How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 3 – Environmental Scan

This is the third 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 we took a look at setting the scene through the plan’s context. This time we’re moving on to your environmental scan.


Environmental Scan

Scanning the environment While your context section is about looking at what you’re doing and setting the scene, your environmental scan is about looking externally at what other people are doing and saying.

The environmental scan is more than just a media scan, although that is a major part of it. You need to go beyond just the media to look at the broader environment and how you fit into it.

If you’ve ever studied business, a PEST (Political, Economic, Social, Technological) analysis is a useful way to begin to wrap your head around things. Don’t stick rigidly to this format, though.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • What have your competitors done recently?
  • What have your competitors done in relation to this?
  • What’s the legislative context?
    • What are other jurisdictions doing? (This is especially important if this is a comm plan for within the public sector)
  • What has the mainstream media said about this?
    • Which outlets (and journalists) have written about this?
    • What tone did they take? Positive or negative?
  • What’s being said online?
    • Who are the influential writers online on this topic?
    • How have they approached the issue?
  • What economic factors come into play?
  • What (if any) upcoming events/special dates might relate to this?

Don’t fill this section with long-winded quotes from articles – summarize the gist of what they said. Page upon page of quotes doesn’t help anyone. Be brief and to the point.

What do you think?

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?

How do you approach this part of your planning process?

Let me know in the comments.

The “Communications Plan” Series

This is the third 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: kusito)

  • Hi Dave,

    This is such a great series. I’ve taken two intro PR courses and not one has addressed the practical side of a communications plan! I’m continuing on in the program because I’m hoping it will become more practical as it goes on, but maybe I don’t need to with great resources like this! Thanks!

    -Kerri

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  • Dorelan6 2writer

    Are you still running this site. Your most recent comment was three years ago. This is an excellent site. I have been in the Communication business since 1993 and public sector since 2005 and several sort courses later have never come across this insightful and detailed approach from academia.  Experience really teaches wisdom. Thank you.

    • Appreciate it – thanks! Yes, still here – this is just an old post 🙂