Strategic Communications Planning

No matter what business you are in, communications is the bedrock of all of your activity, whether that be in dealing with sales customers, your bankers, your employees, the media, your suppliers; well you get the idea, the list just goes on and on.

A Strategic Plan comprises three elements.

  • What do you want to say?
  • Who do you want to say it to?
  • How will you go about saying it?
  • How do you know that what you had to say go through?

It looks pretty easy doesn’t it?  Something you could knock off in a couple of hours in the meeting room, right?

I’m afraid not.  The development of a Strategic Communications Plan can take weeks if senior management does not have  a clear idea of what the organization is all about.

That sounds unlikely doesn’t it?

Well, in my experience of dealing with corporations, governments, and institutions of all sorts it is tragic how many do not have a clear idea of just what it is the organization is supposed to be doing. Some people refer to this as the Mission Statement, or Vision Statement.

Simply put, a Strategic Plan cannot be written until everyone agrees on a simple declarative sentence describing just why the entity exists.

  • “Whizzbang Enterprises sells as many Gizmos as possible.”
  • “The purpose of General Big Industries LLC is to dominate the Gadget business in Eastern Kazakhstan.”
  • “Deeply Concerned Aid People help the poor by feeding them.”

Such a simple concept isn’t it? — define your business or group in one clear sentence.  How hard can it be?

Plenty hard.

It can take days and days.  I remember one very large international organization working at a national level in the Balkans that wanted a Strategic Plan in three weeks, which is not an unreasonable length of time for this kind of project.  Unfortunately the senior people could not agree on the overall purpose, Mission, or Vision and it took most of the first week for them to hammer it out.

It took almost as long to define the second part of the plan, “Who do you want to talk with?”

The two hardest things to get right in any plan are the first two on the above list.

The easy bit it working out the techniques.  This is where you decide how the message will be delivered; news releases, television programs, posters, magazines, etc

This bit is so easy that it is just about the first thing that inexperienced communications people in an organization will start work on and it is often the first stuff that senior management wants to see.  The trouble is of course that the nature of your message and the type of stakeholders or audience you have will determine the techniques.  If you build an all-singing all-dancing internet campaign and your audience doesn’t have access to the internet then you have wasted a terrific amount of money and time.  If your fancy tools are communicating a muddled, fuzzy, or incorrect message because you haven’t decided just what it is you want to be saying then disaster looms.

And at the end of it all, if you have not built in a mechanism to measure the effectiveness of your plan then you will have no idea if any of it worked, no idea of what changes should be made, no idea whether anybody even heard your message.

This sort of stuff goes on day after day and it can be avoided very easily by getting a professional in to work with management for a few days.