What is a communications plan anyway ?

What is a communications plan?

Most of our groups don’t have a communications plan. Many of us don’t even know what a communications plan is. Let’s break it down – what is a communications plan?

A communications plan is a guiding document that helps community organizations define our audiences, our messages, our communications channels, and ultimately our communications strategies and tactics. It helps ensure that people understand who we are, what we do, and how others can support our work.

These days there’s a lot of overlap between communications and technology, so COCo is actually proposing a combined approach, an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Plan. We’ve taken some inspiration from Npower’s “Tech-Savvy Communications Planning” and as well as some social media planning resources from IdealWare.

Your ICT Planning Template that should include 5 key steps:

  1. Planning Context – A communications or technology plan should be based on other planning information like a mission statement, goals, and objectives that have already been defined by another organizational planning process like strategic planning or annual planning.
  2. Internal Context – Where is our group at now in terms of communications and technology? What communications channels are we using? What technologies are we using? Do we have any ICT policies? Do we have an ICT budget?
  3. External Context – No ICT planning exercise would be very effective without taking a look at changes in the world around us that might impact our communications and technology needs and options. This will be the focus of our public conversation on Feb 12th.
  4. Strategy – Now it’s time to draw from all of that context and think creatively about how we connect with our audiences, what messages we should focus on, how we can strengthen our “brand” identity, etc. These strategies are the heart of a communications and technology plan.
  5. Tactics – Finally it’s down to the nitty-gritty details of budget, timing, training, tasks, and responsibilities. In this section we define exactly how the work is going to get done, who is going to do it, and how we can evaluate the impact.

That might sound like a lot of work, but we think that all of these steps can be completed in 2-3 meetings with a couple of people doing some homework in between. This February at COCo we are diving deep into the heart of these questions and we invite you to join us. We will be holding a public conversation about communications planning on Feb 12th from 5pm – 7pm. Our approach is to keep it light, practical, and powerful. Our goal is to develop a simple communications planning template that any community group could use. We’re part way through our own ICT Planning process at COCo and we hope you’ll join us on February 12th to help us think through the External Context section.