Your Vision: The First Step in the Modern Communications Plan

Just like you wouldn’t go on vacation without knowing your destination, you shouldn’t launch any communications effort without knowing where you’d like to land. This is at the heart of Your Vision.

We suggest one line or up to one paragraph that shows how you want the organization, its work and its people to be known at some point in the future. Often we ask our clients these questions to help them identify their vision:

  • In five years, where do you want this organization to be? Get specific from number of employees (if any), products launched, services rendered, legacy left behind, market share and position, and even your size.
  • If you meet your business and communication goals, what will exist? In other words, what do you want to leave behind when your communications effort and projects are complete?
  • How will your target audiences be better off when you reach your goals? What problems will you have solved in five years because you succeeded?

Having a solid vision statement will help everyone keep their eyes on the prize, as the cliché goes. Without one, you could find yourself being pulled in directions that lead to nowhere.

A Template for the Modern Communications Plan

Beyond the usual strategy and tactics (reaching out to reporters, attending trade shows, etc.), what are some of the things that need to be considered as part of today’s communications planning? Below is a template that we use for planning our client’s overall communications and special projects. Throughout the summer, I’ll blog about each part, including providing questions that need your answers, tips and techniques, and identifying the big changes taking place in the world of mass communications.

1. Vision
This section is a one paragraph answer to how the organization wants to be known. Or, if it is a project, what do we want to leave behind when the project is complete? An example would be for a nonprofit organization to be the “go to” source on all things related to their cause.

2. Goals and Objectives
This section differs from the greatest accomplishment in that goals are things you reach (milestones such as audience numbers) and objectives are things you create (happenings from new conversations and ways of thinking to a certain status).

2a. Our Greatest Accomplishment
This section highlights the single most important communication accomplishment that the organization or project can achieve. An example would be for an organization to have changed a particular conversation in its marketplace or to introduce a new idea.

3. Target Audience
This section can include demographic data, market research, and other information that showcases who you are communicating to.

4. Main Communications Channels
This section should describe the main channels (social channels, traditional, media outlets, events and shows and more) that you are going to use to push our your information, thought leadership and ideas.

5. Strategies
This section discusses the main strategies employed and why. Employing social media, engaging in media relations, community relations, holding events, launching a new “theme” for your industry — these are some tried-and-true strategies you’ll find in a plan.

6. Main Tactics
This section is the action plan. It answers what you are going to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to move the communications effort forward. Hold contests on Facebook? Develop a PSA series? Provide stakeholders with toolkits to help spread the word? this section houses the details.

7. “We Won’t” List
This section does precisely what the title says. Knowing what you will not focus your attention on (but could) is vital to ensuring focus.

8. Content Strategy
The section addresses how you are going to assess, develop and manage the ideas, thoughts and content you will use to direct conversations, viewpoints and reputation and image.

9. Positioning, Messaging & Storytelling
This section should include your message guide, from a positioning statement, value proposition to spotlight pitch on the organization or project. It sets the message tone so everyone is clear on what you are going to say and how.

10. Monitoring & Measurement
This section, one of the most well-intentioned but often ignored areas, will go into how to tell how you are doing and how to share that with managers, executive teams and other stakeholders.

11. Team Players.
This section will identify – by name – who is going to design and implement the plan.

12. Timeline.
How are you going to ensure your company will use it? There is no sense in having a communications plan if you aren’t going to use it, so plan out your activities. Set dates.

Lucky number 13: How much money are you willing to spend? The reason there is no formal section above is because, in my 30 years of experience, every organization is different around money. Some know exactly how much they want to spend and will tell you up front. Others wish to see a plan with a budget attached before making a decision. Regardless, began to talk about money early and as the above template unfolds. The plan will usually tell you how much you need to spend to be effective. Decisions can be made from there.

A Great Spokesperson Goes Beyond Knowing The Message

Identifying the “right” spokesperson is a big topic in the board room when public relations campaigns and social media efforts are discussed. And, usually the CEO or someone else with a big job title is named. After all, they come with the clout and cache, right?

Not necessarily. A job title does not necessarily make the person the best representative of the message or brand.

It should go without saying that the chosen someone should know the message and story and be able to answer questions related to the topic at hand. But, that’s not the only skill required. Great message deliverer also has the following characteristics.

  • They are likeable. People are attracted to the messages of people they like. So, unless the story calls for being outraged, putting someone before a microphone or behind a podium that will make the audience uncomfortable isn’t wise. Rarely do you want someone who is confrontational, angry or sarcastic to lead the charge. You want someone who can figuratively bond with the audience.
  • They have the appropriate energy for the topic, the brand and the audience. Just like you wouldn’t put someone who talks like a 22 year old professional skateboarder before a group of Wall Street investors (unless they are selling stock for a skateboarding company), you want to make sure the audience can related to said spokesperson. You want a spokesperson who can inspire and make audience members (even the audience of one) feel a certain way.
  • They demonstrate real interest in their audience. There is no faster way to turn off a reporter or an audience than to act bored or disinterested. Why should someone care about someone who doesn’t seem to care about them?

What else do you believe a good spokesperson should have to move an audience to action?