How to Create a Strategic Communications Plan

Strategic Communications Plan

You’ve got something in the works. It’s going to be a big hit.

Er, well…you’d like it to be a big hit, anyway. How does one go about making something a big hit, exactly?

Well, let’s assume that whatever you’ve got in the works is a game changer. People’s lives will be so changed by its existence, they’ll wonder why no one had ever thought of it before you. Not to mention that you’re going to execute it beautifully.

Let’s assume all of that. What comes next?

You tell people about it. You tell people about it in as many logical places and ways possible. And for that, you need a strategic communication plan. If that sounds terrifying, not to worry. I’m going to break it down in this blog post.


Part 1: Goals, Strategies, and Objectives

Every strategic communications plan needs a goal, at least one strategy, and a set of objectives. Each of these pieces work together toward a successful outcome.

Goal: This is your “what.” It’s your endgame, your outcome, your final result. And the more concrete it is, the better. Rather than saying, “We will increase business with our new service,” try something along the lines of, “We will get 1,000 people to sign up for our new service in the first month.”

Strategy: This is the “how.” It’s the method (or methods) you are going to employ to reach your goal. I.e., “We will get people to sign up for our new service by convincing them that our product is the best solution for their needs.”

Objectives: These are the “exactly how.” They’re the ways in which you will accomplish your methods. It’s where all your elbow grease goes. All the actual work — the creation of messages and materials, the dissemination of information, “exactly how” you convince people — will be done through your objectives.

Part 2: Defining Objectives

So you have this great new service. You have a goal (1,000 users in the first month), and you have a strategy (convince them it’s the best thing since sliced bread). Now you just need to define your objectives.

In a strategic communications plan, defining objectives requires a the identification or creation of a few components: audience, message, medium, and channel. This part is a LOT like my previous post on How to Tame the Content Monster. You develop your message, you figure out who needs to see it, and you work out a plan for how to get it in front of them.

Disclaimer: When it comes to determining audience, medium, and channels, make sure you’re being realistic. A lot of times, when people are SUPER excited about their new product, they think everyone on Earth should know about it. But trying to tell everyone about your new service or product can be a massive waste of time and money.

For example, if you’re launching a new online service for accountants, which do you think will gain you more business: 1) placing a newspaper ad geared toward the 85-year-old grandmother who doesn’t have Internet, or 2) targeting local accounting firms and independent CPAs in your area by buying space on Google AdWords, which pop up during certain times or alongside certain search terms?

(Hint: It’s the second one.)

Strategic_realistic

After you define your objectives, you’ll end up with a list of related deliverables — things that you create in order to get your message out. For example, email content, a blog post, and an infographic would all be deliverables.

Part 3: Timeframe

You’ll want to create self-imposed due dates for completing the objectives in your strategic communications plan. These due dates will help you keep all your various efforts straight — what’s going out which audience, through what channel, and when. Once you’ve wrapped up all your efforts, you can move on to…

Part 4: Measurement

I’m not sure if this is the first time I’ve said this on my blog, but I do know it won’t be the last: Measurement is EVERYTHING. If you don’t measure your effort, how do you know it was a success?

Measurement can be performed in a lot of different places — click-throughs on email campaigns and Google AdWords, site visits, social media impressions, and more. Not to mention actual number of people signing up for your service or buying your product. (See, that’s why it’s helpful to have a concrete goal!)

Measurement can also help you understand where your efforts are best spent, and where you could probably scale back. For instance, if you spent a ton on Google AdWords for a strategic campaign, but it didn’t bringing in enough conversions to warrant the expense, maybe you should think about foregoing Google AdWords next time.

Strategic_measurement

Putting It All Together

For every strategic communications plan I put together, I make an outline using a template that I created to help with the planning process. It gives me a visual reminder of the deliverables I still owe to the project, as well as my deadlines.

Goal_Template-1

Here’s a link to a Word version of the template. Hope you find it useful as well.

Are there any parts in the process where you get stuck? Let me know in the comments!

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