Creating a Communications Plan

One of the earliest tasks of many new press secretaries and communication directors is the development of a communications plan. A large portion of early reviews, research and interviews will result in the development of this plan. Without the presence of such a plan, any proactive press work is virtually impossible.

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In some instances, you might enter a situation in which a communication plan is already in place. In this case, your main responsibility would be to assist in implementing that plan. If you are the only or the senior press liaison, you will likely be expected to deliver the message along with drafting the plan.

It is important to first consider the message you wish to convey when you are drafting a communications plan. You also need to take into consideration the strategic goals of your principal or organization as well as the tools available to you for communication. Communication goals may be associated with a time line. This could be a legislative calendar, an election campaign, or some other series of important events.

Communication plans should never be created from a sheer void. Recognize the individuals involved when you are considering the specifics of internal politics. It is also important to take into consideration the people who may need to review and approve the communications plan for it to become a reality. Media Relations Handbook, by Bradford Fitch

Developing a strong communications message can be one of the most difficult aspects of the job of the public relations professional. Ultimately, your goal is a message embodied in a clear and concise statement that makes a connection with your audience in a way that is meaningful and valuable. In marketing, the message for a product is summarized in a slogan or advertising.

The communication plan you develop will define the organization, agency or person you represent in the mind of the public. When developing your communication plan, remember that messages fall into two broad categories: strategic messages and campaign messages.

Strategic messages are often broad in theme and feature an overarching set of principles that are used for guiding and shaping all communications.

Campaign messages are a subset within a strategic message. The campaign message has a time limit and is often defined by a measurable outcome.

Reference: Media Relations Handbook, by Brad Fitch, Section 1.14 Creating a Communications Plan, and Section 3.2 The Message.

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