Communication plan: discover how to create it effectively

Communication is a fundamental and necessary process for anyone’s survival. As you probably already know, there are various forms of communication between human beings. Recording a podcast is an example of an action you should take if you want to communicate with your audience through audio content.

The first of the famous axioms about communication has the following statement: it is impossible not to. Indeed, in any interaction between two or more people, something is always communicated, even in a non-verbal manner.

There are various forms of communication, from the simplest to the most complex. In this article, we will discuss a fundamental communication process for companies and, more generally, in business contexts: the communication plan! We will see exactly what a corporate communication plan is, what it is used for, and what strategies are used to implement it. We will also see an example of a communication plan together.

This concept underpins every successful strategy, which is why I invite you to enroll in the Digital Marketing Course, thanks to which you will gain the right skills to manage and adopt all corporate communication processes using the right channels.

Corporate communication plan: what it is and what it is for

Let’s start from the beginning: a communication plan is a process that outlines the strategies, activities, timeframes, and resources that will be used to achieve a company’s goals. It is a useful tool that allows us to plan, manage and monitor communication strategies and planned actions aimed at achieving specific objectives.

The concrete objective is the planning of the message and its transmission, coordinated and consistent in every aspect. We distinguish, especially in the corporate sphere, between 2 types of plans:

  • preliminary, when we identify a first strategic approach
  • operational, when planning is more technical and logistical in the activities and tools used.

 

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Creating a communication plan: how to do it and aspects to consider

Let us now discuss how to structure an effective communication plan for a company that needs to convey a certain message to its consumers/service users. It will certainly help to keep in mind the main aspects of which it is composed to facilitate its subsequent planning. Here, then, are some points to consider, at least briefly:

  • business communication planthe message address categories;
  • the message to be conveyed to the public;
  • the means of communication to be used to convey that message;
  • the planning of the necessary communication activities;
  • the budget to implement the planned activities;
  • monitoring of the activities carried out to measure the effectiveness of the interventions.

Any corporate communication plan cannot speak from these aspects. In essence, therefore, it starts with a general analysis and medium-term planning of the set goals.

This is followed by a practical implementation that includes regular performance checks. Where necessary, corrections are to be made to the desired targets and thus also to the budgets to be used in the future.

Brand communication and marketing plan

Again, the entire process is tailored to the customer or consumer to whom it is addressed. Especially when a corporate communication plan and marketing campaign are combined by a company, the needs and perceptions of the consumer towards the target brand are investigated. They are determined by:

  • product quality;
  • price of the product;
  • product image;
  • brand as a story;
  • relationship with the customer;
  • customer loyalty;
  • positioning of the product.

Accordingly, the following factors are considered:

  • brand analysis of the perception of one’s own;
  • general situation of their competencies;
  • strengths and standards;
  • available resources;
  • general analysis of the various competitors;
  • highlight their identity and image problems;
  • place the constraints and basic choices that comprise the communication strategy.

Always bear in mind that when promoting a brand, it is strongly recommended to integrate the communication plan with relevant marketing strategies. The two processes often coincide precisely. The result is a comprehensive and efficient communication style.

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The macro-phases of a corporate communication plan

Having described the communication plan and its main features, we now move on to illustrate the five fundamental macro steps to follow to successfully execute a marketing communication.

  • Define the objectives of effective communication
  • individuals and buyers;
  • choose the media;
  • setting up a winning strategy;
  • devise a winning content strategy.

Define the objectives of your communication

What do you want to achieve? What are your aims? In this first phase, it is appropriate to ask yourself these questions. As we have already mentioned, a communication plan and a marketing plan often overlap. However, it is useful to distinguish between the two: while a marketing objective aims primarily at increasing sales, a communication objective focuses on the perception of the product in a typical customer.

The first phase of a communication project consists of a set of micro-objectives that should lead us to the final goal in our 5-step process. When our main objective is to sell or promote, the micro-objectives will concern all those actions that, when implemented, favor the sale and/or promotion of the brand. Furthermore, these objectives will be SMART, that is:

  • S pecific: the objectives set must always be well-delineated and never generic. Having a clear idea of what you want to do, how you want to do it, and who you want to involve is always the best starting point.
  • M easurable: it must be verified whether the objectives are measurable quantitatively. This is the only way to assess whether they have been so or not. The better they have been defined, the more measurable they will be.
  • A ccessible: objectives must always be considered in relation to the tools, capabilities, and economic resources one has at one’s disposal. It is perfectly understandable that without such prerequisites, a corporate communication plan will fail.
  • R ealistic: objectives must be concrete, with realistic goals to be achieved. Especially at the beginning, it is wrong to aim too high without considering contextual factors.
  • T emporize: setting sensible goals also means delimiting them within a set time frame. This will help to focus on the first results to be achieved. Moreover, specifically, there are 3 goals that the communication plan must achieve:
  • strategy, which helps the organization put its choices into practice;
  • the facilitation of integrated communication between internal and external communication;
  • two-way relationships between the company and the public. They are very important and must be rich in meaning and repeated over time so that they leave their mark on the public’s mind.
  •  

Individual buyers

Who do you want to target? An effective corporate communication plan must be able to accurately identify potential customers for a company.

Communication targeting differs from classic marketing targeting in that it aims to add psycho-sociological / cultural characteristics to the user profile you wish to reach. An example of a relevant communication target can be: “young people aged 25 to 35, with university education, affluent and passionate about technology and the digital world”.

This leads to the description of buyer personas, i.e. the recipients of the message in a communication campaign (find out more about this classification of users). The aim is to segment more and more, also considering a socio-cultural point of view, buying habits, and so on.

Identifying people, in essence, means defining basic groups of common users, using what they want or what they are looking for, through ad-hoc content. Once the buyer personas have been identified, it is clear what we can propose and to whom.

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Choose the most suitable media

Today, we have numerous means of communication to promote any product, activity, or service. In this regard, it should be emphasized that the famous Communication Mix model taken in isolation is no longer sufficient to give an exhaustive picture of the power of the existing media.

The first real change (compared to even just a decade ago) is that the preferred medium of communication is now the web with all its digital channels.

There is no doubt that today’s companies (especially multinationals) still adopt a combined approach to various media, both online and offline.

However, it is the online media that are the most successful. A modern communication plan will therefore have to focus on the latter to be truly effective. Even the marketing mix model on the strategic 4Ps of communication now appears to be at least incomplete.

The Communication Mix in the Digital Age

The communication plan works according to the Communication Mix, which has changed substantially from the time of its creation to the modern age, full of digitization.

Sales promotion, i.e. all activities to promote a product or service. Until a few decades ago, it was focused on offline media (billboards, TV spots, flyers, etc.). Now it focuses mainly on web marketing activities including DEM, SEM, SEO, Social Marketing, etc.

online marketing in digital age
Personal selling, i.e. the selling of a product or service carried out directly by people. In essence, it defines a person (at that moment representative of the company) in the act of selling something, communicating the values and characteristics of the brand. This practice is slowly evolving into Digital Personal Selling, a similar approach but starring modern digital communication channels.

Public relations. Large companies have often used public relations, a series of public communication actions compensated for by an outsider. Today, the term PR has evolved into Digital PR. This is because PR activities also mainly use modern digital tools (e.g. Skype, WebEx or Adobe connect).

Advertising. It is the form of communication par excellence for companies, allowing the dissemination of a message in different media. Today, there are various types of advertising, online and offline. Online advertising, in particular on social networks, is all the rage. The best example is advertising on Facebook or YouTube.

Set a winning media strategy

At this stage, it is crucial to choose the exact media to be used in our corporate communication plan. The media strategy must set according to the budget available. The actual media plan will then be a real operational document, the result of strategies and objectives defined upstream.

setup media strategyThe advertising campaign of a communication plan, whether online or offline, represents the specific activities through which a message is disseminated, in terms of content, across different media. It is always planned and often considered as specific seasonal events.

Examples include communication and marketing plans that are created ad hoc before the Christmas and Easter holidays or for the tourist season.

Before the advent of the Internet and digital, companies used to do a real search for “physical advertising” space to buy for organization campaigns (offline advertising). Today, the scenario has changed: companies, but also private individuals, invest much more in online advertising space, organizing to create social advertising campaigns such as Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, or using Google ads.

Devise an effective content strategy

Last, but certainly not least, is the content marketing phase of a communication plan. The purpose of content activities is to develop effective and quality content. This content will serve to promote a given product/service or, more simply, to attract visitors to one’s own site, increase qualified contacts, generate turnover, build customer loyalty, and perhaps turn them into spontaneous promoters of one’s own brand.

In a corporate communication plan, there are certain guidelines, which must be adapted to the media. Here are, among many others, 3 useful tips that can help to set up quality content.

  • always define the who, what, and how, whenever you want.
  • content strategies must be customer-oriented. The main objective is to offer the added value that other users are looking for.
  • it is necessary to establish, within a company (or business), who will produce and publish content: that is why how to create an editorial plan.

It will therefore be the content expert, today called SEO copywriter, who will materially produce effective content, able to hit the target audience defined at the outset and achieve the objectives consistent with the chosen medium. After all, the same golden rule always applies: Content is King!

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Social media strategy: added value in the communication plan

As you may have already guessed from reading the article, social media today play an increasingly fundamental role in digital marketing, communication strategy, and consequently, also in a self-respecting communication plan.

The social media strategy makes it possible to emphasize content created and optimized specifically for use on social networks. Even in this case, there are small steps to be followed step by step in order to use these new digital channels in the best possible way, thus enabling your company to grow economically.

plan to use social networksThey are:

  • Preventive analysis
  • Definition of objectives
  • Choice of channels
  • Choice of content
  • Measuring results

Remember: today creating a real communication plan means taking social media into account! That’s why we want you to take a look at our direct course to become a Social Media Specialist!

Corrected message

Before we move on to a practical example, it must be said that a very important thing to take into account when devising the communication plan is the message that will be perceived by the audience. That is why the preparation of the message cannot be left to chance, instead, it needs detailed planning.

Consumers do not want products or services, but emotions. They seek to find meaning in the actions they are urged to do. Therefore, thanks to marketing psychology, it is imperative to provide positive emotions that they will remember. Now as we shall see.

Corporate communication plan: a successful example

There are several documented cases of companies, more or less well-known, that have been able to create winning strategies. We are talking about examples in which the communication plan was made up of online and offline aspects. Among these, it is worth mentioning the case of L’Agona, a well-known Italian wine producer. The agency Inside Comunicazione handled the entire project, developing an excellent integrated communication plan for L’Agona.

After a listening and briefing phase with the client, Inside Communication developed a communication strategy for the brand that can be summarised in the following steps:

  • Logo development, using a specific recurring graphic theme
  • Logo and Naming of the two main wines produced by the company
  • Design and realization of the website in Italian and English
  • Study and realization of the Company Profile and wine data sheets.

The work carried out by the communications agency took care of every phase of the planning in detail: from the concept study to the actual communication plan, with constant reports on the results.

L’Agona brand communication now consists of accurate company profiles, catalogs, and company forms (business cards, letterheads, envelopes, signs, etc.). All this expresses brand identity and recognition. In addition, the L’Agona project won the 2015 Presse & Outdoor Key Awards for the best-integrated communication.

Communication project: the tools to use

To disseminate our content and become visible to our target audience, we need to use the right tools. A powerful tool for disseminating content, and a fundamental part of our corporate communication plan, is our blog/site. It is the headquarters where content and our communications are born, grow, and spread.

To create a blog easily and effectively, you can use the world’s most popular open-source platform, WordPress. To write appropriate content following the most widely used guidelines, you can use tools such as Semrush, SeoZoom, and the Google Adwords keyword planner. They will give you numbers and data on users’ search habits and the keywords to use.

A useful tool in the service of the corporate communication plan is the editorial calendar. You can choose your content well in advance and decide on the timing, order and different content to be made.

Finally, delivering the right message to your target audience at the right time is of paramount importance. To manage communication with your users, you can use CRM, a tool that contains all the information about your current and potential customers so that you can engage with them at the right time.

Strategies and tools to use in our corporate communication strategy

One strategy to use is undoubtedly that of redundancy, i.e. and repurposing our content. We can use an outbound marketing strategy, also called interrupt marketing, or we can favor inbound marketing.

Some examples of outbound marketing are door-to-door selling, telephone calls to a more or less profiled customer database, and sending promotional newsletters to email lists bought from a database. The problem with these approaches is that they are often unwanted by customers and therefore classified as SPAM.

The conversion rates of these actions are often very low and there is a risk of wasting the budget of the corporate communication plan.

In the second case, it will be our content that will arouse the interest of our audience, attracting them with the most appropriate content. It will be the users themselves who will express their willingness to receive commercial information from us. So we can keep in touch with them through newsletters, using different email marketing tools to convert them into customers.

One way to spread our video content is to have a dedicated YouTube channel. YouTube is the second search engine after Google, so our potential customers are likely to spend time here.

We can propose our content by getting a good number of reviews and shares at not too high a cost. We can also re-propose them several times, using retargeting on YouTube to make them visible to all users who have already interacted with us previously.

In this way, our communications will go to users who already know us and have already shown interest in us.

Retargeting has higher conversion rates than other types of campaigns, so it is a good idea to use it as part of your communication plan. Often users need time to visit your site several times before making a conversion.

Another circuit on which to convey our communication could be the display network. We can have our banners displayed on specific sites, and YouTube videos, or have them displayed to particular audience segments that may be interested.

Corporate Communication Plan: KPIs to be monitored

Measurement is undoubtedly a fundamental part of any corporate communication plan and marketing plan in general. Some performance indicators that we need to consider in relation to our content are:

  • the number of reviews of each of ours;
  • the average dwell time of the user;
  • the reactions elicited;
  • the bounce rate of our web pages;
  • shares of our posts.

The basis of a good corporate communication plan must undoubtedly be a good strategy and a thorough analysis, after which the tools and techniques to be used must be chosen.

Once the strategy for achieving communication has been created, it must continue to be monitored and improved for the set goals.

The only way then to know whether our plan is achieving results is to measure ROI, Return on Investment. This has allowed us to compare what we have achieved with what we have given, as well as the efficiency of our strategy (e.g. how long the practitioner took to achieve the result).

Final considerations

As you can easily guess, there is no standard communication plan identity for every company. Each plan will necessarily have to be calibrated to the budget and the means at one’s disposal, the objectives to be achieved, and more. However, following the basics of how to make a communication plan can prove useful, as well as being familiar with the basic steps we have outlined.

One must also bear in mind the enormous importance that the web and online media now have. A corporate communication plan cannot rely on these valuable tools. This does not mean completely forgetting “traditional communication”.

It does mean, however, that the new digital channels have revolutionized the indispensable way of transmitting information and are therefore the right way to convey messages effectively. If this topic interests you and you want to specialize, I recommend that you dare to take a look at the Master’s in Digital Communication at the Digital-Coach School of Specialization.

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