10 Key Steps to a Successful Project Communication Plan
You have been given responsibility for the communications surrounding a project that will transform your company. Your reputation as an effective communicator will likely be determined by the success of the initiative. So where do you start?
Begin with your audience! And remember that your colleagues and staff members want to be treated as valued constituents. Getting their feedback and input early in the process will lead to increased collaboration and accelerated adoption. Misleading, guarded, and filtered communications play no part in successful projects. Set the stage for a successful project by sharing what you will be communicating and how often. Then, stick to your plan and it will become the messaging framework for all of the project milestones that will follow.
A thorough communication plan takes into consideration the needs of the executive sponsors, board members, key stakeholders, owners of the initiative work streams, subject-matter experts, end-users and internal and external customers. Follow the recommendations below to create a strong communication plan that will lay the groundwork for a successful project.
Steps to creating a stellar Communication Plan:
- Understand your stakeholders. Be able to describe them by their roles, their key priorities, the strengths and weaknesses of their areas and their past experience with implementing major organizational change. Stakeholders should be graphed along two axes: the impact that the change will have on their role and the influence they have over the initiative.
- Create the value proposition. Change worth implementing is never going to be easy. The value proposition is based on the project vision; descriptions of how things will be different in the future, who will be affected, key compelling benefits, and what makes it worth it to change the current environment.
- Construct a repeatable message that describes the project. Write a 25 to 50 word message that captures the justification for your project and will become a mantra for executive sponsors. This is your “elevator speech” and it should be updated as the project progresses.
- Test your message. Go back to key stakeholders and try out the messaging. See how they react. Good project communications strike the right chord intellectually and emotionally. Get feedback on what they think and how well it is understood. Make adjustments to the framework as need.
- Brand your project. Effective use of graphics, repeatable colors and a project logo will quickly identify your messaging. A picture is worth a thousand words. Create reusable graphics that quickly illustrate project progress.
- Send the right information to the right people at the right time. Too few communications will make your user community feel that the project isn’t important or doesn’t affect them. Too many communications will result in your recipients hitting the delete key when they see the subject line of an email.
- Emphasize benefits in all communications. Benefits need to be described in the terms that specific audiences relate to. Interviews with the key stakeholders and key customers will provide you with the framework for the benefits the project will deliver.
- Keep communications factual but positive. Let constituents know as much information as you can – as soon as you can. Rumors love a vacuum and kill productivity.
- Be sensitive to your external customers. Remember that change will impact your customers and keep them informed regarding the changes that they will see. Describe the project in context of how products and services will be improved. Customers don’t like surprises.
- Give evidence to support the promised progress. The value proposition may be compelling but people want proof. Strive to achieve milestones in 30-, 60- and 90-day increments and report progress to your stakeholders to keep their mindshare as the project progresses.
Taking ownership of a communication plan and adhering to the scheduled dates for project communications will emphasize the importance of your project. It will also reassure your constituents that effective leaders are in charge of the change. Your reputation will grow when repetition of messaging and predictable frequency are part of your plan.