Communication plans, whether they are for internal or external use, should foster trust and confidence. They should help management and employees communicate effectively with one another and convey key messages to outside stakeholders -- vendors, customers and investors. Listen to these stakeholders, understand their concerns and note their questions, and then create a communication plan tailored to their needs. Different organizational communication plans may have different messages but creating them involves a few basic steps.
Conduct a needs assessment. Document the communication needs in sufficient detail, including areas of particular sensitivity and possible audience reactions. For example, if you are preparing a communication plan for an impending plant closure, understand the impact it could have on the workers and their community as part of the needs assessment.
Define the goals. Briefly and clearly outline the objectives of your communication plan. The goals should be specific, realistic and measurable. For example, if the company is about to announce a merger, the goals could be stated as: "Ensure that all company employees, shareholders and financial analysts are aware of the rationale. Host a joint press conference by senior management of both companies the day of the formal agreement. Post all relevant merger details on the investor relations website."
Analyze the target audience to shape your message. In the plant closure example, there would be two messages: one for the employees who will be directly affected, and another for the community at large. For mergers, companies often schedule two to three joint presentations: one for the media, one for financial analysts that goes into detailed financial analysis and a third for the employees of the respective organizations.
Decide on the message. Ideally, there should be one or two key points, otherwise the message may become confused. In both the plant closure and merger examples, the core message would be the rationale -- why the actions are necessary at this particular time. Be optimistic. Even in difficult economic circumstances, look for positive developments -- for example, a new customer win or a new product launch -- that can serve as a morale boost for your employees.
Plan the delivery. Identify key personnel and allocate the necessary resources. For example, if you intend to implement a new information technology system, you may have to plan multiple classroom and Web-based training sessions. This may also involve train-the-trainer sessions for a core group of trainers who will train and mentor all other employees.
Evaluate the effectiveness of your communication plan. A simple online poll or questionnaire hosted on the corporate intranet might be sufficient. Some organizations hire external polling organizations to survey their employees on key corporate communication initiatives. You can also get a general sense by talking to your managers and employees and assessing whether they have heard and understood the key elements of your message. Listen to the feedback and ask follow-up questions so that you can fine-tune the communication plan.