- Photo Credit: Guy Fawkes
Creating a solid communications plan is vital. A clearly and thoughtfully defined plan will not simply help you in executing it, but it will help also others to understand/support/finance/approve it.
This road map is the one I follow in many of the projects I work on and I hope it will help you in your communications planning.
Keep in mind: The listed points represent general guidelines, not all of them are always necessary and they might slightly change from project to project.
- Analyze the state of the art: What’s the project about? Who is involved in the project (partners)? Is there a previous/past timeline to take into account? What’s the future timeline?
- Analyze the environment: What’s the public/media/web perception? What’s going to influence the project (positive/negative)? Any law/jurisdiction restrictions? Which are the competitors and what are they up to at the moment?
- Analyze the stakeholders: Who are they (also the ones within/outside the organization)? and what’s their position/potential reaction in relation to the project? How to manage potential negative reactions?
- Set the objectives: What are you aiming at (coverage, improve reputation, increase demand, etc.)? Objectives must be measurable and achievable… then if you want to go ‘fully’ SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-focused). Remember to differentiate business objectives and communications objectives.
- Craft your strategy: (remember here we are talking about strategy not tactics) How to achieve your objectives? Will you go high or low profile? Proactive or reactive approach? Leverage on key stakeholders or large audience? Direct contact/via media/via web? Does the strategy reflect what’s in the analysis and objectives? Find out more about strategy here.
- Define the audiences: Who are you going to talk to (government, public, industry leaders, internal employees, educators, consumers, media, etc.)? To which niches (demographics, interests, etc.)? Can you leverage/support/deal with such audience?
- Announcement: If you go for it, keep it brief, concrete (facts), honest, simple and open to all your audiences. Give an overview of analysis you’ve done (first 3 points).
- Outputs: Underline your actions (including the reasons why you are taking such actions) and the changes that will generate from them.
- Choose your tactics: Tactics change according to high/low profile strategies. Focus on pre/through/post announcement (prepare audience/media, how will you announce, how to sustain coverage). You will have to adopt different tactics for all your different audiences and keeping in mind that you’ll have to adopt different tactics at different stages during your project. Remember that tactics must fit within your strategy. Find out more about tactics and examples of tactical options here.
- Potential problems/roadblocks: What can go wrong and how you are planning to react/solve/manage it. Keep in mind past experience, past media/public reactions, potential different stakeholder expectations, potential public emotional impact, potential indirect impact on side-audiences/public, etc. Many PR kerfuffles get generated especially because communicators don’t focus enough on this point.
- Budget: Keep in mind your available budget during the entire planning phase. The budget changes a lot from low to high profile plans. You might want to propose/prepare different budgets (estimation of low and high profiles with related features). Remember: is extra budget needed? If yes, where will you get it and who you have to deal with for it?
- Measurement/evaluation: How will you determine success? You know what you are measuring because you have set clear objectives (didn’t you? ). Metrics vary a lot from received coverage, positive/negative sentiment (stakeholders/media/public), where you able to communicate the key messages?, visits, clicks, views, ReTweets (RT), saves on Delicious/Digg, bounce rate, which content was mostly visited/commented, conversion rate, monitoring/benchmarking (during the entire project to show progress overtime). If it can help, you can organize (but not necessary) measurement in pre-during-post announcement phases. Your evaluation might take the form of monthly report on work in progress, periodic briefings, annual summary/final report. One last thing: there are no official social media metrics yet so you must carefully measure, analyze and interpret such space.
How to present your plan? Announcement => State of the art and Environment Analysis => Stakeholders Analysis => Objectives => Audiences => Strategy => Tactics => Outputs => Potential Roadblocks => Measurement => Budget.
This guide is based on the knowledge and experience I gained from the planning and execution of projects at regional, national and international level for government, public sector, corporate and SMEs. This guide includes also the tircks & tips I got from other communicators that I met / read / blogged about / got to know through the years. An endless list of credits goes to all of them. To avoid leaving someone out I point you here where you’ll find a comprehensive list of their blogs and podcasts.
What would would you add to this guide? Share your experience, suggestions and tips! As usual via Twitter (@vascellari), Friendfeed, or other channels too, just remember to link back to this post!
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