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:
(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?
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?