Your company just spent time and resources crafting an engaging roadmap, strategic plan, or other important product. But creating a product is only half the battle. How do you make sure it has an impact and doesn’t just sit on a shelf?
Developing and implementing a communications plan helps to ensure your messages or product reaches your target audiences and compels them to act.
Tailor the Product to the Audience: Analyze, Clarify, Target
Not every product has the same end user group, and not every audience can be reached in the same way. It sounds pretty simple, but think about it: you wouldn’t share a tweet to try to reach your Board of Directors, would you? Or try to reach a general audience with a subscribers-only email blast? Probably not!
Similarly, if you’re looking for input from your audience to provide specific input, sending them a link to a survey will make it easier for them to give you feedback. But if you want them to share your product with their connections, cut-and-paste prepared social media posts or newsletter blurbs create a much lighter lift—and a better chance that they’ll actually share.
To illustrate, one of our clients recently asked us to help them develop a communications plan focused on outreach to existing stakeholders, as well as new audiences unfamiliar with their organization, to encourage both groups to enter a funding competition. To help them, we started with three key steps and questions that everyone should ask when crafting an effective communications plan.
1) Analyze: Who is your audience?
It is important to really think about each stakeholder group you are trying to reach with your communications campaign:
- Why would they care about this information?
- How do they like to receive communications?
- What motivates them to act?
In our example, our client knew that their past competition participants would be anticipating this next round of competition and would actively seek out the information, while others in their community less familiar with their competitions would need more direct outreach. However, the client wasn’t entirely sure how receptive or responsive some of these less familiar groups would be. Knowing this, we kicked off our communications plan with a landscape analysis to more accurately identify and better understand the new audiences and their preferred methods and messaging for outreach.
2) Clarify: What do you want your audience to do?
For any communications plan to be successful, it’s critical to articulate exactly what that success means: what action do you want your audience to ultimately take?
Again, in our example, our client had two goals for their outreach:
- Expand awareness of their organization within new communities
- Generate submissions to their latest funding opportunity
They knew that they could count on their existing audiences to submit applications for funding, but they also wanted applications from the new audiences. And they wanted them to learn not only about (and apply for!) this current opportunity but also learn enough about and be inspired by the organization itself that they would want to stay informed about future opportunities. To achieve these goals, we developed materials that incorporated both levels of messaging, giving new audiences the practical information they needed to spur them to apply, as well as the engaging information that would keep them interested long-term.
3) Target: Which communications methods are best for each audience?
While the client understood the basic methods available to them to reach their audiences (e.g., social media and newsletters), they had not explored how best to reach their mixed audience through these and other media. After some brainstorming and analysis, we helped them see that they could reach new stakeholders through more compelling, visually oriented social media messaging, while existing stakeholders would respond more to direct personal outreach. The resulting communications plan, therefore, included materials for both new and existing stakeholders:
- Existing: Slides for their steering committee members to insert into presentations; targeted alerts for their organization’s existing newsletter
- New: Tailored social media posts and press releases that could be shared both by our client and external contacts
Key takeaway? Understand how your target audiences prefer to receive information and think creatively to expand the ways and opportunities they have to interact with your communications materials.
Communications Plan Fundamentals
While these questions may sound simple, having clear answers to each of them provides a strong foundation on which to build an effective communications plan. Our client was able to expand their reach significantly by answering these questions and developing a tailored plan. By clearly answering these questions early on, our client was able to develop a tailored and targeted plan and expand their communications reach by effectively reaching new audiences through new channels, while also gaining new followers on their existing channels.
The next time you’re developing a communications plan, remember to start with three key steps:
- Analyze your audience
- Clarify your message
- Target the right channels of communication
By clearly and comprehensively answering these questions, you can ensure that your communications have a measurable and actionable impact.