The communication plan: explanation + components
Communication is most effective when it is systematic and consistent. That is why creating a communication plan is so important. However, many organizations still focus primarily on producing materials such as advertisements, brochures, or social media content. In order to achieve actual results, it is necessary to develop a plan or strategy beforehand. If you fail to do so, chances are that communication tools lack coherence or may not even be suitable for the organization. That is why in this blog article, I will go back to the basics and explain how to create a solid communication plan.
You can use a communication plan for your internal communication and/or marketing department. It can also serve as a briefing when engaging an external agency.
In the case of the latter, the plan allows you to provide clarity and insights about your organization to the external agency, resulting in a smooth collaboration. You can create a communication plan at different levels:
- A comprehensive plan for the entire organization;
- A plan specifically for areas such as internal communication, corporate communication, or marketing communication;
- Project plans for each communication tool, such as branding, internal newsletters, or social media.
The different parts of a communication plan
Below you will read about the different part of a communication plan. These are the basic parts that your plan should contain.
The analysis of the core problem is an important part of the communication plan: a good preparation is half the work. Sometimes, for example, there may not be a communication problem, but rather the cause of the problem lies in service or quality. The analysis consists of:
The internal analysis in your communication plan provides a full insight in the organization. The next parts will be discussed: organization strategy, vision, mission (core values), (wished) identity, (wished) image, organization culture, organization structure, product and/or service overview, current communication strategy and means.
The external analysis illustrates the surroundings in which your organization operates, because the surroundings influence the communication. First and foremost, you look at the macro-surroundings and society as a whole with the help of the DESTEP-analysis. This includes the following factors: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political-legal factors. Then, you look at the meso-environment, which is the market in which you operate. Identify the stakeholders that your organization is involved with. Also, describe your market position and the competition within your industry using Porter's Five Forces model.
- SWOT-analysis: in this matrix, you indicate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats for your organization:
2. Target groups
For the next step, I first have to clarify an important difference: public groups you have, but target groups you choose. The communication target group is the group on which you focus your communication. The marketing target group contains real clients. You can segment target groups further by brand trust, geography, demography or use for example. It is useful to make a characterization of the target group. You can compare this to making buyer personas.
Formulate your objectives SMART: they have to be Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time-bound. We differentiate between different types of objectives:
- Business objectives: describe the goals of the organization.
- Marketing objectives: are focused on objectives such as revenue, market share, lead generation, or website visitors.
- Communication objectives: describe the desired communication effects in terms of knowledge (what should the target audience know?), attitude (what should the target audience think?), and behavior (what should the target audience do?).
In the communication strategy, you describe how your organization aims to achieve its objectives. This involves making important choices regarding the direction of your communication. The analysis may reveal whether you can maintain your current strategy or if you need to develop a new one. Essential questions include:
- Target audience: Who do you want to communicate with?
- Message: What are you going to communicate? This also involves determining your value proposition, your promise to the customer, and the concept of your message.
- Means: How do you want to communicate?
- Timeline: When will you communicate what?
5. Communication means
Now that you have determined the strategy, you can proceed to the implementation. At this stage, you will decide on the specific communication tools that you will use. There are numerous options, but a cross-media and multimedia approach often works best.
To have a clear overview of all your communication activities, it can be helpful to create a timeline. Make sure to include a buffer or contingency time in your schedule, so that in the event of a delay or setback there will not be any immediate issues.
Firstly, you determine the communication budget for one year. This budget will heavily influence your choice of communication channels. With a limited budget, for example, you may not be able to afford a television campaign. Allocate a specific budget for each communication channel.
The final stage, the evaluation, is often skipped due to time constraints. However, for future purposes, it is crucial to determine the return on investment of your communication activities. This can be determined with the help of the formulated set objectives. The positive and negative results are then taken into account when planning future campaigns.
In this blog article, I provided a brief overview of the components of a communication plan. Of course, there is much more to discuss about each component. If you're interested, let me know!
Your content strategy is an important part of your communication plan, but the subsequent steps are equally important. At Vet Digital, we can assist you with what comes next. Together, we identify the challenges your buyer personas face. Request a demo for your first free (!) assistance with content mapping.
First assisted content mapping
Michels, W. (2010). Communicatie handboek. Noordhoff Uitgevers: Groningen