What Is a Communication Plan?

All These Questions!

When we consult with clients on communication we generally encounter of initial questions and doubts.

Many are dubious that communication planning -- or a communication plan -- is even a thing. But those that know they need to do something to engage in better communication (even when "better" is not yet defined) typically have a lot of questions. Like ...

  • When do we communicate? And with whom?
  • How much is too much? Or too little?
  • What means do we use to communicate? Email? Phone? Carrier pigeon?

It's clear enough that, in addition to all of the other challenges, getting started with better communication is one of the biggest obstacles.

The Essence of Communication

Communication is hard. Good communication is even harder. It's going to take continual effort and lots of practice to finally get it right. Some sort of guiding document or plan is needed to help keep track of what we doing and why we are doing it. As to the why, there are give overall reasons to create a communication plan.

  1. To communicate with intention.
  2. To increase the value of communication.
  3. To decrease the noise of communication.
  4. To establish responsibility in communication.
  5. To establish standards and consistency.

So a communication plan at the highest level has three important purposes:

  1. It documents intent and provides guidance on communication expectations.
  2. It identifies roles and responsibilities and documents communication preferences.
  3. It establishes processes and tools for communication.

Our objectives are to make communication:

  1. Consistent in style, tone, format, and delivery.
  2. Timely. That is, sent at just the right moment, the right frequency.
  3. Informative, which means it is concise, simple, and of interest to the recipient.

A Framework for Communication Planning

We've created a framework which helps create and maintain your communication plan. It addresses the "why" by helping to define the purposes and complete the objectives of good communication.

This is accomplished by treating communication as a service as well as individual processes. Communication as a service means that it can be defined in broad terms with guidelines for how communication should occur. The service may be offered by a division, department, the entire organization -- or all of these. Additional, being a service it can be managed and improved using any of the various service management frameworks such as COBIT® or ITIL®.

However, it's communication represented as individual processes where the value is delivered. On this point, it may be said that a process:

  • Has a trigger.
  • Uses a structured set of activities.
  • Takes inputs and converts them into outputs.

Roles may be defined and tools may be identified for each process.

Communication is a process.

  • Trigger: Is an event that creates a need to communicate to one or more recipients.
  • Inputs: The recipients, their preferred channels, and the message content.
  • Activities: The specific steps (as detailed as needed) that will be performed.
  • Outputs: The actual messages sent to recipients.