and measure success. Communications planning helps you decide from the beginning what success will look like and how you will know if you get there.
What does a communications plan include?
As you draft your communications plan, make sure it includes these 10 sections:
- Research Summary/Situation Analysis. You won’t know where you should go until you understand where you are now. Where are the areas that you struggle with the most? Is it local awareness, fundraising, volunteering, employee retention? Consider conducting surveys or focus groups to help you pinpoint the strongest areas of need. Your summary should explain what change is needed to make your organization successful.
- Target audiences. Think through all the audiences you need to reach to be able to achieve your goals. This could include donors, volunteers, employees, media and more.
- Key messages. What are the main messages you’re trying to get across to your audience(s)? Are there elements of your mission statement that need to be included? Do you have a few key campaigns that you want to focus on this year? Identify those key messages, and make sure everyone in your organization is briefed on them. This is how you maintain consistent communication across the board.
- Goals. From your research, identify the overall goals you need to accomplish to see successful change in your organization. These are meant to be broad, umbrella goals.
- Objectives. Under each of your goals should be objectives that are S.M.A.R.T. — meaning specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
- Strategies. Under your objective, what is the overall strategy you’ll use to reach your target audience?
- Tactics. Here’s where you see the detail of the plan come in. For example, if your strategy is to build awareness of your services in Marion County residents, some tactics you might consider are producing a monthly newsletter for Marion County residents, pitching press releases for every new fundraising event held or posting updates to your social media account on a weekly basis. Tactics are the various steps you’ll take to reach your target audience.
- Evaluation. Decide what “success” means to you and your goals. Is it a certain number of people attending your event? A specific amount of money raised? Is it increased web traffic? Include these metrics in your plan.
- Budget estimations. If you have a specific budget you know you have to stay under, here’s the place to price out your ideas and provide a projected cost.
- Planning calendar. Think through the projected timeline for your suggested plan. It’s easier to hold yourself accountable to a plan if you’ve assigned tasks to various parts of the year (by quarter, for example).