Guide to Communications Planning

Guide to Communications Planning

Taking a strategic approach to your communications is important because it ensures your external messages align with your business plan and your impact. The approach below is a simple way to start thinking about and designing your communications strategy.

If you are based in New Zealand and are a registered charity you may be eligible for support from The Community Comms Collective.

Communications Planning Framework

In this example, we illustrate each step of the process with the example of a social enterprise cafe that trains at-risk youth.

What do we need to deliver?

If we are clear on what we need to deliver then we can make sure that our communications are working towards that objective.

Example:

  • We want to recruit eight new trainees by the end of the year.

How can our comms initiatives help reach these business objectives?

We can create specific communications to meet our business goals. Each of those communications might have a unique goal, or contribute to our business objective in a different way.

Examples:

  • Reach out to 10 new schools to let them know about the programme.
  • Run an event at a local youth space.

What do we know?

Prior to starting a new communications exercise we want to review what we already know from previous work. These insights might be about the success or failure or previous attempts, or it might be based on knowledge we already have our our customer.

Examples:

  • Schools, on average, send two students to be part of the programme.
  • Easter falls in an unusual spot this year, which may lead to fewer applications. As a result we need to reach a wider audience than normal

Once we know what we are trying to achieve from the steps above we can start to plan the exact tasks that need to be completed as part of our communications strategy.

We can break down each task into steps. One approach is to think about what we want the recipient to notice, think, feel and do.

For our cafe example we want prospective applicants to:

  • Notice: 85% of programme participants get job offers at the end of the programme.
  • Think: Potential applicants see that the programme is for people like them.
  • Feel: The sense of potential and excitement about the outcomes of participating in the programme.
  • Do: Apply to be part of the programme.

We need to craft messages that will then achieve the outcomes of the tasks above. To do that we need to think about the problem they are experiencing, how we solve that problem for them, and how we demonstrate our ability to solve it. You need to do this process for each customer segment you are targeting.

Examples:

  • Their problem (reminder): No one will give me a job because I don’t have any experience.
  • Our response: Our programme will give you the skills and experience to get a job.
  • Reason-to-believe: We’ve placed over 30 young people into long-term employment as a result of our programme.

Finally we need to think about how we will deliver these messages to our target customers.

For each key customer segment we need to think about a number of factors:

  • When is a good time or a good place to engage with them?
    • Think about what we call ‘moments of truth’ when your audience will be attentive and receptive to your message.
  • How do we approach and engage with them?
    • You may want to think about what channels are best suited to delivering your message. Should you use social media, or will face to face be more effective?
  • What’s your follow-up strategy?
    • People rarely respond to a call to action the first time they see it. How will you follow-up or ensure that your prospective customers are exposed to your message multiple times?

Example Framework

Our training cafe might take the following approach:
Get their attention… Get them thinking… Get them involved… Get them… Keep them…
Strategy Tell the story of opportunity Share role models of success Get them to come to a ‘try it out’ day Get them to enrol in the programme Support them through induction and programme delivery
Channel Social media, community engagement, face-to-face Flyers, website testimonials Event Manager Enrolments Manager, follow-up emails Toolkit, check list, tips, peer support

If you want to learn more about communication then visit the resources section of the Community Comms Collective website.

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