How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 1 – An Overview

Update: I have now completed this communications planning series and have republished all of the posts as a free strategic communications Planning eBook.

Is there such a thing as an ideal communications plan template? What would it look like?

Blank page, before the writing begins I’ve spent most of the last few years surrounded by communications and marketing plans (comm plans, for short).

I studied them at university, proposing (what I thought were) reasoned solutions to other peoples’ problems. I then joined government and spent a lot of time reading other peoples’ quality assessments and edits on plans and learning from them – what worked, what didn’t work, where the common gaps were and what the essential information was.

Eventually I found myself in a position where I had the opportunity to provide input on comm plans myself. I even helped to develop training on communications planning. Nowadays I’m on the assembly line, writing plans and executing them.

This variety of positions has given me an interesting perspective on what a communications plan should look like. It’s very much clouded by my government experience though, so I’d love to hear from folks on the agency or corporate side (government folks please feel free to chime in too!).

This is the first in what will be a series of posts over time. This one focuses on the top-level overall content of a communications plan.

Together, over the coming weeks we’ll take a more detailed look at each of these sections in turn. At each step of the way I’ll give my perspective and ask what you think – what you agree with… what I’m missing… where I’m way off the mark. Hopefully we’ll all learn from each other.

Content of a Communications Plan

Let’s start by looking at the general sections of a comm plan. Here’s what I’ve used when planning a communications initiative, in roughly the order I approach them. Not all of them are always necessary – this is the broad list:

  • Context – what’s happened before? What’s the history?
  • Environmental Scan – what are the key factors that will affect your success?W hat is the media saying?
  • Stakeholders – your stakeholders and their expected reactions. How you will manage them?
  • Objectives – what do you want to achieve? (should be clear, relevant, measurable… use the SMART approach if you like)
  • Strategy – where are you going, and why?
  • Audiences – who are the key audiences?
  • Announcement – given the strategy, are you making an announcement? What are you announcing?
  • Messages – what are you saying about the announcement?
  • Tactics – how will you implement your strategy, both before, during and after the main announcement (assuming you have one)?
  • Issues – what problems may you have to overcome?
  • Budget – what will it cost?
  • Evaluation – how will you know if you’ve been successful?

So, what do you think? Have I missed areas? Are some irrelevant? In the right order?

What do you look at when you write a communications plan?

(photo credit: tomswift46)

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.