No matter what business you’re in, having an effective communication plan can mean the difference between success and failure.

Being able to communicate quickly and easily with all stakeholders on your team is important, even if you’re not in a crisis situation.

Here are a few tips to help you put together a communication plan template that will meet your organization’s needs and allow a free flow of ideas and information.

Define Goals and Objectives

While designing your template, the first thing you should focus upon is a list of goals and objectives your plan needs to accomplish.

Remember, a goal is a broad intention that is not usually subject to measurement. Objectives are specific things to aim for to be successful.

For example, you may have a goal to increase your company’s positive reputation. One of your objectives, then, might be to have mostly 4- and 5-star reviews on Amazon, or to see a decrease in return requests.

Dart and dart board

For best results, make a list of specific goals and objectives for each audience you’ll be communicating with. Every audience will have its own special relationship with you as the communicator.

What is necessary information for one, may be irrelevant or redundant for another. You want to avoid overburdening your audiences with unnecessary information.

Identify Stakeholders

Stakeholders are anyone with whom you need to communicate — they are also called audiences. Your audiences can include customers, employees, vendors, or even a mix of individuals.

You can subdivide audiences by group. For example, if one audience is “employees,” you may have several sub-audiences such as “human resources employees” and “IT employees.”

The more specific you can be with your audiences, the more effective your plan will be. Some individuals will end up in several audiences, and this is okay.

Tip: Stakeholder Objectives

After you’ve identified your audiences, take time to develop objectives for your communications with each.

Ask these questions when clarifying objectives:

  • What do they need from me?
  • What do I need them to know?
  • When do I need them to know it?
  • How can I most effectively reach them?

For example, let’s take the “human resources employees” audience for the example, above. The answers to the questions for that audience might look something like this:

  • HR needs salary and benefits information from new hires.
  • I need HR to know when I’ve hired new employees and what special circumstances surround each hire.
  • I need HR to know this information the day the potential employee accepts our offer.
  • I can most effectively reach HR through inter-office email.

Plan Messages/Channels

Unless there’s a crisis, you should have your information planned out well in advance, along with the means of communicating it.

Use your stakeholder objectives to tailor messages for each audience, then make a list of channels you can use to communicate your message.

business people holding icons

Examples of typical channels include:

  • Blogs
  • Company newsletters
  • Email
  • Company Website
  • Teleconference
  • Posters
  • Letters
  • Lunch-and-learns
  • Videos
  • Podcasts

Tip: Using PACE

PACE is an acronym you can use to cover all your communication plan bases. The acronym breaks down like so:

  • Primary — the best method of communication.
  • Alternate — A common but less-optimal method of communication.
  • Contingency — A method with some drawbacks that is still capable of accomplishing the desired communication.
  • Emergency — A method of last resort that has significant issues concerning cost or lack of effectiveness.

An example of a PACE plan for communicating a public service message might be as follows:

  • Primary — Tornado is sighted and tornado warning sirens go off.
  • Alternate — Warnings are broadcast over radio and television.
  • Contingency — Warnings are posted on a community or local government website.
  • Emergency — National Guard are deployed to evacuate local residents.
business people in a meeting

Monitor Effectiveness

You want to be sure your communication plan template is as effective as possible.

It’s best to monitor its effectiveness at regular intervals by surveying audience members regarding the following objectives:

  • Are the messages clear?
  • Are they too often/not often enough?
  • Are they sent at the right time?

With this kind of detailed communications plan template, you’ll have the appropriate tools available to share information with all members of your team in a timely and consistent manner.

Keeping all your teams updated with the latest policies and changes in direction will allow them, and you, to react quickly as situations arise.

This will give you a competitive edge over organizations that are slow to act on market shifts and changes in customer perception.

Remember to review your communication plan at regular intervals to update objectives, audiences, and channels of communication as necessary.

Your organization will grow and change as objectives and goals are met and exceeded, generating a need for a brand-new template in order to keep those channels of communication clear and open.

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