What Is a Communications Strategy?

When it comes to communications, sadly most organizations fail (or at least fail to live up to their full potential) because they have no plan.

As the saying goes:

Most people don't plan to fail; they fail to plan. -John L. Beckley
OurChurch (dot) Com

(Feel free to retweet that)

Most organizations either live in the past (just keep doing what they’ve been doing) or live in the moment (“We need to get the word out about X. Let’s do A, B and C”) but few actually think about where they want to go in the future or the best way to get there.

So, what is a communications strategy?

what is a communications strategy?Here’s my definition…

A communications strategy (or communications plan) is a document that defines an organization’s communications goals, target audiences and methods for reaching those goals. It serves as a guide for all day-to-day media, public relations and communication activities in which the organization is engaged.

Let’s break that down

A communications strategy is a…

  • document – That means it’s not just floating around in someone’s head but it’s actually written down. As my friend Ken Menesse likes to say, “If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist!”

…that defines an organization’s…

  • communications goals – What is the purpose of your communications? What specifically are you going to accomplish through your communications?
  • target audiences – Who are you trying to reach? It’s probably multiple audiences. People within your organization? Existing customers/members/donors? People outside your organization? Where are they? What are they like? What do they need?
  • methods – How are you going to communicate with them? What media, channels, and platforms are you going to use for each target audience?

…for reaching those goals.

  • It serves as a guide for all day-to-day… – In other words, it’s not a worthless document that gets created once and then stuffed in a file folder and forgotten about. It needs to be practical and written in plain English. The communications leader needs to regularly remind his or her team of the strategy and provide correction when the day-to-day communication is not aligned with the strategy.

…media, public relations and communication activities in which the organization is engaged.

Without a communications strategy, your organization will simply float along doing what you’ve always done or be tossed about by the storms of urgent demands for immediate results.

Don’t do it!  Develop a communications strategy! 

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be discussing how to develop a communications strategy, more specifically what to include, examples of communications strategies and more.


  • What drives your day-to-day communications? Are you living in the past (doing what you’ve always done)? Living in the moment (doing what you have to do to get the word out today)? Or guided by a written communications strategy?
  • What do you think of the above definition of communications strategy? How would you improve upon it?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

15 Responses to “What Is a Communications Strategy?”

  1. This article was great – well written and laid out nicely. I learned a lot already and I'm now anxiously awaiting more posts on this topic!

  2. I'm really curious about your next posts to this topic.
    I think, that I'm already implementing a communications strategy but it definitely has potentail for improvements.

  3. My communications strategy is pretty rough. I would love to know how to think it through in a more deliberate way for the long-term — you've got my interest, too!

    I'm sure the plan would include considering what a realistic time investment would be, too — wouldn't it?

  4. Vegetarians of Washington Reply May 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I'd like to suggest that you might want to include a section in your strategy for the scope and tone of the communications. For example, you might want to say that "Our organization will not comment on anything which does not directly relate to our mission" (eg. politics!). Another example might be "All communications will maintain a positive and professional tone"

  5. Great and exact definition of communications strategy. The tips above would really help a lot those who are in SEO business and digital marketing field.

  6. bruceeministrytools Reply May 27, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    A great article.
    I would suggest we need to start with goals, then add methods and finally include resources. Goals should rarely change, Methods should be adapted to the current environment and only occasionally change. However, resources are a continuously moving target. and their inventory may have to be updated on a weekly or even daily basis.
    I too am interested in seeing follow-on posts involving this subject.

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