A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of hosting Mike Klein and Daven Rosener for a webinar on communicating planning. Titled “a communication plan that actually works”, Mike and Daven talked us through the “why” and strategy behind planning, how to get a plan set-up (including getting buy-in) and how to put it all into practice using a template they supplied. Listen and view the webinar below, and download the template they created right here. Oh, just in case you can’t listen to the webinar, we’ve provided a transcript of the webinar below! Enjoy.
Mike Klein and Daven Rosener are here to talk with you about how to build a communication plan that actually works.
Daven is an expert in the field who has developed and launched a course called “The Communication Plan Blueprint”. Check it out at communicationplanblueprint.com. He is also an active communication consultant with experience in healthcare, retail, government. He also loves coffee, a love that was only strengthened from his time on Starbucks' Global Communications team.
Mike also has a lot of communication planning under his belt, not only in internal communication internationally but in having run political campaigns for ten years in the US. His years of IC experience include companies like Shell, Barclays and the US federal government. Mike is the author of Happeo’s “Past and Present of Internal Communications” research and is a leader in the field of Internal Communications strategy and qualitative research.
There are a number of great reasons to invest the time and headspace into creating communication plans. And by plans, I mean overall plans for everything you are doing in a given year, and specific plans for key initiatives, campaigns and themes that will transpire over the course of that year.As an internal communicator, work is often a battle - to meet and manage the demands of stakeholders and bosses, and to feel like one is proposing and doing things that actually make a difference. The planning process addresses both of these issues in a very powerful way.
A well-considered communication plan is something you can take to your boss or a leader to demonstrate your competence, to show that you are a skilled professional who is addressing important questions and showing tangible intent to deliver.
It’s also a tool for building your confidence - to reassure yourself that you are proposing an approach sufficient to address the challenge at hand, and engage bosses and leaders secure in your own knowledge.
What is a communication plan?
In my own research that included the insights of 357 communicators from around the world, it was abundantly clear that there was great variation of the definition of a plan. On one end, there was the perspective that it is a way for us to organize our work – for ourselves – a large excel spreadsheet or word document, where we collect our tactics. But plans are much more than a document to organize our work. Sure, they capture what we do and what we hope to accomplish, but plans are how we can have a collaborative dialogue with our leaders and our clients. They do three important things:
Plans define what we do.
Plans connect us to the business and the organizations we serve.
Plans illustrate our strategic strength.
Basically: plans show the ‘How’ of the work we do. They illustrate our approach. This is a crucial point.What we want from our clients and leaders is an understanding of the work we do. When they understand our work, they:
Know what we bring to the table.
Know when to call us for help.
Know how to include us in the core functions of the organization.
Consistency is the secret sauce. If educating our clients about our strength is key, each plan is a working case study. Each plan is an opportunity to demonstrate a consistent and disciplined approach – and to train them about how to interact with us.
Plans are how we demonstrate our capability. But the key to all of this is starting the conversation correctly. We want to accomplish these three critical tasks. But before we do, we have to know the intent and objectives of our leaders or clients at the outset of the project.
We have to understand the business or organizational problem we’re trying to solve -- this is critically important. Plans start these important conversations in purposeful way. We prime the planning process with an executive brief – which ultimately becomes the first two pages of a communications plan.
This should be step one for each project you take on, consistency is critical here. There will be additional pages to the communication plan. But you start here. We capture our clients and project owners up front. We need to know who we are serving and who will ultimately approve our work. They need to know if they’re on the hook for that approval. This brief is also where we capture the business objective – this ends up being one of the most important parts of the document. This is where we demonstrate our knowledge of the business.
We also have a field for the communications objective – which is where we demonstrate to our clients how communications will support the business objective. Lastly, we outline as much of what we understand about the situation with supportive details.
The second page is where we demonstrate our knowledge of and the needs of our audiences – not all audiences have the same needs. How can someone communicate if they don’t know who they are talking to? We need to identify what they want to know and what they need to know – two very different things.
We have to start here and make sure we're on the same page with our leaders. Assumptions are not helpful. Clarity creates direction. This is one of the fundamental aspects of Starbucks communication success. They are laser-focused on this concept – to the point of being very clear on who has an action and who needs to know. It’s not one-size fits all messaging. Audience clarity and knowing the difference between what audiences want to know and what they need to know are key parts of my communication planning course.
This audience snapshot is critical to building messages and identifying tactics, key components of a complete communication plan. Another key component – is upfront identification of what success looks like and a sense of how we will measure it. Results and measurement are a regular part of the business owners diet. Our work should be no different. This snapshot section is a starting point. It allows us to show the same data-driven business acumen – but in our own discipline.
What You Bring To The Meeting
Complete the brief upfront with what you know and identify what you want to discuss. Show up at the table and work through the document with your leader and client. Let your leaders know that this is the business process you follow when it comes to your work. This brief and the cross-the-table dialogue that happens around it is the start of a very important dialogue and is a critical customer touchpoint.
Each project provides an opportunity to start this dialogue and your work with proper footing. As I am sure you know, resources are an issue for any IC intervention. More often than not, when IC people propose initiatives, they are pushed back to see what they could do with minimal added expenditures - to “Communicate Well Enough”.
My recommendation is to expect this - and to always offer two options: what it would take to deliver the outcome you and above all your leaders seek, and the second, what is the best you could do with a minimum of extra spend, and maximizing the use of existing resources (noting what would be deprioritized to make resources available if you are already at or near full capacity.)
When we look at a scenario, we’ll look a bit at budgeting based on three things:
What is the outcome and measures we are pursuing
How well we could address them with existing tools and channels
What additional resources are needed to close the gap (and measure whether it has been closed)
The executive brief we’ve identified sets the stage for this discussion in a meaningful way.
Putting it in action
Meet Pat Oscar and FlixVue, Inc.
FlixVue is a (fictional) media company that provides online entertainment content to customers, with more than 10,000 employees (mostly virtual) across multiple continents. The company has dual headquarters in New York and Dublin.
Employees create, collect, integrate and sell content. The company also acquires and integrate new subsidiaries (production companies, content creators, cable networks) on a constant basis. The company operates in an industry that is rife with significant merger and acquisition activity.
The company has hired Pat Oscar as the new Chief Executive Officer following the departure of the past CEO, who wanted to spend more time with his family. She’s a savvy executive with proven and corporate turnaround experience.
Pat Oscar’s core change mandates/beliefs guiding the next 100 days.
Our current environment – companies either eat or be eaten.
It’s time to get fit to fight.
We can’t throw water in the soup. Now is not the time to the quality of our offerings.
So let’s think about the scenario and talk about measurement during and after the campaign.
To get the new CEO off on the right foot, we need to build measurement in from the beginning. A lot of people are really concerned about “how to measure” - I think we should focus on WHAT to measure. I want us to measure three things:
Words - we established three phrases that we are threading into our messaging. We need to see if and how people are using them
Attitudes - we need to know how people are feeling
Actions - we need to see if people are actually doing anything different
How do we do that? We’d build in three kinds of listening and measurement
Surveys - asking in three ways:
Open ended questions - to see if the phrases or their meanings come out
Phrase suggestions - asking for perceived definition
Attitudes - perceived awareness and confidence
Searches on new CEO name
Searches on three phrases
Focus groups at the end of 100 days in visited and non-visited locations
Comment text analysis on related content
In the brief
So here’s what our scenario looks like as expressed in our executive brief. Again, the idea here is to have a solid starting point and discussion starter – so that you can have the conversation that sets you up for success.
The Business objective is clearly identified. To move the company forward with tangible action, shifting it from potential prey to able predator.
The communication objective is clear. To build rapid and comprehensive understanding of the new leader, her strategy and what employees need to start and stop doing to jumpstart her new direction.
We’ve summarized the audiences from at a high level – explaining what they want to know – this is more from their perspective.
And we’ve captured what they need to know – the organization’s perspective.
And, we have a preliminary look at what our measures may be.
This brief informs our leaders in a collaborative dialogue. It sets up further plan building clarity and, ultimately, project and communicator success. Ultimately, it will make our work more efficient, on-target and effective. When we commit to this discipline we’re demonstrating competency while building confidence as communicators.
Communication planning is a critical task and we’re glad Daven and Mike joined us today. You can certainly reach out to both of them to learn more about their perspective.