Communication plays a vital role in any business, whether it is a multinational company employing thousands of people or a small firm that has less than 20 workers. When effectively used, it can bind an organization together and energize its workforce so that the company can achieve its business goals. On the outside, it can serve as the voice of the institution to the general public, promoting the firm’s product and services and improving the value of the brand.
Business communicators are tasked with the development of a corporate communications plan. This puts in writing the corporate objectives that the organization wants to accomplish with effective communication, audiences or the group of people to whom the communications will be addressed, and timetable, tools, and budget. It should also include a part that details how the business communication unit will measure the results of the overall program.
Corporate communications plan usually includes communication tools like printed publications, online communications, documentation and manuals. Meeting and conference materials, PR materials, marketing and sales vehicles, and legal documents are also considered as communication tools. Even visual tools like logos, print, packaging and other corporate identity materials are harnessed for corporate communications. Surveys, annual reports, speeches, certificate and awards, may also be integrated in a corporate communications plan.
Prior to Writing the Plan
The best time to develop the plan is during the organizational planning process.
Before sitting down with the rest of the business communications unit, a manager or executive tasked to oversee the drafting of the communications plan should get input or data from other departments. Input from advisors and consultants, feedback generated from customer surveys and focus groups, discussions with employees and department heads should also be taken into consideration when drafting the plan.
Other firms also tap an external auditor to evaluate their current communications program. This maybe a costly move but some executives think it is worth the investment as the firm’s communication program is objectively reviewed.
The next step in writing a corporate communications plan is to define its objectives. These are the results that the business communicator wants to achieve, like providing excellent service to customers or increasing sales of a new product or service. Other objectives may include increasing brand awareness, improving product delivery, or enhancing customer loyalty.
In terms of internal communication, typical objectives include improving employee recruitment and retention, improving employee morale, increasing employee teamwork, or centralizing the company’s communication efforts.
Define the Audience and Goals
Any communication program should consider the target audience. Business communicators are encouraged to list all audiences that they want to contact, influence, or serve through the communication program.
Audiences may range from customers and non-customers, suppliers, employees, prospective employees, educators, stakeholders like local governments and industry people, and the media.
The next step is to define the goals of the program. Take into consideration the stated objectives of the communication plans as well as the available human and financial resources in defining the goals.
The goals should be more specific than the objectives of the plan. Business communicators can set goals like “100 percent increase in sales of new product” or “10 percent decrease in company’s power bill.”
After identifying the specific goals of the communications plan, the business communicator should then identify the tools which will be used to accomplish the stated goals. These tools may include a simple flyer that promotes a new product, a newsletter article that details the company’s business targets for the year, or a DVD instructional manual distributed to employees to explain the nitty-gritty of a new IT project.
After figuring out how the communication tools available can be harnessed to achieve a business goal, business communicators will then have to develop cost estimates. The estimates should be close enough to land them to within the established budged parameters of the communication plan.
Establish a Timetable.
Once the objectives, audiences, goals, and communication tools have been identified, establish a timetable that outlines what projects will be accomplished after a particular period. The timetable may be divided into weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports.
Evaluating results may take various forms, like a monthly report on work in progress, or a year-end summary of the plan which would see print on the company’s annual report. It could also be in the form of quarterly reports for the CEO and other members of the senior management team.
Developing a written communications plan will take a lot of effort. More often than not, a communications manager will have to rely on inputs from other department heads in crafting a corporate communications plan. But once in place, the corporate communications program should set the tone for the company in as far as achievement of its business goals and targets are concerned.