Your communications plan should tell you what NOT to do

keep-calm-and-just-say-no-10The first time I saw a “real” communications plan, it made me question the wisdom of having chosen to work in this field.

It was a 40-slide PowerPoint presentation weighing in at almost 3000 words with graphs and pie charts and tedious demographic information. Holy guacamole, I thought, is all this laborious detail really necessary? Is anyone ever going to read this again after today?

The answer came a few months later when the director of another department criticized the marketing-communications team for not having been present on a certain media channel. My boss replied simply, “You signed off on the comm plan and that doesn’t respond to any of our objectives.” She was right. We didn’t do it because we had decided – collectively – that we were not going to do it.

Our 40-slide behemoth saved the day.

Plan to focus

I recently worked on a communications plan and, although the birthing process can be agonizing at times, I now respect the process. Each element of the plan is carefully analyzed with the aim of getting all stakeholders on board around common goals and objectives. (And, yes, the exact wording of the Key Messages does matter. I know it hurts.)

The power of a communications plan is that it gives an organization focus. It becomes the play book for all actions to be taken – and not taken. In a world where hundreds of fragmented platforms are available to communicators, it’s becoming just as important to decide what to omit from your plan as it is to decide what to include. Good comm plans optimize the “signal-to-noise ratio”: More useful, high-quality information is exchanged, fewer ineffective and irrelevant actions muddy the waters and suck up precious resources.

A good communication plan gives your team the ability to focus their efforts on the actions that are actually going to deliver the desired end results. It gets everyone pulling in the same direction.

Making the case for less

OMG it spinsWe can’t help it sometimes. We see a shiny new technology and we get all giddy about incorporating it into the plan. A few years ago, everyone was going ga-ga for augmented reality and mobile apps. We were going to do EVERYthing on Facebook and Twitter because social media is “free” (don’t even get me started on that one). Have a communication objective? Start a Facebook page! Want to develop new leads? Start a LinkedIn Group! Who’s going to feed, manage and monitor these platforms and be accountable for outcomes? …Oops.

Often the most effective comm plans use fewer, carefully selected tactics rather than carpet-bombing random messages across dozens of channels. Experienced communicators go for quality.

The communications plan is the crucible where everything unnecessary gets burned away and the final product is a clear road map to get from where we are to where we want to be. And yes, sometimes it can look more complicated than Melania and Donald Trump’s pre-nup agreement, but it will make for better collaboration among stakeholders and greater chances for success. The plan becomes the touchstone for all actions throughout the course of the campaign.

Was it in the plan?

Well, that’s why we’re not doing that.

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