How to create a communication plan

In a communication plan, you describe your target audience, the message you want to convey, and what means of communication you use. These 7 steps will help you define your strategy, objectives, and approach. 

A communication plan is a follow-up to your marketing plan. A communication plan always consists of the same components, but your approach may vary. You could create an annual plan, but could also opt for specific plans for events or product launches.

Writing a communication plan in 7 steps

To create a communication plan, follow these seven steps:  

1. Make an analysis  

Internal analysis  

Start with an internal analysis. In other words: describe your business. Make sure to include your mission and vision. Describe your identity and image (or the image you have in mind). Your identity is your answer to the question: ‘Who am I as an organisation?’ Your image is what others think of your company. Figure out how to communicate with your target audience, for example with a formal or informal tone of voice, and whether this fits your identity and image.  

External analysis  

The next step is performing an external analysis: investigating which external factors impact on your business. Consider competitors or developments in the market. Perform a SWOT analysis based on the results of your investigation. In a SWOT analysis, you list your company's internal strengths and weaknesses and outside opportunities and threats.  

2. Define your communication objectives  

Describe your communication objectives as clearly as possible. Two methods you could use are the SMART method and the OKR method. Examples of objectives include: ‘I want to educate my staff about my company's core values’, ‘I want more brand awareness’, or ‘I want more visitors to find my website.’ Link these main objectives to sub-objectives, such as: ‘I want my target audience to recognise me in all communications’ or ‘I want people to remember my company name.’ This is also called creating a brand experience.  

3. Create personas  

Each communication goal may have a different target audience, such as prospects, customers, other stakeholders, or your own staff. Each target audience requires its own approach. To figure out that approach, create a persona for each target audience. A persona is a detailed description of your customer or employee. With a persona, you give your target audience personal characteristics and a face. This makes it easier to come up with the right approach.  

Characteristics of a persona may include:  

  • age  

  • place of residence  

  • hobbies  

  • online activities  

  • media use  

  • expectations of your product, service, or company  

4. Formulate your message  

Say what you want to tell your target audience in one sentence. That is your message. How you convey that message is your so-called ‘tone of voice’. You could choose to be informal, for example, or decide that a formal tone of voice is better. Make sure the message and tone of voice are consistent across all your communications, such as website copy and social media posts.  

5. Choose your means of communication  

Decide what means of communication you will use to spread your message. Will you go online and use a website and social media, or go offline with flyers or events? First, figure out what channels your target audience uses and when you can best reach out to your target audience.  

Ask yourself questions like: do customers find you on online channels, offline channels, or both? Do they find you directly or through others? At what times of the day do customers go looking for you? The answers to these questions are part of the customer journey. In a customer journey, you map out all the (touchpoints) between you and your target audience. A clear customer journey ensures that all communication tools fit together and reinforce each other as much as possible.  

6. Create a communication matrix  

Create a communication matrix. This is basically a summary of your communication plan. Write down who you want to reach, what message you want to convey, what channel you want to use, when you want to reach out, and how much you can afford to pay in a diagram. A communication matrix shows you:  

  • your target audience  

  • your objective  

  • your message  

  • your means of communication  

  • your content type  

You can also include your budget in your communication matrix. Using your communication matrix, create a weekly or monthly content calendar. This calendar outlines when you will share what content.  

7. Measure results and make adjustments  

In step 2 you made your goals SMART, so now you can measure the extent to which you achieved your goals. You can measure the results of a goal like ‘more visitors on your website’ with Google Analytics, for example. Is your visitor count not climbing fast enough? Examine how you can improve and adjust your approach accordingly. If you measure your results regularly, you can make adjustments more quickly.