How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 2 – Context

Piles of researchThis is the second in a series of posts exploring how to create a good communications plan.

Over the next few weeks we’ll take detailed look at each of the sections in a communications plan. Each time I’ll give my perspective and ask what you think. My aim is for us to work together to fill the gaps in what we know. Hopefully we’ll all learn from each other.

Last time around we looked at the overall plan and its content. This time we’re getting down into the details.


The first section of a communications plan I work on is the context. Why? Because it forces you to do two things:

  • Boil what’s going on down to a succinct summary
  • Focus on the topic on which you’re about to write a plan.

The “context” section of your plan focuses on setting the scene. This isn’t about details of an announcement – heck, you haven’t reached the part where you decide what your communications objectives or strategy will be yet. This is about the background to your initiative.

This should be a relatively easy part of your plan to write. If you know the subject this can pretty much write itself. If you don’t, you need to bring yourself up to speed. To write the context section, you need to know exactly what’s going on.

A side effect of doing this first is that you can’t launch into the other aspects of the plan without doing your background research.

Here are a few things to think about when you think about the context for your initiative. Note that they have an internal focus:

  • What is the initiative about?
  • What related announcements have you made?
  • What are the timelines?
    • Is there an upcoming product launch/conference/deadline, etc?
    • Are there any notable milestones?
  • Who is involved?
    • Who within your organization has a stake in this?
    • What other organizations are a part of this?
      • Do you have partners in the initiative?
      • Note: This isn’t a stakeholder list – that comes later.

Over To You

You now have my thoughts on what to include in the first section of a communications plan. But what do you think about this?

What’s above is based on my experience, which is primarily in the public sector. What about the private sector? What about the agency side? Would you approach this differently?

Let me know in the comments.

The “Communications Plan” Series

This is the second in a series of posts on communications planning. To read more of the series, check out a summary of the posts so far or pick from the previous posts:

(photo credit: bookgrl)

5 Responses toHow To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 2 – Context

  • James Ip
    ago12 years

    I think an important part of the context is answering the question, “why”? Why is the initiative important? Why now as opposed to later?… which kinda gets into the environmental scan a bit. Why do people need to know about it?

    Boy, I’m flashing back to good ol’ COPO Dave! πŸ™‚

  • James – I totally agree. You make another good point – the overlap between the context and your environmental scan can be hard to avoid. How important do you think it is to avoid blurring the line, or does it not matter?

    Thanks for the input, and congratulations on your move to Veritas!

  • James Ip
    ago12 years

    Thanks, Dave! You’re a celebrity around here. πŸ™‚

    You’re right – it is a subtle difference. In my experience, the context is part of the need to announce/launch the initiative. The scan, I think, is to make sure you take into consideration the environment in which you are working.

    Let’s take the example of United Way’s homelessness report a few years back. The context in which it was launched/announced showed that no other group or level of government was looking at it from a broader perspective. And anecdotally, the problem seemed to be getting worse and worse – something that Torontonians seemed to recognize. So that was the need and the context.

    The environmental scan would show that there was growing concerns about it from residents and government; that there needed to be more education about the issues that led to homelessness; and there was an appetite and opportunity for a leader to emerge on the issue.

    Hope that illustrates the fine line.

    This is a great idea, Dave. Keep it up!

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