by Tina Robison
It happens every year, without fail - business planning. For some in your organization, this is a monumental effort of setting revenue objectives and budgets; and then determining the strategies to make both of those numbers correlate. The process and agony of getting to an agreeable business plan is just the beginning to achieving business goals. After all is said and done, the numbers don’t achieve the business plan, it’s the people who have to understand the strategies and make it all happen. What does that mean for communications teams? Well that’s simple. It’s now your turn to develop a plan to get those people on board with clarity and excitement. Not so simple.
It’s actually a lot like being dropped in the middle of a jungle and asked to find your way out with a compass and a machete. It’s not just about executing against the business plan. You have to determine how to take goals, objectives, and vision and get customers, investors, and most importantly team members to see their value. I know what you’re thinking…you’re gonna need a bigger machete.
Not necessarily. You just need to know how to use what you have effectively. The first step is to understand what your stakeholder groups already think and believe about your organization. Doing some groundwork before developing the plan is critical. This may include surveys, interviews, market research, and competitive research. You have to fully understand the already engrained perceptions before you can truly develop communications strategies that are effective. With this information you will start to whack away at the heavy brush that stands in the way of your path out of the jungle.
Now what? You have all of this information and you have the goals of the organization. It should be simple, right? Not hardly. It’s a little like getting through the deep dark of the jungle and stepping into the light only to find that you are standing on the edge of a cliff with only a rickety, wooden bridge standing between you and the open sunny valley on the other side of the deep gorge. It is doable, but it will take careful planning. Start with the positive perceptions and align them with key organizational goals. Develop a strategy that includes tactics that reinforce those positive perceptions. There is nothing better than confirming what they already believe to be true. It instills confidence in you and them. The next step takes a little more work, but is critical to crossing that chasm. Take the most challenging priorities and develop messaging that your stakeholders can relate to.
The bridge is rocking a little bit, but stay the course and you will get to the other side. One of the gaps that you might have to jump on that bridge is dealing with leaders. They often have very different messaging priorities. It is critical that they are keeping them informed and sharing your research efforts in relation to the plan you are building. Once that bridge is behind you, it may seem like clear skies and clear travels. But now it’s time to execute. The beauty is, with all of the prioritizing and groundwork that you have done, execution is a clear path to reaching your goals. There will be potholes and bumps on this trail, however, with a solid plan and clear understanding of where you’re going and where you’ve been, rerouting around these will be simple.
Remember, keep those leaders informed and check your stakeholders frequently to make sure your messages are coming through loud and clear. Never stop planning, never stop checking. Stay aware of those potential obstacles in the jungle of communications planning and you’ll make it out alive.