01 March 2016

Before You Start Writing, Make a Plan

We know. Planning is not the sexiest part of marketing and communications, but it is probably the most important.

Whether you’re talking about an annual enrollment campaign, or just a 140-character tweet, you have to take more than a minute to think about what you want to accomplish. Otherwise you’ll be throwing your time, energy and budget at communications that won’t provide the desired results.

Before putting finger to keyboard, make a plan. Take some time to think through the following.

Objectives — aka what do you hope to achieve
Define meaningful and measurable goals so you can show results. And if at all possible, show how your objectives support the company’s overall objectives.

Audience — or, who can bring about your desired result?
In addition to your obvious target audience, consider those who might influence your target audience as well as those who could help out as champions.

Key messages — what do they need to be told to motivate action?
Audiences have very short attention spans (think 8 seconds!), so don’t overwhelm them with too much information. Try to stick to three to five key messages and let them know where they can go for more information.

Vehicle — what is the best way to reach your audience?
Here’s where you can get a little creative. What vehicles are available to you? Which are preferred by your target audience? And which can you afford? The key is to use as many vehicles as you can so you can get the messages out as often as possible. And that leads us to….

Timing — when is the best time to get the message across, and how often?
You need to reach your target audience at least seven times before the key message starts to sink in. How do you do that? Repurpose the same information through various vehicles (e.g. postcard, intranet site, poster, brochure, employee meetings, blog, twitter, etc.)

You’re not quite ready to craft your communications yet though. Part of planning involves creating an integrated HR communications calendar, ideally, at the beginning of the year.

Consider all the upcoming initiatives and notification requirements for every area of HR including compensation, talent management and benefits. It will be a bit overwhelming at first, but it will help you see the whole picture and prioritize your efforts. By creating an annual calendar, a communications roadmap, you can maximize your time, energy and budget.

And there you have it…happy writing!