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Why do you need a communications plan? Answer these questions before starting your next comms initiatives

It’s easy for us to get tactical and focus on our immediate priorities. We need to publish a blog on the website, get a post up on Facebook and finish this month’s newsletter. But have you ever thought about why you are using those communication methods? Will they help reach your end goals? Are they even reaching your target audience?

Sometimes we get so excited with the tangible items that can be quickly crossed off our list that we just want to jump in and get started. But it’s important to stop and think critically about a few items before beginning. After all, how do you know which tactic to go ahead with, or which is the best one to use? 

Stop. Right. Now. Take a deep breath. Step back and take a look at the big picture. If you could zoom out and get a birds-eye view of your organization, what would it look like? It’s really about analyzing and evaluating where you are and most importantly – where you want to be. It will take a bit of time and research, but a communications plan is an important component of your organization’s overall marketing strategy.

Consider these five questions before you send out another communication:  

 What’s your goal? 

Decide what you ultimately want to happen. Set realistic goals and objectives about what you want to achieve this year. Whether it’s increasing awareness for a new safety initiative, or launching a new brand, select your top priorities. Come up with an ambitious, but realistic goal that identifies what you want to happen. Ultimately it should tie back to your overall organizational goal. If it doesn’t, then what’s the point? 

 How is your brand currently presented? 

Pretend you are not familiar with your company. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer that is looking at your profile for the first time. With a critical eye look for consistency in how your brand looks in the world. Do an audit of all your different profiles and channels. What would be their first impressions? Does your brand look the same on each channel? You want to look like a professional company and give customers confidence they can trust you. Ensure you have the latest version of your logo, properly sized graphics and consistent wording when it comes to talking about your organization.

Who are you speaking to? 

Take the time to think about all the different people your organization connects with. Then identify who you want to speak to. This is your target audience. Typically this includes your customers and potential customers. It could also include employees, volunteers and stakeholders. These people could be your biggest supporters and ambassadors, especially in a social world. Evaluate who you are speaking to and if there is anyone missing. After you make this list it’s important to prioritize, and figure out if you are actually connecting with them. Having a clear picture of who you want to speak to makes it easier to select the right tactic. 

How are you communicating with your audience? 

Communication is a two-way street – a dialogue that includes speaking and listening. Take a close look at all the ways you are communicating to the world. There are so many different ways to connect with customers, members, employees and volunteers – from email, newsletter, website, to a multitude of social media accounts. Keep in mind these various channels have different reach, engagement, and demographic targets. For example, if you need to reach a middle-age demographic, then Facebook is probably your best bet. It’s important to identify the ideal channels that will allow you to reach the people you need to be speaking with. Understanding your channel analytics can help to demonstrate who is seeing your content and if your messaging is resonating.

How frequently are you sending out communications?

Consider how often you are communicating with your target audiences. There’s a fine balance between not getting your message out and inundating inboxes. Taking some time to set an overall high level schedule for all your communications will help make sure you do not have everything hit at the same time, provide consistent content to fans, and help make sure you don’t miss important dates. It’s all about being proactive, not reactive. That’s why it’s important to develop a plan and stick to it. Developing a calendar will help to keep you on track – especially if you are managing multiple channels. Preplanning will go a long way to help keep you organized and on a clear path to reach your goals. 

Remember, it’s never too late to create a communications plan. But it’s best to start at the beginning of a major campaign, and it’s even better to start at the beginning of your business cycle. That way you can tie in your overall business goals. 

Developing a strategic plan encourages you to step back and take a look at your work, your business and your industry. Consider what you are doing, but more importantly evaluate why

It’s about being intentional with how you are communicating with people, whether they are your internal staff, customers, or the general public. Thinking purposefully and making decisions based on what we have learned is the cornerstone of an effective communications plan.