planning

Cutting through with simple communication plans

 

Competition for attention

In the scramble to produce interesting content and to ‘cut through’ the noise, organisations are constantly searching for more ways to create colourful tactics, to have brands that shine, and to amplify their message.

The ‘creativity’ side of communication is booming. But with such a fierce battle for audience attention, even the most carefully crafted message or clever visual can fail to connect.

The result is that scarce, hard-won resources are spent on communication that looks or sounds great, but that doesn’t achieve the outcomes required.

One of the many strengths of the Gold Quill process (and a point of difference between GQ and some other award programs) is that it evaluates the end to end communication process: not only the tactics produced, but also the degree they are suited to the situation; and it requires that results can be demonstrated.

Essential components for a communication plan that delivers results

Communication plans can take many forms, but having reviewed hundreds, those that stand out always:

  • Identify the right problem before thinking about tactics.
  • Demonstrate deep understanding of stakeholders and audiences based on research.
  • Set goals and objectives that are SMART.
  • Ensure outcome measures are clear and don’t overly rely on measuring outputs.
  • Create solutions – combinations of tactics and execution – that take into account the context, the need and the audience.
  • Deliver in partnership with the owner of the business need.
  • Measure as they go.

The danger with “Here’s one that we prepared earlier”

As a communication advisor, I’m often asked for a template or example of a communication plan or tactic that can be re-used in a new environment. While models, canvases and templates are helpful, the value they provide is in the adaptation to the current situation and context.

When I developed the shorter COMMS Plan, the focus was on a process for communication planning that helped communicators consider the specifics of the current situation – regardless of the type of organisation. The first step in the process is CONTEXT for a reason.

One of the exciting developments in communication planning is an increased use of design thinking. Using a clear process to ensure communication meets the need can lead to better tactics, often created in consultation or partnership with the intended audiences.

The basics of good communication remain universal: right message, right audience, right method.

That doesn’t mean shouting louder, it means working smarter.

By considering context, outcomes, messages, methods and support before jumping in to solutions and cool tactics, communication can have the substance to support the shine.

A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

Get the foundations right for 2015

How many times have you heard “I can’t believe it is December already!” from colleagues or family lately?

The end of the calendar year provokes responses ranging from shock at the speed of time passing, through to satisfaction at the achievements of the year, to mild panic as people look to their plans for 2014 and realise what is missing.

For communicators, December is a time to be able to reflect on the achievements of the waning year, while setting up for success in 2015.

Capture knowledge from the year

  • Take time to capture the lessons, issues and achievements of the year. If you already have a reporting process, pull out the highlights.
  • If communication projects didn’t have a formal post-implementation review, take time to capture successes and the areas that needed improvement.
  • Consider an annual ‘communication report’ to key stakeholders.
  • Consider whether to seek recognition for quality work. The IABC Gold Quills are open for entries until 7 January.*

Plan for the year ahead

  • Understand the priorities for the businesses, teams and clients you support for 2015.
  • If they do not have clear plans yet, use the opportunity to schedule communication planning sessions with your key stakeholders.
  • Determine how to address any gaps or improvements from past communication projects.

Prepare yourself

  • Take time to assess your capabilities based on what was achieved and what will happen in the year ahead.
  • Plan development options such as participating in professional associations, seeking coaching or undertaking skills training to fill any gaps.

Keeping plans simple

The pace of change in organisations requires us to be adaptive. Plans change, often. Focus on tools and processes that enable flexibility, that are simple to use. Using a common approach across your organisation builds skill and consistency. The Shorter COMMS Plan is a simple methodology to support better outcomes from all types of communication; whether small projects, business planning or team management. A new one-day workshop designed to help apply the Shorter COMMS Plan is being held in Sydney on 4 February.

New Workshop to apply the Shorter COMMS Plan is now available.

New Workshop to apply the Shorter COMMS Plan is now available.

 

* Disclosure: I am Co-Chair of the Gold Quill Blue Ribbon Panel for Asia Pacific.

 

 

Pause for progress

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” Ferris Beuller

I recently ran a planning session with a group of senior communicators. Working in a challenging environment, they have a great record for delivering innovative solutions that meet their client’s needs. The list of team achievements over the past few years was impressive. They do this in a complex, time-poor environment that has undergone major change over recent months.

The middle of the calendar year is filled with symbolism. The half way point between the aspirations of January and the crunch of Christmas. It is the heart of the story – the ‘middle’ where the most ‘stuff’ is happening. It is a credit to this group that they were prepared to stop for a day to look at where they have come from and what is ahead.

Mid-year ‘planning’ is a way of gathering the collective intention, resources and capacity of a team to ensure that progress is recognised and priorities are clear. As almost every workplace has discovered over the past few years – things change. Whether through global, economic, political or natural forces, change happens. By ‘regrouping’ mid plan, leadership teams are able to confirm the priorities, agree the messages and stay agile for the months ahead.

Have you planned your mid-year strategy conversations?

Whatever size your business, this is an essential process to ensure your direction is consistent with changes in your business environment and to make sure the story ‘makes sense’ of what needs to be done for the remainder of the year.

Holiday Bonus, Introducing The Eleven Things

The Eleven ThingsSometimes a top ten is just not quite enough. In 2011, Meaning Business will be launching a new sister site, The Eleven Things.

The Eleven Things will publish collections of useful resources around the themes of communication, leadership, creativity, innovation, performance, culture, technology, story, mind, community and science.

As a preview, and following on from the last post about the ‘blue sky thinking’ that can happen on holiday, here is a preview.

The Eleven Things Holiday Edition

The Eleven Things Holiday Edition

The Eleven Things Holiday Edition (Low Res)

Meaning Business will be back in 2011.