Why you need a communications strategy and how to write one
What is a communications strategy?
It’s the business case of the communications world. If you’re working on any large scale communications whether it’s for a programme, project or business area a communications strategy is the document that captures the key aspects of what, how, when, why and where for the overall approach to the communications you’ll create. It will include the (strategic) thinking behind the chosen approach to achieve the overall project objectives, there’ll be budgetary requirements and high level awareness of stakeholders and activities to align to the wider plan.
Why do I need one?
For any business understanding what you need to be telling your team as well as your customers is imperative for success. Communications is not separate from the wider business model you’re working in, it’s a part of it. So having a clear strategy for your business communications is essential if you want to ensure you’re travelling along the same route as the rest of the business.
How can I write a communications strategy?
This document will often fit into a wider strategy either a business case or a change or programme management strategy. The key part of this document is to outline the main high level aspects of the strategy that readers, usually business leaders will need to feel informed and aware of what communications will be doing and how, these include:
Stakeholders and Audiences
Key Narrative and Messages
Tools and activities
Resources, Budgets and Timescales
Assessment and amendment
Objectives – Objectives should ensure that your communications strategy is fuelled by the business or the programme objectives. This isn’t created in a vacuum. Communications are a fundamental part of wider business and programme strategy so needs to connect clearly with the key objectives already fuelling the change or new concepts.
Stakeholders and Audiences – Knowing exactly who your stakeholders and audiences are is critical to any successful communications plan. Sharing how you’re going to identify all impacted stakeholders or audiences, what collateral you’ll make (i.e. communications plans, stakeholder mapping, customer journey mapping).
Key Narrative and Messages – Creating a strong narrative and articulating a few core key messages that can be used in all communications consistently are essential to form a trustworthy, authoritative and consistent set of messages and ideas to share. The earlier these lynchpins of your communications can be identified and agreed the better and if you can do this early enough then capturing them in the communications strategy is a good idea.
Tools and activities – Capturing the types of tools and activities you’ll need to utilise to spread the communications messages. For example, will you be using team events, conferences, newsletters and webpages? If so try to capture them all here.
Resources, Budgets and Timescales – Being ambitious is great, but being realistically ambitious and still being able to deliver high quality work is far better. Capturing early on how many resources you have available and what their roles and specialism will be along with the timescales you’re working to are critical success factors which can’t be ignored and need to be acknowledged as early as possible. Of course what you can deliver will also be contained within a budget. The vast majority of programmes, even for big companies, don’t have a big budget for communications wizardry, so you may need to be adaptable for example an agency created video will look amazing but will cost a lot so you may need to opt for handheld iPad and company ‘on the ground’ authenticity instead.
Assessment and amendment – Assessing, measuring, tracking and then amending as you go is very important, especially if you’re working on change communications. Qualitative (anecdotal feedback) and quantitative (survey results) data are both essential factors to being able to assess how well your messaging is landing and whether amends to the communications messaging needs to happen to reach the level of engagement you’re seeking.
Communications strategies do sound quite ‘corporate’ in tone, but they can be a very effective and positive tool to setting the scene clearly and right at the beginning of what communications will bring to the table in terms of supporting the business adding in value to its proposed next steps or changes, and can be used both internally and externally.
For more information on how Alcea Consulting can support and advise you in writing your next communications strategy contact Ellen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or for more helpful tips on communications and connection check out the Alcea Blog.