Strategic Communications Planning: What It Is and Why It’s Important to Your Organization

Strategic communications planning is the foundation for successful and impactful communications and marketing activities. Each month, Vanguard Communications is releasing a new article describing each step of this important process. Read additional articles from our Strategic Communications Planning series. Interested in bringing the strategic communications planning process to your organization? Send us a note and let us know how we can help.

Just as a business plan serves as the roadmap for what your organization will do and how it will accomplish its goals, a strategic communications plan helps guide your organization’s communications efforts. It is the foundation for your communications and marketing activities and an important tool to help you achieve continued success. The plan identifies your priority communications goals and audiences and outlines a framework for understanding and implementing your communications strategy.

A strong communications plan is crucial. Despite its key role in the successful execution of activities, many organizations don’t have one — they either aren’t informed of the strategic communications planning process or they have not been able to reach an internal consensus to finalize a plan. This results in organizations taking less effective approaches to their communications activities.

Over the next several months, we will be writing a blog series to share our communications planning expertise and how it may be beneficial to your organization. Each month’s post will provide more details on each step in the strategic communications planning process and offer insights and best practices for you to apply to your own work. We will be using the following framework:

  • Situational Analysis: How do you gather internal and external information to provide context to your plan? This could include a media analysis and a competitive analysis about your field and organization.
  • Communications Goals and Objectives: What communications goal have you established that is related to your organizational goal? What steps have you created for measuring progress toward your goal?
  • Audiences: Who are your priority audiences? How do you identify and segment them?
  • Messages: What messages resonate the most with your audiences? What is your call to action?
  • Materials: Which tools are the most effective in reaching your audiences?
  • Pretesting: How do you learn which messages and materials resonate with your audiences before you finalize them?
  • Channels: What are the best ways to reach the audiences you have identified?
  • Activities, Events and Partnerships: What types of activities, events and partnerships do you use to engage your audiences?
  • Implementation: What is your timeline and budget? What are your staffing needs?
  • Evaluation: How do you measure success?
  • Mid-Course Corrections: Are there changes or revisions you need to make to your plan?

Now that you’ve had a brief introduction to the strategic communications planning process, it’s important to know why creating a strategic communications plan can benefit your organization.

  • It saves money. You only invest in projects that help you reach your goals.
  • It keeps you focused. Specific objectives and long-term goals are clear.
  • It provides structure. A method is in place for identifying your team’s roles, responsibilities and deadlines.
  • It helps with fundraising. Potential funders can see the path of your organization and understand how their support will help achieve its goals.
  • It proves success. Evaluation metrics provide measurements of invested time and resources.
  • It supports your organizational goals. A communications framework is built to support the long-term goals of the group.
  • It strengthens your brand. Elements that are the most effective at supporting the organization’s brand are streamlined.
  • It provides direction. Micromanagement and misdirection are reduced by having a roadmap for activities throughout the year.
  • It coordinates messages. All parties are on the same page about what to say and how to say it.

We are excited to share this blog series and hope you will follow along each month to learn more about strategic communications planning and how it can benefit your organization. Happy planning!