Creating a basic communication plan

The world’s simplest communication plan might be this one:

  • Who I am communicating with?
  • What should I be telling them?
  • How should I communicate with them?

Even thinking about those three questions on the bus on your way to work might help create better communication. But I thought I would break the questions down to come up with a slightly more complex plan that is still not hard to do.

Who am I communicating with?

The first step in building a communication plan is to perform a stakeholder analysis. But this does not need to be complicated.

Impact on us and impact on them

One approach is to identify the stakeholders as a team. I like to enhance this slightly by comparing stakeholders according to:

  • How much impact they might have on us; and
  • How much impact our project is likely to have on them.

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This helps the team understand the different levels and types of communication that might suit different stakeholders:

  • Some people have the power to veto or delay our project, or control the resources we need access to. So we need their help and we need to explain why we they should support us, especially if they do not benefit from the project.
  • Some people will not be impacted by our project and we don’t really need their support. So we can let them know what we are doing but we shouldn’t really harass them too much with information noise.
  • Our project might have a significant impact on some people who can’t do much to stop us. So we can steamroll our changes through without their support. Unfortunately the concept of project Karma suggests that this will bring us bad luck in the future. So we should probably explain the project to them and seek their help in defining and understanding the implementation and support needs that our change will require.
  • Finally, some people have a huge impact on our ability to deliver the project and will also be impacted heavily by the project. These people want to know what is going on in more detail and also have a lot to tell us. So we should probably keep them close to the project and communicate with them very heavily.

What the stakeholders are interested in

Once I have listed my stakeholders, I still need to know what to say to them. But I don’t want to send the same email to every stakeholder, so I classify my stakeholders by the type of communication I want to provide.

One simple approach to doing this is to create the following table and answer each of the questions (at least for key stakeholders). I often do this as a team but sometimes I sit down and do it on my own.

Stakeholder group Current understanding Desired understanding Potential concerns
CFO Knows the project is needed but is not up to speed on our plans Full support Will waste money or deliver late.
Helpdesk No idea yet Know how to support We will dump rubbish on them
Sponsor None yet Full support She will be ambushed by CFO with questions
Brand Yet another project Full support We will be cowboys

For completeness, I often add a column for “impact on us” and one for “impact on them”.

How and what do we communicate?

I will leave the specific details of what you communicate to you, because it will depend on the project. But here is how I often compile my own communication plans:

Message Stakeholders When Who Channel
Project status Steering committee, CFO Weekly Joan Email
Project status Steering committee Monthly PM Meeting
Project status Core project team Fridays PM Meeting with muffins
Support training Call ctr, prod support 15-20 Feb BA face to face
Sales pitch for the product Sales team 15 Feb BA Short video on the intranet

This plan is obviously based on my stakeholder analysis and on an understanding of what I want to communicate.  The level of detail will vary but I find it very useful to share with the team who we are communicating with, when we are doing so and who in the team is responsible for doing it.

It a simple approach but has proven sufficient for many of my projects. Let me know if it works for you.

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One thought on “Creating a basic communication plan

  1. Pingback: Defining the value or your internal consulting team part 3 – reviewing your services | James King

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