Imagine taking the stage as a stand-up comedian.
The lights are dim in the theater, with the exception of the spotlights shining brightly on you. You grab the microphone, covered in sweat, ready to project your voice to the back of the room.
The audience gets so quiet that you could hear a pin drop as they hang on your every word, waiting for you to say something, anything, that forces them to explode with laughter.
Now imagine at that moment, instead of telling a joke, you start reading the weather report from your local paper.
You’d have to be crazy to do this, wouldn’t you? That, or looking to win the award for “Area’s Worst Comedian.”
No, you wouldn’t do that because you know your audience.
They are there specifically to hear you tell jokes. The entire situation has been set up for you to say funny things and for them to listen and laugh.
Understanding your audience is one of the most important elements of communicating effectively. From a marketing perspective, communications planning for your audience requires knowing how to best speak to them.
The way you do that is by developing a marketing communications plan, typically in support of a campaign. In this post, we’ll share with you:
- Why you should build a marketing communications plan
- Why you’ll need one when responding to crises or emergencies
- What to include in your marketing communications plan template
Why Build a Marketing Communications Plan?
You’ve built your overarching communications strategy. Congratulations.
Now ask yourself the following questions about your strategy:
- What are our goals for communicating with my audience?
- What do we do for curveballs (i.e. crisis communications and emergency response)?
- How do we handle hearing bad feedback?
- When we’re making an announcement or responding to a crisis, who do we communicate with first? Who’s our mouthpiece?
- How do we communicate our messaging? Do we have an actionable process for developing talking points based on this messaging?
Your marketing strategy may not address all of those. In that case, you’ll need a communications plan to develop consistent messaging your entire organization can use to communicate both internally and externally.
You’ll Need a Communications Plan for Times of Crisis
You’ll want a communications plan for all of your marketing campaigns, as it helps you clearly define a roadmap for the best way to talk to your audience.
But when an emergency or crisis happens? You’ll REALLY want a plan in place for this.
Your communications plan will include details on who (and how) to contact your stakeholders.
This is valuable to have a disaster happens, of course. When you’re responding to something catastrophic, the last thing you want to have to do is scramble to come up with a communications approach.
But it’s also valuable any time you’re launching a marketing campaign.
When you have a communications plan template, you can use that as your foundation for any significant outreach you want to conduct. Then you can adapt it based on the need.
If you’re entering a crisis situation, that action plan is going to look a lot different than launching a campaign promoting a product. But with the template in place, you’ve got a strong structural start to any communications plan.
How to Build (and What to Include) in Your Marketing Communications Plan Template
There are three actions you’ll want to take right off the bat before building your plan template:
- Take an inventory of what you currently have
- Establish ambitious but realistic goals
- Identify your target audience
Let’s walk through these, one-by-one.
Take an Inventory of What You Currently Have
What existing communication materials or templates do you currently have on file?
Which ones need to be updated? Which ones are fine as is?
If you have templates for social media posts, calendars, fact sheets, or infographics, you’ll want to know what work you’ve already done.
This would also be a good time frame to evaluate how successful your materials are. You can poll your internal marketing team about what communications materials you have and which are the most effective.
Establish Ambitious But Realistic Goals
You obviously want your communication plan to give you an effective tool in reaching the people you want to reach. But you have to be honest about where you currently are with your target audience and what you’ll need to do to get there.
For example, if you’ve got an email list with a subscriber count of 5,000 people, you won’t necessarily reach a million within a month. Be bold but pragmatic.
Identify Your Target Audience
This may seem like a foregone conclusion, but have you done the research necessary to not just know who your target audience is, but also to understand them (more on this below)? The first step in this process is clearly identifying who you’re talking to.
Sometimes, this also about understanding who you aren’t talking to as well. Casting too wide of a target market net can leave you focusing on the wrong people.
Different stakeholders will yield different types of communications plans. Customers will require more demographic information, for example.
Developing Your Marketing Communications Plan
Again, your mileage may vary depending on the project, but listed below are the core tenants for just about any marketing communications plan. These should all be in your template:
- Goals and business objectives: What are you hoping to achieve by communicating with this group? What are their goals?
- Key messaging: These are talking points you’ll insert tailored to your specific audience. If you have any boilerplate language about your company or organization, feel free to include that here, but this section will (and should) change for each new audience you’re looking to connect with.
- Audience: This might be the most important element of your communications plan. This is about more than who your audience is and should also include research on your demographic, best practices on how to communicate with them, and information on their persona.
- Tactics: Your tactics are the methods by which you will communicate with your audience (more on this in a bit).
- Response Plan: Your response plan will include your stakeholders and team members and will outline the roles they play in the response, which is why it’s important to get everyone on the same page. Use marketing software that can help you centralize your marketing strategy, making it easier for multiple parties to collaborate and contribute.
- Metrics: Finally, you’ll want to measure just how successful your plan was. Identify key performance indicators, deadlines you’d like to hit them by, and how you plan to track them.
Select the Right Tactics
Below are some powerful ones you’ll likely want to include:
- Social media: Tapping into your previously established social networks is one of the best ways to reach a large part of your audience quickly. You’ll definitely want social media engagement included in your plan.
- Email marketing: According to HubSpot, 59% of marketers report email being their biggest source of ROI. It’s still one of the best reliable and consistent ways to reach people.
- Your blog: Blogging gives you an opportunity to establish authority and use SEO to target keywords in your industry.
- Press releases: Whether it’s a crisis or a product launch, a simple yet data-packed press release can help you reinforce your organization’s messaging and set the tone of the conversation you want to have.
- Podcasts: Research shows that within the last decade, the number of people listening to podcasts rose from 22% to 51% of all Americans. It’s a fun, engaging way to connect with your audience.
Ensure Your Messaging Aligns with Your Audience
The messaging you include as part of your communications plan should be vetted by multiple people within your organization. You’ll want to be sure it…
- …is consistent with your brand.
- …reflects the views of leadership.
- …speaks to your audience in a way they will understand and find captivating.
To ensure this, you’ll want to develop a messaging matrix that maps your messaging to both your stakeholders and the channels you plan to use to spread your messaging. This is a chart that reinforces your value proposition by stating how you plan to connect with each segment of your stakeholder base and what you plan to say to them.
Have Clearly Defined Ways to Measure Success
Every time you deploy your communications plan, look for ways to see where you can improve it. Look at how well you were able to achieve your goals and talk to the key players on your team to determine if there were any gaps in the plan.
Don’t look at mistakes as a bad thing. Look at them as measurable chances to get better the next time around!
Keep a positive outlook as you evaluate your progress and how well your communication plan works for your organization.
You’ll be able to build more informed marketing communications plans with the right platform in place to support your efforts. For that, Welcome is the answer.
We’re a platform built for marketers by marketers, with management, strategic, content development, and communications solutions to address your every need.
Ready to give it a try? Get started with a free Welcome account today!