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1. Audit

Before sitting down to get rollin’ on that plan, you need to first decide where it’ll fit into your business. Complete a state of the union; an audit of the current climate of communications within your company and identify problem areas.

For example, you might conduct an audit to identify gaps in your marketing plan. To do this, you’d want to carefully gather and interpret data on current marketing plan performance and build a path forward based on those results.

In this example, that path forward might be to grow web traffic (the gap) by increasing blog publishing volume.

2. Goals

After your evaluation, lay out a few goals based on the data from the results. What do you want to achieve with this plan? When in doubt, remember that goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. If an advertising agency focused on small businesses were to make a SMART goal, an example could look like this:

“To increase employment applications for the client by 25% over the course of one quarter.” This goal is specific, focusing on one area of advertising, measurable by including a percentage, attainable through advertising, relevant to startups looking to hire more talent, and timely by including a timeframe.

3. Audience

If a crisis communication plan is for stakeholders, which ones are you writing for? If not all, your plan should cover a fair amount. Stakeholder examples include employees, investors, customers, local government officials, and media outlets.

If you’re writing for media outlets, a press release detailing your goals is a good idea for keeping the audience in mind. There should be processes for who will speak to the media outlets, an outline of what they will say, and an action plan put in place going forward.

4. Write

When writing the communication plan, work with groups or representatives from your stakeholder groups to improve accuracy. Strategies should solve goals or potential risks. An example of a risk for the advertising agency would be making sure ads deliver the right message before going public, so, in their plan, they would detail different steps to ensure that is taken care of.

5. Estimate a timeline

You should have a ballpark estimate of how much time each step in executing strategy will take. For instance, if your plan needs to go from the higher-ups down to the employees, it’s good to take into account how long going through the chain of command will take. It’s also smart to infer how long a media cycle will last.

For instance, for a minor slip-up on an ad campaign, the advertising agency might estimate the cycle for controlling the issue would take a month to meet with the client, the stakeholders, and employees and discuss steps moving forward.

6. Measure results

There’s always room for improvement. Measure the results of the plan after presenting it to stakeholders, and run a “post-mortem” after executing your plan in times of need.

For example, the ad agency might not have met its goal of increasing prospective applications by 25% within a quarter. They might rework their goals to give themselves more time or pivot their quarterly focus to fit those goals.

Some aspects of building a communication plan can be a “choose your own adventure” journey. The key is choosing aspects that best reflect what your business needs in times when effective communication is key. What do your stakeholders need to know, and how are you going to best communicate that?