Communications 1/11/2023

Before You Start Communicating, Plan, Plan, 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 a major annual enrollment campaign or a 140-character text, you have to take a moment to think about what you want to accomplish. Otherwise, you’ll be throwing your time, energy, and budget at communications with no results.

Before ever putting finger to keyboard, write up a plan. Take some time to think through:

  • what you hope to achieve (objective)
  • who can bring about your desired result (audience)
  • what they need to be told to motivate action (key message)
  • the best way to reach your audience (vehicle)
  • when to get the message across and how often (timing)

A quick overview:
Define meaningful and measurable goals so you can show results for your efforts. It’s best if you can show how your objectives support the company’s overall objectives.

Audience: In addition to your obvious target audience, consider those who might influence your audience as well as those who could help out as messengers or champions.

Key messages: Audiences have very short attention spans, so don’t overwhelm them with too much information. Try to stick to three key messages, then let them know where they can go for more details.

Vehicle: Think outside the box. What vehicles are available to you? Which are preferred by your target audience? Which can you afford? The key is to use as many vehicles as you can so you can get the key messages out as often as possible. Which brings us to….

Timing: You need to reach your target audience five to seven times before the key messages start to sink in. How do you do that? By repurposing the same information through various vehicles (e.g., postcard, intranet site, poster, brochure, employee meetings, blog, text, etc.)

Download the communications planning cheat sheet

Creating an annual calendar is the best approach
Ideally, you should create an integrated HR communications calendar 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 to see the whole picture and prioritize your efforts. For example, some messages may be able to be combined. Some may be handled through a targeted mailing to a specific group. Some may only be a notification posted on the intranet. The important thing is to plan ahead so you can maximize your time, energy, and budget.