Business communication plans, learn why you need one and how to put one together (with examples). And finally, learn how SMS can add significant value.
Elements of An Effective Business Communication Plan
You may or may not be aware that your organization has a communications plan. But a lack of structure in this department is sure to get noticed by everyone across all levels.
Proper planning should help it run smoothly throughout day-to-day operations with standard operating procedures (SOP) in place for things like a crisis, emergency, or any other big change.
If there’s one big misconception surrounding effective business communication plans, it’s that how you’re sharing information isn’t as important as what you’re sharing. But as anyone who has struggled to share important information knows, a reliable method of delivery is integral.
Here at SimpleTexting, we’re particularly fond of texting for this very reason—it puts the read and response rates of other communication methods to shame. So we want to take some time to
convince share how you can phase SMS into your internal and external communication plans.
What Is A Business Communication Plan?
This isn’t the easiest question to answer as communication plans are often confused with marketing plans. The two are very similar, but there are a few key differences we hope to illuminate here.
But first, we define a business communication plan as: an organization’s detailed description of what they hope to achieve or accomplish through the information they send out—physical and digital contact alike. It’s all about what an organization is saying and how they’re saying it, also known as core messaging. A good communication plan will go on to overview who is doing the communicating, who they’re communicating this information to, and the channels or mediums through which they’re doing so.
To help give you a better understanding of this definition, we’ll go into some of the main elements that separate marketing and communication plans.
- Marketing plans only focus on external efforts, whereas communications plans can be developed for internal or external use. To provide further clarity, you wouldn’t “market” to your employees, but you would communicate with them.
- The goal of marketing plan varies. It’s usually to drive sales or brand awareness. A communication plan however always has the goal of making sure the right information goes to the right people at the right time.
- Marketing plans tends to focus on “The 4 P’s”: product, price, place promotion. Communication plans, however, focus more on storytelling and less on your businesses bottom line.
Have you ever heard the old math riddle that a square is a rectangle but a rectangle is never a square? Similar logic can really be applied in this case. Elements of a communication plan often make their way into marketing plans, but a marketing plan is never itself a communication plan.
By taking this time to focus on only the communication plan we’re driving home the emphasis on your messaging and the most effective ways to deliver it.
Why Is A Business Communication Plan Important?
If after reading to this point in the piece you still consider yourself a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants marketer thinks a communication plan isn’t necessary, we’re here to say that there’s some serious benefits to approaching communications with a critical eye!
- Achieve goals faster: If you’re driving somewhere you’ve never been before would you get there faster using a GPS, or just winging it? We’d wager having the step-by-step directions would be pretty helpful. It’s the same principal with communications. If you want to increase read and response rates to your campaigns, you can do so much faster by assessing what’s worked in the past, scheduling messages ahead of time, and adjusting each month based on the data you collect.
- Target your audience to achieve greater ROI: All too often we hear people say that their texts can go to anyone and everyone. That’s great…in theory. But you can spend a lot of extra money and time by developing messages without any real planned, intentional focus on who would benefit from hearing them. By taking the time to map out audience personas within your greater comms strategy, you’ll be able to develop stronger and more impactful messages that result in your desired behaviors.
- Share success and shortcomings clearly: Oftentimes communications and marketing efforts don’t involve c-suite employees. But when those senior execs needs to answer to boards and shareholders on the direction of the organization, they want numbers fast. With a communication plan, you can clearly demonstrate growth in a way that shows the value of your department’s efforts. You may feel the effects of all the great things you’re doing, but when it comes time to “show me the money,” it’s always best to have the data to back you up.
- Keep folks from falling through the cracks: While this applies to both internal and external comms, it’s particularly salient with the former. There are so many instances when you need to ensure your organization is aware of what’s going on. From important HR updates to crisis communication protocol. A communication plan can help you stay organized and allows you the space to dedicate time to each and every department to ensure all important information is shared in a timely and manageable fashion.
How Do You Develop A Strategic Business Communication Plan?
The secret of every good communication plan is in the order of your steps: look at where you’ve been, audit where you are now, and project to where you’d like to be.
Always remember to be SMART.
With the focus ultimately set on long term goals, these five elements are crucial if you want to get the most juice from your communications orange.
When your plan is specific, it points directly to the goals and objectives you want to see. It helps you down the line when your boss asks you “what have you done over the last six months.” You can see how responding with “created new communication pathways with millennials through the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram” sounds a lot better than “worked on reaching more customers with our messages.”
Taking this example a step further, making a plan measurable answers the question: “how did we do?” You want to ensure your communication plan has ways for you to find out if you’re achieving what you set out to do. For the example above, we would make that goal measurable by adding on ” “boosted our communication engagement with millennials through the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram by 25%.”
When developing your communication plan, you also want to ensure that everything in it is serving a specific purpose. You don’t want to do something just for the sake of doing it. Before you add any strategies or tactics to your plan, ask yourself, is this actionable: aka can this be used to improve performance?
In developing something worth your time, effort, and money, it also needs to be relevant to your audience. Are you tackling the most important communication pain points? Also, be sure to prioritize your plan to address the highest acuity needs first. What’s the most important information your audience needs to understand and how do you plan on sharing those messages with them?
Finally, and for your own sanity, the last thing you should ask yourself when developing a communication plan is— can I actually meet these goals in the amount of time I have? A timely plan is one that sets realistic measures. Short term communication plans, for example, may be relevant for a specific project, or quarter. An annual communication plan, however, may have larger scale objectives more realistic for the scope of time and resources on hand.
What Should Be In An Effective Business Communication Plan?
Now that you understand the physiology of a business communication plan, let’s cover its anatomy. If you were to write a communication plan for your business today, here’s how it should be structured:
- Situation Analysis: This should always be the introduction to your communication plan. It gives a general overview of where your organization is presently and what you’ve been doing in the past to communicate with your target audience. A great way to develop a strong situation analysis is by conducting surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Gather testimony from your target audience and point to your strengths as well as areas of improvement. You can also include the fruits of any PR labors in this section including relevant news coverage or mentions of your organizations within the context of your greater, industry-specific conversation.
- List of Core Messages: Here is where the future forecasting begins. Put forth in a short, bulleted, list the SMART objectives you wish to achieve. This includes the core messaging your business would like to focus on, the ways you plan to share that with your audience, and the ways you wish to project those messages to any potential new leads. For example, at SimpleTexting our core message is that we are the No. 1 SMS & Text Marketing Service for companies of all sizes.
- Define Your Audience: Below your core messages should always be an expanded profile of who these communications are targeting. If you’re developing a plan for internal communications, break down each kind of employee and map out how you plan to reach them. For example, office workers vs. employees on the road. Direct care staff vs. desk workers. For external communications, develop a persona for your typical consumer accompanied by consumer research on the best ways to reach them. If you want to share your core messaging with new leads, what media outlets do you need to target with pitches? What social media platforms can you speak directly to and with these people? Your audience should always include strategy for the people who will be indirectly impacted by your communications such as media persona and secondary subjects (like parents of children who you market to).
- Identify Your Communication Medium(s): Back to our first point, what you’re saying is just as important as how you’re saying it. You want to give a detailed description of each communication medium you choose (email, texts, social media, direct mail, etc.) and defend your choice. If you decide to use SMS, be sure to check out our blog and navigating SMS pages, we’ve already done plenty of research for you 😉
- Spell Out Your Timeline: Set out the points at which you plan to measure your progress as well as times you anticipate hitting your goals. Make sure you schedule out check ins where you can see if you’re on track to hit your final mark. Auditing your success along the way will help you with your report at years end when you have to explain why and how you did/didn’t reach your goal (i.e how much of your target audience did you convert with your revised core messaging?)
- Include Addendums as Needed: This is where your organization’s specific needs will really impact plan customization. For example, if you want to add crisis communication protocol or social media guidelines here is the place to spell it out. These are important to add for internal communications plans specifically. Any one of your employees at any time is a representative of your brand. So you want to give them all clear guidelines on how they should communicate to the public or media about you and your messaging.
Examples of Successful Business Communication Plans
We thought it might be nice to give you a break from all the hypotheticals and instead give you some real life examples of business communication plans in action.
We’ll provide links out to read the full plans if you’re interested, but here are some highlights from communication plans from several different industries.
- Kansas State Educational Communication Plan
Communication Plan Template 22 (1).doc
Highlight: Kansas State identified heavy misunderstanding surrounding consumers’ concerns as the adoption of health IT. Their overarching communication goal was to inform the public of these industry-wide changes and, specifically, inform them of their rights and the protections provided regarding the use and exchange of their electronic health information.
- Office of Systems Integrations Communication Plan Communication Plan Template 29 (1).doc
Highlight: The State of California’s Office of Systems Integrations set a communication goal for describing their governance’s organization and the process used to focus internal and external stakeholder resources on the human, budgetary, regulatory and physical aspects of a statewide system decommissioning.
How To Make SMS Part Of Your Communication Plan
So, we’ve dissected everything you need to know about writing a communication plan, now let’s get in to how you can see it through start to finish. More specifically, how you can work SMS into your communication plan.
SMS can serve you as a tool for developing, executing, and evaluating your plan— start to finish.
Using SMS To Make And Evaluate A Communication Plan
The very first step we covered for every communication plan is a situation analysis. You need to take a critical look at what your organization is already doing to communicate with its audience and how well (or poorly) it’s doing with it. Thankfully, conducting research through text is a quick and easy way to gather feedback from your audience. By using the text to vote feature, you can send out questions and watch the results pour in.
You can take on this same methodology to connect with customers during and after your communication strategies are rolled out to check in and see if it’s working. Do they feel like their suggestions have been heard? Are common misunderstandings or pain points being more clearly addressed? Just text your question and find out! SMS has an average response rate of 45%!
Using SMS To Take Action On Your Communication Plan
Once your situation analysis has helped your business develop its core messages, your ready to start sharing them. Thanks to the popularity of texting as a communication medium, we believe SMS is the perfect tool for you to start connecting with your target audience. No matter who what target audience may be…
With nearly 5 billion cell phone owners in the world, texting has become popular across all kinds of demographics. Thanks to a study by medium, enough data has been gathered to show that every age group is texting almost every single day, just some a little more than others:
People aged 18–24, send and receive about 128 texts daily. People aged 25–34 send and receive more than 75 messages per day. Adults 34-55 send and receive around 16 texts per day. People aged 55-64 send and receive an average of 80 text messages per month. Senior citizens 65+ average 32 text messages per month.
How Can You Encourage Employee Buy-In When Making SMS Part Of Your Business Communication Plan?
The one thing to keep in mind when it comes to SMS is that it requires permission from recipients. Because of anti-spam laws, each subscriber on your texting contact list must have given you express written consent to receive your messages.
If you’re looking to use texting as a medium for your internal communication plan, this means you’ll need to encourage employees to adopt the method in order for it to succeed. To help boost participation and get you closer to 100% adoption rates, here are some things you can do to help encourage employee buy in:
- Let them know how many texts you’ll be sending and stick to it! Ensure employees that you’ll only send, say, four messages a month. This will help in minimizing the fear that they’ll be getting work texts all the time.
- Never send texts outside regular business hours unless it’s a time-sensitive emergency.
- Tell employees that by opting in to the sms program they won’t have to worry about losing important information in their emails. Only the most essential, can’t miss things will go to their cell phones.
- Advertise the big selling point that texting doesn’t require any data, or additional learning to adopt. You don’t need to download any app or learn a new program in order to get important and relevant information. Since they already know how to text, this will come easily to them!
- Send out fun texts as well as informational ones. A sporadic text to win contest can encourage some of the laggards to get on the sms bandwagon.
Why SMS Belongs In Your Communication Plan
While SMS isn’t the newest way to digitally communicate, its popularity continues to grow. With little to no learning curve required by recipients and advanced marketing features available to senders, it’s the perfect compliment to any communication plan.
Additionally, through things like Zapier, texting can easily be integrated with your existing digital marketing/communication efforts allowing you to do more with even less work.
With reward greatly outweighing risk, SMS is the perfect communication solution for creating actionable results.
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