Welcome to our sixth article in this strategy refresh series. We have been covering the Intrafocus seven-step strategic planning process, and today will look at the communications plan.

We’ve previously worked through stages 1 – Foundation, 2 – Assessment, 3 – Strategic Objectives, 4 – KPIs and Targets, and 5 – Strategic Projects.

Unless you have a dedicated in-house internal communications team already charging ahead with their strategic communications project under your brief, now is the right time to think about how you’ll tell your employees, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders about your new strategy.

The good news is that this step can be simple and manageable, even if your executive team are not naturally enthusiastic communicators! But you will need to find individuals within your business charged with preparing and disseminating this vital messaging to your different audiences.

Your communications plan

A standalone kickoff workshop or planning session is a good way to initiate strategy communications planning. After the kickoff, other follow-up meetings can focus on specific activities within the plan.

This kickoff session should include your executive strategy lead, relevant managers who will be charged with issuing strategy communications and your in-house communications leaders (or external specialists if you work with freelancers or agency support.)

Why do we plan communication?

With a communications plan, your strategic messages will be clear. The plan can be distributed to a communications group, management teams and key individuals. With a communications plan, all these people will be literally singing from the same sheet! The strategy development process is iterative and requires time, evolution and input from different people. Rather than presenting it as a ‘done deal’ to your employees, you should also welcome their input and feedback and build engagement and buy-in.

The key to effective strategy communication is to:

1. Think about audiences and differentiate them as far as possible for targeted messaging.

2. Consider all the different channels at your disposal, from daily team huddles to emails, Sharepoint, digital TV screens, intranet, CEO presentations. These channels can be creative and offline too – wall boards, ‘town halls’, reception displays and so forth. Why not ask your employees how they like to receive communication?

3. Define and agree on key messages you will use for consistency and sign these off early so that they can be shared, disseminated and repurposed in a consistent, straightforward way that doesn’t involve ‘reinventing the wheel’ every time.

4. Use storytelling techniques to bring the strategy to life. But agree on imagery, stories and other descriptors before you begin. Otherwise, too many analogies may enter the mix and confuse the listener! If your executive team aren’t natural storytellers, look for them around the business and bring them on board.

5. Measure success and ask for feedback. Communication is an ongoing process; you’ll want to get as much buy-in as possible. So ask your recipients what they think, build opportunities for them to contribute and seek local champions to own team updates and other key activities. 

Make sure the strategy is inclusive, exciting and motivating. Remember that some of your junior employees are likely to be natural digital communicators and excited to have new responsibilities and progression opportunities – harness their enthusiasm and encourage them to own elements of the communication strategy.

6. Remember to communicate related incentives! The new strategy is likely tied in with profit-related pay, bonuses, volunteering and training opportunities and other benefits in some way, and these are a great way to get everyone on board.

7. Use tools – modern organisations often drown under data, so remember to invest in a software product such as QuickScore so you can make fantastic dashboards and ready presentations at the click of a button. This will give your managers the tools to deliver regular, timely and effective communications.

Next steps for a communication plan:

With this in mind, use your kickoff to:

1. Define owners

Accountability lies at the heart of strategic success, and you will already have nominated owners for your strategic objectives, KPIs, projects and tasks. Now do the same with your communications. Sometimes these will be the same individuals; in other cases, you may have standalone communications leads with particular expertise in that area.

2. Plan the communication rollout

Your communication lead will have the knowledge needed to plan a thorough communications rollout over a period of time. Things to factor in here include groups and audiences, channels, messages, timelines and feedback mechanisms.

3. Identify target groups for communication

You must tailor your messages to different groups, such as employees, partners, regulators, community bodies, suppliers, media contacts, and partners.

4. Consider channels

Different channels ensure that messaging gets to everyone in the right way. For example:

– Do you have field workers who cannot get to in-person briefings? Digital communication channels and video recordings can be good here as an alternative.

– Do you have employees who prefer to refrain from engaging with digital tech and value the engagement, personal approach and investment in face-to-face time with a senior executive? Welcome their commitment and book round-table briefings or lunchtime update sessions.

5. Plan a rollout that happens over time and which plans communication activities at appropriate points. For example, you will likely want to brief your senior and people managers about the strategy and their roles/responsibilities before you begin communicating it to your front-line employees. Factor in feedback mark measurement to check that it’s hitting the mark.

Find out more

Keen to find out more and get help from an experienced strategy expert? The team at Intrafocus are always here to help guide your organisation towards strategic success. Please get in touch with us to find out more, and look out for our final blog in the series – automation – next week!