Make Planning the first Step in the Strategic Internal Communication Process
What’s one of the biggest communication mistakes you can make in communicating to employees? Start without having a plan in place.
When you jump to tactics, you run the risk of missing the mark. You might use the wrong tool for the job. Communication could happen too soon, be over too quickly or not provide what employees need to know.
While developing a strategic internal communication plan takes time, it’s both more effective, and a more efficient way to manage your program. Here are seven ways to develop a plan that will set you on the right path to improving internal communication.
- Give your Plan a Consistent Framework
By creating a consistent approach to planning, the process will be easier and more productive. All it takes is a simple framework. Agree on the key components, which can include:
• Situation analysis
• Key messages
• Tactics and timing
The purpose of a plan isn’t to impose rigid guidelines, but to identify key components and guide you through each step of the planning process.
2. Make Strategic Communication Planning a Collaborative Effort
When a plan reflects the insight and knowledge of key stakeholders, it is more likely to gain the perspective and buy-in to be successful. The best way to collaborate is to facilitate a hands-on, face-to-face communication planning session that involves participants in developing key elements of the plan. It may seem like a lot of time, but you’ll get all the information you need to build a strong plan.
Here are some ideas on who to include and what they can offer:
•Senior Leaders: Endorsement from an executive sponsor validates your efforts and influences other key stakeholders to get involved
• Functional Support: Consult with skilled individuals from IT, HR, finance, etc., to determine if your plan is feasible
• Subject Matter Experts: Turn to the experts for detailed information on the topic about which you are communicating
• Regional/Site Representatives: Involving employees from other regions or sites can provide fresh ideas and give insight into how well your plan will be accepted in other work cultures or environments.
3. Start with a Situation Analysis
To get your strategic internal communication plan off to a great start, begin by creating a situation analysis. What is a situation analysis? Just what it seems: A summary of a situation–a snapshot that conveys what’s going on at that moment in time. A focused situation analysis builds a strong foundation for your plan. It also helps you make a case for the objectives, strategies and tactics that follow.
Consider the following Questions when creating a Situation Analysis:
• Why is this strategic internal communication plan being developed?
• What is the current state of communication within the organization?
• What is the current state of the organization (reorganization, merger, etc.)?
• What are the organization’s goals or strategies?
• What must employees understand to achieve those goals?
4. Set Strong Objectives
Objectives are a core foundation for your plan. For many communicators, one of the most challenging aspects of the planning process is setting strong objectives. They require the deepest thinking and take the most time to create. Objectives are important because they create clarity about what you’re trying to accomplish and the results you want to achieve. Good objectives are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-bound.
5. Develop Clear Strategies
Strategies are methods or approaches for achieving your objectives. Many communicators have a natural tendency to jump from setting objectives right to specific tactics (the actions you’ll take to deliver on your strategies). Resist that temptation and think in broad terms about what approaches are possible. Begin by listing a number of different strategies — even if each does not quite achieve your objective — to make sure you’re exploring every opportunity. Then, narrow the list of strategies to those that will most effectively and efficiently achieve your objectives.
6. Create a Message Platform
One way to ensure that your messages are clear and aligned is to develop a message platform as part of your internal communication plan. To begin, start with your key message, also known as a message frame, high concept or elevator speech. Whatever you call it, the end product is the same: 15 to 20 words that summarize the most important point. After you have created your key messages, it becomes the foundation for your overall message platform.
Here are three questions that will help you develop a message frame:
1.What do employees want to know?
2.What is your objective?
3.What’s the news?
7. Keep your strategic communication plan Alive
Your strategic communication plan should do more than record tactics and messages for the year. It should also establish priorities and keep everyone in your department focused, which is why it’s important that it has staying power. To make your plan a living document include a timeline to anticipate key activities, start with a plan format that’s easy to use and design a visual “at-a-glance” version of your plan.