Strategic Communications Plan

What is a communications plan?

¡  A statement of communications actions that will support organizational strategic goals.

¡  Based on real or potential (i.e., future) issues, challenges.

¡  Aligns communications with other strategies and objectives. (Potter 2008)

Why plan?

  • Planned communications contribute to and facilitate the achievement of strategies, tactics, and goals.
  • Planned communications can enhance transparency and accountability.
  • Planned communications is a strategic management tool.
  • Planned communications affects ownership, commitment, and bottom lines.
Communication planning

¡  Is a process

¡  Requires investment of time, research, and resources

¡  Should engage internal and external stakeholders

¡  Involves multiple perspectives

¡  Means monitoring assumptions about what is/ can / may be

¡  Means critical and creative thinking

What is a Communications Plan?

¡  A communications plan arises from strategic planning

¡  Strategic planning articulates and rationalizes an organization's desired direction, prescribing decisions regarding the allocation of its resources to pursue this strategy, including its capital and people.

¡  A communication plan addresses

§  What a business wants to communicate

§  To whom

§  How

§  Where

§  When

§  By whom

§  At what cost

§  How success is measured

Communication Planning: Six steps

¡  Can range from four to ten steps, depending upon business and situations.

§  Situation Analysis (Introduction)

§  Objectives and Outcomes (Body)

§  Targeted Audiences (Body)

§  Key Messages (Body)

§  Strategy (Body)

§  Measures of Success (Body)

Situation analysis

}  “What business are you in? What’s your mission? Who are your customers, your markets? Whom do you serve? What’s their profile? What do you know about your competition? Are you where you want to be?” (Potter 2008)

}  Define problems or issues.

}  Audit current situation and background/history.

}  Audit current external communications (messages, channels, audiences).

}  Analyze position within industry and broader context(s).

Situation Analysis: SWOT

¡  What are the strengths, weaknesses?

¡  What are the opportunities, threats?

¡  What are the advantages, disadvantages?

¡  How have these changed from the past? How might they change in the future?

Other Situation Analysis methods

¡  PEST (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological)

¡  STEER (Socio-cultural, Technological, Economic, Ecological, and Regulatory factors)

¡  EPISTEL (Environment, Political, Informatic, Social, Technological, Economic and Legal).

Situation Analysis

¡  Bring in diverse perspectives.

¡  Spell out and review assumptions.

¡  Integrate evidence from credible secondary sources.

¡  Define possible responses to problems/issues.

¡  Lay out alternatives, including costs/benefits, and implications.

¡  Draft recommended strategies.

Objectives & Outcomes

¡  Short-term and long-term objectives


§  Specific

§  Measurable

§  Achievable

§  Realistic

§  Time-delineated

¡  Can be comprehensive or focused:

§  Strengthened crisis management

§  Improved performance and attitude

§  Increased CSR

§  Consolidated corporate identity

§  Heightened visibility

§  Modified government policy

Target Audience/publics

¡  Sectors: stakeholders and stockholders, government, media, sponsors, community groups, etc.

¡  Internal and external

¡  Demographics

¡  Attitudes & beliefs

¡  Receptivity & resistance

§  (Remember: Hostile, Neutral, Accommodating)

Key Messages

¡  Develop key words and messages.

¡  Make them clear, concise, consistent.

¡  Acknowledge barriers and opportunities.

¡  Develop tactics and tone.

¡  Reframe issues.

¡  Repeat messages.


¡  Rationalize the ends, or the desired end-state

¡  Implementation plan related to objective, relevant to audience, relative to budget:

§  Tactics

§  Themes

§  Responsibilities

§  Media

§  Timelines

§  Budget

Military Genesis: “Operational Art”

¡  The  in-between domain linking strategy to tactics

¡  Determine “targets” & engage with tactics

¡  Strategic thinking, operational thinking, tactical thinking

Strategy: tactics

Select the channels/forms of communication, varying audiences:

¡  Media relations

¡  Public advertising

¡  Video (DVD, YouTube, etc.)

¡  Viral campaigns (social networking)

¡  Community “telegraph”

¡  Newsletters, bulletin boards

¡  AGMs/Annual reports

¡  Presentations

¡  Mailings

Aside: “Cultural theory”

¡  Antonio Gramsci

§  The Prison Notebooks

§  hegemony

§  Strategy + tactics = positions + maneuvers

¡   Michel De Certeau

§  The Practice of Everyday Life

§  Strategy = space-based acts (holding, occupying)

§  Tactics = time-based acts (mobile, open)

Measuring Success: Optics & metrics

¡  What does it look like?

¡  What worked and why?

¡  Is investment justified?

¡  Evaluate in relation to goals and objectives:

§  Increased donations

§  Raised awareness

§  Altered policy, opinion, behaviour

§  Increased participation

SCP Report Format

  • Cover: title and subtitle (name & date optional)
  • Title page: title, subtitle, prepared for/by, date of submission
  • Letter of transmittal
  • Table of contents
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction (Report Purpose, Comprehensive/Focused)
  • Background/History of problem + Situation Analysis
  • Body:  Objectives/Outcomes , Targeted Audiences, Key Messages, Strategy, Measures
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations
  • References/Works Cited
  • Appendices
  • Completed checklist