What Is A Communications Plan?

Posted by SheaDavis on February 12, 2013

In my more than 25 years of public relations experience, I’ve been asked again and again “why do I need a communications plan” from clients. Many times, the client wanted to jump into the tactics of a project – forgoing the strategy and planning phases.

Growing up, I remember my dad buying an item and immediately jumping in to assembling it – not taking the time to read the enclosed instructions. Halfway through the project, he would discover that he didn’t have the pieces assembled in the correct order; or worse yet, at the end, he had many “spare” parts. He hadn’t taken the time to prepare before he started his project.

A communications plan is the preparation needed to ensure the best outcome for your public relations efforts. Identifying the right audiences, methods and communications tools helps focus efforts, save time and resources and achieves better results.


Just a party

A client once presented the idea of throwing a party in December to thank key stakeholders for their efforts that year. “All I want is a party, some snacks and drinks to say thanks,” the client explained. After back-and-forth conversations (yes, it was that long ago, that most communications were by phone or in person), we convinced the client to allow us to develop a communications plan to ensure the best results from the effort and budget.

We researched and discovered that most of the people we wanted to reach were booked up with holiday parties and events of their own. We brainstormed and realized that there was a better way to reach the audience and developed a plan that included a heartfelt letter from our client and a donation to a charity by the company in each stakeholder’s name.

The comments came flying in to our client. The stakeholders were thrilled and so appreciative of the letter and gift. And the efforts were less expensive than “just a party.”


Take the time

Good planning will help your communications efforts achieve greater results in the long run – even if it takes some extra time on the front end. A well-thought-out communications plan should include the following:

  • An overview of the situation
  • Goals
  • Objectives
  • Strategies
  • Tactics
  • Measurements

Your ultimate success may depend on how well you plan. Planning isn’t the fun part of communications, but it is the smartest part. Take the time to do it right, and you will see the results.

How have communications plans helped your successes? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet your responses using the hashtag #mcgblog.