The term communications plan is used broadly to describe the strategy that a business or brand will use to release news and information. This is very often referring to communication with stakeholders, though it might also involve communication with press.
A communication plan is a plan used by a business in order to manage the release of information. This will very often relate specifically to communication with stakeholders and will define what information is released, when it is drip-fed and how it will be communicated. However, the term might also refer to a plan for public relations and the way in which a company intends to communicate with the press in order to manage its reputation and public opinion. Finally, a communication plan can also play a role in internal communications and help a company to ensure more synergy and corporation among its staff.
A communication plan is an important part of any business plan as it helps to control the image of the company and it helps to positively influence the decisions of investors and partners. This will very often be handled by a PR company, by a communications firm or by a chief communications officer.
Communication Plans for Stakeholders
Stakeholders are individuals and organizations that have a ‘stake’ in a business. This means that they stand to profit or lose depending on the success of the business. The most obvious examples are share holders that have invested in company stock. They are then entitled to vote on company policy and decisions and to help shape the direction that the organization takes in future. Stakeholders can include angle investors, investment firms and members of the public after a company’s initial public offering (IPO).
Keeping stakeholders happy is crucial for any business. If stakeholders sell of their shares, this can reduce the value of the company and reduce investment and profits as a result. Likewise, if investors are very unhappy they can use their collective shares of the business to overall management decisions and potentially even lead a coup.
However, it is also the responsibility of management to ensure that stakeholders are informed on
- company decisions,
- as well as things like profit margins,
- and plans for the company going forward.
Change management refers to the process of handling change in a company. When a company has new management, when it has a restructure or when it has a rebranding or a change of focus, all of this can be met with resistance. That might mean being met with resistance by team members and employees, but it can also include customers, clients and investors.
- Staff may worry that they will be laid off
- They may worry that the company has lost its direction
- It may be seen as a sign that the business is struggling
- It may suggest that the company is about to lose a lot of profit, having severed one arm of its business and cut off one revenue stream
If this news is handled poorly then, it could lead to a backlash resulting in poor productivity, poor morale, staff leaving the company, investors selling and even the press covering the news in a negative light.
This is where a communications plan can be used to help release that information in a manner that will result in the least resistance and minimum negative impact. This will often involve using multiple different modes of communication – from digital communication channels, to written and spoken methods. It will also involve staggering the communication and releasing information at set points.
Finally, a communications plan might also refer to the communications between a public relations team and the press. Public relations professionals handle the release of news in order to help a company manage its image and to ensure that people know about its latest ventures.
This can include things such as:
The job of the communications plan in this scenario is to ensure that the news is released in such a manner as to ensure the maximum impact and the best possible outcome for that news, so that it will be covered by as many channels as possible and in a positive way.
PR companies handling communications plans will need to work closely with marketing teams in order to consider how this will work alongside a marketing campaign to release news and spread public awareness. At the same time, it might involve social media and other modern tools such as a company blog which can be an excellent way for a business to put forward its side of a story and to release news to its interested audiences. Really the term communications plan can refer to any form of communication – even for internal emails and project management!