We’ve all heard the old cliché “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Personally I’ve always found it a bit smug, but like most clichés, there is a truth at the heart of it. Regular readers of this blog will know that it has become my mission in life to inspire organisations to be more strategic and planned in their communications activity. This is because I believe that effective communication brings about huge benefits for an organisation and the best way to make it as effective as possible is to put time into thinking about how you can make it work.
A well-thought-through and comprehensive communication plan provides actions to support your business or project plan and achieve your aims. It is a way of aligning all your efforts and ensuring that time spent communicating is time well spent as it leads to results. Effective communication makes the best use of your budget and resources. There is no need to duplicate your efforts, either on redoing things that didn’t work the first time or in having people in different teams repeating each other’s work.
Hold your horses
As a professional communicator I’m comfortable in thinking about strategies and plans for my clients’ organisations and projects. I’ve been putting them together and seeing the benefits for many years. And although I find that my clients want to improve their communications – that is, after all, why they come to me for help in the first place – there is often an in-built human need to go straight for a tangible output. I enjoy helping them to hold their horses while we work out what is going to be the best approach for them.
So while we’re reigning in the equines, what are we talking about? What questions am I posing and what areas are we covering?
First and foremost, we clearly identify why they need to communicate at all. There will be a business aim or objective behind what they want to achieve and it’s my job to draw that out. If the first response is to say ‘We need to tell staff about our new finance system’, I work with them to clarify why that matters to the organisation and the individual – that gives a far more compelling reason for communication.
‘If all employees use the new system we will be more efficient and can invest more of our resources in our services.’ So your reason for communicating becomes to drive take-up of the new system to allow more investment in core services.
I also talk to my clients in-depth about the audiences groups they want to reach. First reactions are often ‘Everyone needs to know about this’. Sometimes this is true and sometimes it isn’t. For example, whilst it might be necessary for everyone to have some awareness of the new finance system, the people who really need to know the details of how to use it are likely to be a sub-set of staff. Knowing the different characteristics of different groups, their preferences and motivations, will make all the difference in successfully reaching out to them.
When you are working on a project and it has consumed every minute of your working life for the last 6 months, every aspect of the finance system can seem of equal importance to share with others. But it usually isn’t. My job in these situations is to work with my clients to articulate the most important messages for achieving their desired outcomes, weeding out the nice to knows and the sorry-no-one-will-be-interested-in-that-but-you bits.
We also talk about how to ensure they are listening as well as broadcasting, which channels they will use and how they will measure their success. There is a lot to think about, but marshalling the information and putting considered plans in place is well worth the effort.
If you would like me to help you through this process and create a professional, easy-to-follow communications plan, get in touch.
Until next time