Introduction:

"A well-written communication plan will help you achieve your business objectives and maximize your performance" - Axia, 6 Steps to Creating an Effective Communication Plan 

A communication plan is an essential tool for ensuring your organization sends out clear, specific messages at the right time, to the right people, in the right way. 

This Communication Plan Template Checklist will help you identify the key messages you need to send, who you're targeting those messages at, when you need to send these messages, and which channels to use.

Whether you're creating an internal communication plan, a marketing communication plan, or a crisis communication plan, this template will prompt you to think about the general principles around communication planning, which include:

  • The company's goals and objectives
  • The key messages you want to send, to help you meet the company goals and objectives 
  • The people you need to communicate these key messages to 
  • The optimum time to deliver these key messages 
  • The best way to reach your target audience

This checklist is to be used alongside your communication plan document. It's purpose is to gather data, come up with ideas, and define your audience, your key messages, timings, and channels of communication. Then, using the information you've gathered, you can write-up your plan. 

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Complete checklist details

Provide details about who is running this checklist, in the fields below, to let people within your organization know who to contact if they need additional information or have any questions.  

Set-Up Tasks:

Confirm the type of communication plan

Source

Select the type of communication plan you are creating from the drop-down menu below, so that everyone within your organization understands what type of communication plan you are creating.

Top Tip: If you're creating an alternative type of communication plan, add this to the above drop-down menu by following these instructions:

1. Select to edit the checklist

2. Click on the last option within the drop-down menu

3. Press Enter

3. Type the name of the type of communication plan you are creating 

Confirm the communication budget

Confirm the communication budget you have been allocated for this {{form.Type_of_communication_plan}} activity in the field below.

This is so you can keep track of your budget during the course of your plan.  

Confirm when you plan to review the plan

You will need to review your communication plan so you can evaluate how effective it was in achieving your goals & objectives. 

Select the date/s you plan to review your plan in the field below.

You might want to review the plan weekly, monthly, quarterly, or an an annual basis - depending on your organizational and communication goals.  

Top Tip: If you want to receive an automatic notification when your communication plan is due for a review, use the task due dates feature. 

Create your communication plan document

Next, you need to create your communication plan document, using a document authoring tool such as Word or Google Docs. 

You'll need to create sections for the following, as a minimum: 

  • Audience profile
  • Key messages 
  • Key timings 
  • Communication channels 
  • Risks & responsibilities 

Once you have gathered and researched all the required information for your plan, you will need to write it all up into your document. So, add the URL or file location of your document to the field below. 

Establish organizational goals

Next, you need to establish, in the field below, what your organizational goals and objectives are.

This is so that all the communication activities you plan, are focused around meeting these goals.

Analyze your current communications

Now you need to conduct an audit of your current communication activity to evaluate where you currently stand, in terms of communications.

Gather and analyze all relevant information within your company by: 

  • 1
    Conducting an audit of your current communications materials
  • 2
    Brainstorming with communication staff
  • 3
    Conducting surveys and focus groups to see how effective current communication is
  • 4
    Talking to customers or other departments within your company

Try conducting a GAP analysis to identify where the gaps are in your current communication strategy. 

Top Tip: Use this Process Street GAP Analysis Template to identify the gaps that need filling by your communication efforts.   

Establish communication goals

Source

Now you understand what's working well and what's not, it's time to set some communication goals.

What do you want to achieve with this {{form.Type_of_communication_plan}}?

Define your overall communication objectives and set SMART goals for your communications plan based on the results from your audit, in the field below. 

Ask yourself:

What are the results you want to achieve?

What do you want to accomplish by implementing this communication plan? 

As an example, your SMART goals could be: 

Centralization of communication efforts

Enhanced teamwork of the employees

Improved delivery processes of products

Visibility for the industry you represent

Influence on consumers, media, and similar audiences

Try using this SMART Goal Setting Template to help!

Define Your Audience:

Understand who you are communicating to

Source

Before you start thinking about the key messages you want to communicate, and how and when you need to communicate them, you need to think about your audience. 

Who are you wanting to communicate with? 

Use the below sub-tasks to help you gather data, define who your audience is and create a profile of who you're planning to communicate with. 

You may have multiple audiences that you need to communicate with, research and record each audience's details below.  

Each profile only needs to be 1-2 sentences that describes your audience, to help you establish what to say, how to say it and when to say it.

Top Tip: Try using the following resources  to find out more about your audience 

Surveys: Ask demographic style questions to gather the information you are looking for.

Google Analytics: Learn about who is currently visiting your website.

Competitor sites: Search through your competitors sites or social media followers to see who they appear to be attracting (and compare that to your own followers)

  • 1
    Look at their demographics (age, location, income level, education level etc..)
  • 2
    Think about the desired action of you target audience
  • 3
    How does your audience think?
  • 4
    What needs, challenges and frustrations do they have?
  • 5
    How does your idea, service, or product help or affect your target audience?
  • 6
    What media do they use?

Define Your Key Messages:

Establish what you need to say

Source

Now you're ready to plan what you want to say to your defined audience/s.

When planning the content of your key messages, keep in mind your organization and communication goals, as your messages should be aligned with these: 

Organizational goals & objectives:

{{form.Organizational_goals}}

Communication goals & objectives: 

{{form.SMART_communication_goals}}

    But more importantly, put the audience at the center of your messages.

    As a reminder, this is your audience: 
    {{form.Audience_profile}}

    You might need to think of several key messages to meet the objectives of the audience you are trying to communicate with.  

    Think about the following and brainstorm what your key messages should be.

    Post your ideas in the field below. 

    • 1
      What are the most important things people need to know about your organization?
    • 2
      What are some common misconceptions you need to combat against?
    • 3
      What does the audience need and want to know?
    • 4
      For this specific audience and message, what is the most effective way to get your message across?
    • 5
      What emotions do you want to appeal to?
    • 6
      What type of language will your audience respond best to (eg. should it be informal or formal, does it need translating, what style will they relate to etc..)?

    Now you've got a collection of ideas on what you want to communicate, you need to hone these into concise, powerful messages that will reach your audience and meet your goals. 

    Top Tip: Think about your messages carefully. You don't want to run the risk of over-communicating and diluting your messages with unnecessary ''fluff''. They need to be clear, concise and on-point.   

    Get these messages approved in the next task, so that key stakeholders are onboard and in agreement with the direction of communication. 

    Approval:

    Will be submitted for approval:
    • Establish what you need to say
      Will be submitted

    Decide When to Communicate:

    Establish a timetable

    Source

    Now you know what you want to say and who you want to say it to, it's time to  plan when you want to communicate your key messages to your audience.

    Based on your research and resources, develop a solid timing strategy to execute the steps of your communication plan.

    Upload this timing plan into the field below so you, or your team, can update and refer back to it at any point. 

    Decide How to Communicate:

    List preferred media channels

    Before you begin to write up your communication plan, you need to decide how to communicate your messages to your audience.

    What channels would be the most effective to get your message delivered to your target audiences? 

    Top Tip: Ask yourself:

    What does your intended audience read, listen to, watch, or engage in?

    You have to reach them by placing your message where they’ll see it.

    List all the possible communications channels you could use, in the field below.

    To help, here's a list of suggestions to get you thinking: 

    • Email
    • Newsletter
    • Teleconference
    • Notice boards
    • CEO briefing
    • Posters
    • Lunchtime meeting
    • Intranet article
    • Launch event
    • Team meeting
    • Podcast
    • Newsletters
    • Promotional materials (items such as caps, T-shirts, and mugs can serve as effective channels for your message)
    • Social media channels
    • News stories, columns, and reports
    • Press releases and press conferences
    • Presentations or presence at local events and local and national conferences, fairs, and other gatherings
    • Community outreach
    • Community or national events
    • Public demonstrations
    • Music
    • Exhibits and public art 
    • TV or radio ads
    • Theater and interactive theater

    Identify chosen media channels

    Source

    You might have a massive budget that will allow you to pay for an expensive, all singing, all dancing advert on TV. Or, you may only have budget to create a targeted email campaign. 

    Now you have your list of possible communication channels, use your allocated budget to work out what you can afford. 

    Budget: {{form.Communication_budget}}

    Your plan should include careful determinations of how much you can spend and how much staff and volunteer time is reasonable to use.

    Ask yourself:  

    • 1
      What do you have the money to do?
    • 2
      Do you have the people to make it possible?
    • 3
      If you’re going to spend money, what are the chances that the results will be worth the expense?
    • 4
      Who will lose what, and who will gain what by your use of financial and human resources?

    Now, list the final communication channels you plan to use in the field below: 

    List potential risks & issues

    Any number of things can happen, at any time, during the course of your communication plan. 

    Someone could forget to e-mail a press release or include the wrong phone number. A crucial word on your posters or in your brochure could be misspelled, or a reporter might get information wrong. 

    It’s important to try to anticipate these kinds of problems, and create a strategy for dealing with them.

    Brainstorm and list every potential risk associated with your communication plan into the field below. 

    Then, assign members of your team to take responsibility for each identified risk.

    Identify who will deal with what and add this to the field below. 

    For example:
    Who will deal with the media issues: Lisa
    Who will correct errors: Stan
    Who will decide when something has to be redone rather than fixed: Jeff

    Write-Up Plan:

    Write-up your plan

    Source

    Now it's time put all your ideas together into a plan that you can act on.

    Here's the document you created: {{form.Communication_plan_URL/file_location}}

    By the time you reach this point, your plan is already done, for the most part. You know:

    • What you want to say
    • Who you want to say it to 
    • How you want to say it
    • When you want to say it 

    Now it’s just a matter of putting the details together into your document. To help you here is a reminder of what we've established during this process: 

    What you are wanting to say 
    {{form.Key_messages}}

    Who you are saying it to
    {{form.Audience_profile}}

    When you are wanting to say it
    {{form.Communication_plan_timing_plan}}

    How you are wanting to say it
    {{form.Chosen_communication_channels}}

    Who is responsible for issues 
    {{form.Risks_&_responsibilities}}

    Simply fill in the following sections with the information above, and upload the final draft into the field below, so it's ready for approval: 

    • Audience profile
    • Key messages 
    • Key timings 
    • Communication channels 
    • Risks & responsibilities 

    Approval:

    Will be submitted for approval:
    • Write-up your plan
      Will be submitted

    Implement your plan

    Now your plan has been approved, it's time to get cracking!

    Compose and design your messages for your chosen channels, make contact with the people who can help you, and getting everything in place to start your communication effort.

    Good luck!

    Measure Results:

    Evaluate the plan

    Source

    Now it's time to review and evaluate how successful your communication plan was.

    Evaluate your plan. Look at what went well and what could be improved.

    Top Tip: Try this SWOT Analysis Template to help you spot the opportunities, threats, strengths and weaknesses in your communication plan.

    Adjust your plan so it keeps getting more and more effective, each time you implement it.

    Here are some key questions to help you evaluate the success of your plan:

    • 1
      Did my target audience receive my communication(s)?
    • 2
      When did they access my information?
    • 3
      How much of my information did they “digest”?
    • 4
      Did my target audience understand what I was trying to say?
    • 5
      How can I tell?
    • 6
      How can I make my next interaction with my audience more compelling?

    Sources:

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