11 Easy Steps to Create an Effective Communication Strategy

Needless to say, effective communication strategies help in developing new plans and bringing forth new ideas. It is another characteristic of a good leader.

Such strategies also help in assessing results desired by the individuals working towards them, by functioning and responding aptly.

The questions which arise include ‘where to start in planning such strategies?’ Or ‘What is the entire process?’ ‘What do I need, and how long will it take?’ and ‘How will I know if I am headed in the right direction?’ etc.

All of these are the most common questions we come across when planning a communication strategy.

What is Communication Strategy?

A communication strategy can also be known as a communication plan, is a document that is used for communicating information related to a specific issue, event, situation, or audience.

Communications plan expresses the goals and processes of an organization’s outreach activities, including what an organization wants to share with the public and whom the organization is trying to reach.

Communication strategy serves as the design for communicating with the public, stakeholders and even colleagues as it is a rational description that describes a communications solution to a problem or bundle of problems.

It should serve as a guide for any media and public relations’ actions in which the organization is engaged. This guide will instruct you how to format your plan and how to write a communication strategy.

Why develop communication strategy?

When we are going to start a business a Communication strategy can be helpful in many ways. Some important are following:

communication strategy

Link between Objectives and Communication Planning

Provide a link between business objectives and communication planning and release.

Helpful to Understand Policy

It can help to explain how communications will support departmental objectives. It explains which strategic choices have been taken and why

Build Understanding

Build common understanding of audiences and priorities across a communications division.

Create Continuity

Create continuity in communications activity for a long time

Articulate Objectives

Articulate objectives and methods of success for evaluating performance or building a case for resources.

Reduce Communication Risks

See the sights and lessen communications risks

Steps to Create an Effective Communication Strategy

Here are some steps that are very helpful to create an effective communication strategy.

Step 1- Map out the Current Situation

The first step is to map out the entire situation after ensuring that all business leaders are on the same page.

This can be done by having a clear picture of the current state of your business and its overall status.

You should briefly outline what your organisation does, what its main functions are and where it operates.

It should also look at your organization’s communications strengths and weaknesses.

Make sure that you list down any or all major issues and cover them to ensure they are not left behind.

Assemble a planning group and ask them to cover all such aspects, together, discussing and clarifying them with each other.

One of the approaches which the planning team may find quite useful is conducting a SWOT analysis of your business, or company.

It is described in detail below.

The following tools can be used to help analyse your organization’s current situation.

communication strategy

a) PEST Analysis

PEST analysis is comprised of Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors that could affect your organisation’s work.

These could be positive or negative factors that can have impact on organization. You should identify why each factor will have an effect.

b) SWOT Analysis

One of the approaches which the planning team may find quite useful is conducting a SWOT analysis of your business, or company.

This means that the planning group will break your entire business in to 4 different sections, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

communication strategy

A SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or in a business.

It involves specifying the objective of the business or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favourable and unfavourable to achieve that objective.

As an effective leader you need to think about what this means in terms of your communications priorities.

You need to be aware how can threats be turned into opportunities as well as how can you effectively deal with your strengths through effective communications?

Considering all external as well as internal factors, the group will then divide the entire business into the given categories.

This will help you analyze where your business stands strong, where it needs a bit of revamping and will help in making decisions.

c) Competitor Analysis

When you are measuring your current situation in order to look at what your competitors are doing, Competitor Analysis is a very helpful tool at that time.
It seems so simple, you just need to identify your competitor and see where they are according to specific criteria.

When you are measuring current strengths and weaknesses you should be free of biasness.

Step 2- Set of tools for communication strategy:

The next step for an effective communication strategy is to develop a set of tools.

These tools can guide the planning and creative efforts using a What/How/Who model.

The What/How/Who model is described below.

This What/How/Who Model might seem simple, but it can make your communication strategy more visible. It can help you to build the case for addition.

To take a start with a model is a very good idea. This model defines the messages and experiences you want to create (What), the resources of communication you use to create them (How), and the people you need to reach to do business successfully (Who).

communication strategy

The What/How/Who Model requires that plans be developed at each of the following levels:

According to What/How/Who Model, What of your communications requires Category Plans. This captures decisions about the nature of different corporate and product messages. Simply put reasons why a consumer should buy your product, or information about your company.

The How of your communications requires Channel Plans for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of alternative channels for delivering your message.

The Who of your communications requires Audience Plans for the targeted audience you want to reach. This identifies specific objectives and strategies for a particular group — investors, for instance. It will allow you to plan and measure explicitly for them, while simultaneously ensuring integration with other audience initiatives.

Source: https://hbr.org/2012/03/four-steps-to-building-a-strat

Step 3- SMART Objectives

As an effective leader you need to aware how to develop your leadership skill with the passage of time. As it is a need at every stage.

When you are going to develop a communication strategy you need to make sure each objective is SMART.

communication strategy

The term SMART is used here to describe the following aspects that should be included in objective.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

You need to assign the responsibility of each objective to an individual and with their help develop a range of different objective-based strategies and tactics.
You need to guide the people that are going to work on a specific strategy. They need to focus on two main issues

  • First: Focus on the given objectives
  • Second: Developing different possible strategies and plans to achieve it.

Step 4- Statement of purpose

When you are going to develop a communication strategy, you keep in mind some questions including why you have developed a communication strategy and what you hope to achieve with it.

It acts as a reminder for those using it in their work.

Effective communication strategy is another addition in leadership skills list. Communication strategy helps us to develop effective communications that are helpful in every situation. It can:

  • Help us to achieve organisational objectives
  • Keep in contact effectively with stakeholders
  • Reveal the success of our work
  • Make sure people understand what organization is doing
  • Helpful in changing behaviour and perceptions where it is essential

Step 5- Communicate with the Key Stakeholders

This step should have a one-on-one talk with your customers to learn what they want, what they receive, and what they are looking forward to.

A deeper understanding of your customers will help you improve your business in those areas to achieve a higher success rate.

For this step, use the BARROW framework as a communication strategy, which works a bit like this;

communication strategy

  • B for Bridging- Bridging means being able to acknowledge what your customer has asked from you.
  • A for Aim- In order to understand what the aim of the customer is, ask questions. The goal here is to understand what they are looking forward to and achieve it.
  • R for Reality- Identify the current situation and use it to the best of your abilities.
  • R for Roadblocks- If there are any obstacles in the way, identify them and find a long term solution.
  • O for Opportunities- Watch out for any profitable opportunities that come your way and help your business steer towards success.
  • W for When & Who- Learn who is affected by your decisions, who can help you make those important decisions, and when will you need to make them.

Step 6- Create a Vision for the Future

Far-sightedness is important for businesses, and in order for you to make the internal affairs work, you need to know where you are heading towards.

Once you have a clear idea of where you want to see your business in the next 10-12 years, things will fall in place eventually.

In order to determine which decisions are best for the company, ask your stakeholders to jot down as many ideas as they possibly can and put them forth for the company’s or businesses’ long term progress.

The best way to go about this is to categorize the ideas into Global, Role, Impact, and Reputation, as well as other categories which fit into the puzzle.

Step 7- Prioritize

You must know which goals to prioritize.

This is highly important as your business will be greatly impacted by the priorities you set.

In order to get a perfect communication strategy, break the elements into different categories, and divide them between critical and non-critical. This will help you arrive at a conclusion.

Step 8- Create & Prioritize Tactics, Techniques & Strategies

Once you have organized the tactics and strategies’, it is time to prioritize them as well.

Discuss with your planning group as well as the other individuals involved about which of the strategies’, techniques, and tactics are easy to work with, and face less difficulty implementing on.

Make a scale for each and according to the scale, mark their priority.

Step 9- Divide Tasks, Responsibilities and Define Metrics

It is time to create the additional details behind the strategies and the techniques.

Now that you have the outlines, you known which comes first in terms of priority, and which is most beneficial, it is time to dig in to the details.

The first 3 things to considers are; metrics, the timeline, and the role, responsibilities, and resources.

After the basics have been dealt with, consider the next objectives with your stakeholders. They include communication activities, audience perception, audience action, and the financial impact on your businesses’ goals.

Step 10- Consolidating Plans Tactically & Strategically

Now that things have become clearer, work with your stakeholders to achieve the final details of the communication strategy map.

This can be done once the responsibilities have been sorted, and all plans have been review and approved.

Step 11- Implementation

Now, it is time to put the plan into action.

Always remember that implementation does not mean that the communication strategy has ended.

It only means the start of a whole new process which includes the re-evaluation and restructuring of the map.

Risks and assumptions of communication strategy

When we plan for any strategy there is element of risk. This may be associated with:

  • Uncertain reactions from stakeholders or other audiences
  • The rising nature of policy areas that are working in
  • Different elements included in the strategy
  • A complete strategy should identify the following issues
  • The key risks associated with the recommended strategic approach.
  • Strategy should recognize the possibilities of those risks as well as it should consider improvement of the plan.

The assumptions that will have necessarily been made to complete this document should be identified as well as the impact of these assumptions should be kept in mind.

Here are some more critical questions that you should consider at this stage, considering assumptions.

  • What are the risks of this choice of action?
  • How likely are these to happen?
  • What could be the impact of specific actions?
  • What could we do to lessen any risks?
  • What assumptions can provide a base for this strategy?
  • How can be tested these assumptions and what is being done to test these assumptions?
  • It is very important to consider that the communication strategy is an existing document.
  • Different type of important sections should be added as they are developed, including the script, stakeholder plan, role of media, creative idea, guidelines, budget breakdown etc.

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