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10 Key steps to a successful communication plan

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Are you responsible for communications of a project that will transform your company?  Your reputation as an effective communicator and your perception as a leader will be determined by how effectively you communicate.  So where do you start?

Begin with your audience and remember that everyone affected by the change wants to feel like a valued stakeholder.  Ask for input and feedback early in the process to increase collaboration and accelerate adoption.  Set the stage for a successful project by sharing what you will be communicating and how often.  Then, stick to your plan. It will become the anticipated messaging framework for all of the project milestones that follow.

A thorough communication plan considers the needs of the board members, executive sponsors, key stakeholders, owners of the initiative’s workstreams, subject-matter experts, end-users, and internal and external customers.  Follow the recommendations below to create an impactful communication plan that lays the groundwork for a successful project.

Steps to Creating a Stellar Communication Plan:

  1. 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
    • The influence they have over the initiative
  2. Create the value proposition.  Change worth implementing is never going to be easy.  The value proposition is based on the project vision.  Include descriptions of how things will be different in the future, who is affected, and compelling benefits.  What makes it worth it to change the current environment?
  3. Construct a repeatable message that describes the project.  Keep your message to 30 seconds in length so that it captures the justification for your project, is easy to repeat, and becomes the mantra at all levels in the organization.
  4. 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 as needed.  You want the message to be embraced and easily repeated.
  5. Brand your project.  Effective use of graphics, consistent colors, and a project logo will quickly identify your messaging.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  Create a reusable graphic that quickly illustrates and updates project progress.
  6. 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, or information irrelevant to a user group, will result in your recipients hitting the delete key when they see the subject line of an email.
  7. Emphasize benefits in all communications.  Describe benefits in terms that are relatable for specific audiences. Interviews with the key stakeholders and key customers will provide you with the framework for the anticipated benefits.
  8. 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.
  9. Be sensitive to your external customers.  Remember that change will impact your customers, too.  Keep them informed regarding the changes they will see.  Describe the project in the context of how products and services will be improved.  Customers don’t like surprises.
  10. 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 them engaged as the project progresses.

Taking ownership of a communication plan and adhering to the scheduled release of updates emphasizes the organization of your project.  It reassures your stakeholders that effective leaders and communicators are in charge.  Your stock will go up when repetition of messaging, along with predictable frequency of communications, become your trademark.

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