We typically think of December and January as prime time for communications planning—a perfect opportunity to reassess the past and plot a new map for the future. Just as the end of a calendar year positions us to think—and even resolve—in terms of change, so, too, does the coronavirus crisis bring with it, not just a mandate for recalibrating the business world, but the communications that will help our clients, customers and supporters navigate a new and still-shifting normal.
We typically think of a communications plan as a road map for reaching target audiences and getting them to respond. Without one, you may find yourself making unnecessary detours, finding your messages get lost, or at worst ending up colliding with instead of engaging your stakeholders. So let’s get on the road to a new communications plan.
In map-making, the audience plays the role of the destination—that is, the people who need to hear your message. Because few of us have endless resources, audiences must be prioritized. And you must pinpoint not just who you need to reach, but what makes them tick. Looking through a Prism of Value®, we’ll need to know what’s in it for them to buy from us or support us. How well do they understand us and what we do? What barriers can we help them scale or opportunities can we lead them to pursue? And we’ve got to be careful to define each audience clearly. “General public” doesn’t cut it, so be clear about the details of each important audience, from demographics to motivations.
Messages are the roads and routes that connect the company or organization to the audience. You want your messages to be direct routes – not filled with lots of twists and turns that make it harder for someone to hear, understand, and engage with you. Good messages are bold, inspiring, relevant, and urgent. Great messages reaffirm your identity, express the promise you bring to your audiences, and put a “human face” on products and services. They establish a connection and, above all, are memorable.
Akin to reaching your destination with the roadmap in hand, goals are about what you want your audience to do or what you want to have happen after the message arrives. Do you want your audience to buy something, advocate on behalf of something, go somewhere, give something, understand your issue, or do something new? Communications goals must be specific, attainable, and measurable. And they should support strategies to manage reputation, strengthen relationships, and promote what you do. Don’t overreach, though. One of the biggest mistakes a company or nonprofit can make is to set a communications goal for which communications is not necessarily the answer.
Means are the vehicles through which you send your messages. And this comes next to last for a very good reason. When planning a trip, you would probably decide where you want to go and what you want to do before determining how you’ll get there. But unlike your favorite vacation, a communications effort is rarely about the journey alone. Decide whether to use the news media, social media, face-to-face contact, email marketing, and/or a host of other tools and tactics only after you’ve defined your audience, picked the best routes, and settled on a destination.
These are the measures and benchmarks we use to determine if you’re on the right track: sending the right messages, using the right vehicles, and ultimately achieving your goals with your target audiences. It’s not enough just to get there. It’s equally important to know whether you got there using the most effective messages and tactics with the wisest deployment of resources. Metrics will help assess this.
Ready to get started? Wainger Group has a free Communications Plan 360™ to guide the process. There are two versions, one for businesses and one for nonprofit organizations. Please specify which one you’d like. And reach out at any time for a 30-minute consultation at no charge. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 301-340-6831.