Communication planning is a structured approach to deliver a message embodying what you seek to accomplish in order to reach a target objective. A good communication plan clearly describes what the leader wants to accomplish. An effective leader will provide enough structured and well-organized information to deliver a clear, structured message to his/her listeners.
Achieving this goal entails preparation and considering key questions, including:
- Who is the intended audience?
- What are the expectations?
- What response or outcome do you want?
- How might they respond to your request?
- What is the context in which the interaction will take place?
Who is the intended audience?
Knowing your audience is important because what might seem straightforward to some in the audience, may leave others needing more information or details. It’s easy for us to forget how little context others may have about the topic. A leader may overlook communicating what is obvious to them but not obvious to those being spoken to. Being aware of and considering who you are addressing is important to properly communicate with transparency.
What are the expectations?
As individuals, when we have a clear understanding of what is expected, we can better meet those expectations. When you’re the speaker, you have to take the time to structure what you say and ask yourself, how can I meet the audience’s expectations? Listing the 2-4 key aspects in an outline provides a clear guide to the topics at hand. This will serve as an outline for the interaction and keep your messaging consistent.
Furthermore, if you are interrupted, the outline will help to redirect and get you back to the task at hand. This, in turn, will assist you in managing the time you have. With busy schedules, it can also be helpful to state the purpose of the meeting, key topics, and an estimate of how long it will take, so the speaker and audience clearly understand the expectations.
What response or outcome do you want?
Understanding the desired outcome is important in clearly planning and articulating your message, so you don’t appear disorganized. More importantly, you may not get the outcome you desire. Make things simple, direct, and clear. Be prepared for follow up because someone usually has questions. If you know what response you want and can plan for that clearly, you are more likely to get the response you desire. You will also project greater confidence and professionalism by being prepared for those type of questions.
How might they respond to your request?
Anticipating how people are going to respond to your message is important for you to prepare and provide the necessary level of rationale in your message. People will have a better response if they have a clear understanding as to why they are being asked to do something. They are more willing to get behind the idea or task you are introducing if they can understand the justification behind it.
Science tells us the more someone is exposed to an idea, the more they are willing to accept it. You should never overload the audience with too much or too complex context, but hitting the key messages several times will be effective. You want to give a simple and clear explanation that leads people to the same conclusion you are presenting.
It is also necessary to monitor how your audience is responding in order to shift perspective and address fears, concerns, or misunderstanding. Taking the time to momentarily pause to read the reactions of your audience allows you to redirect as needed and engage in dialogue as needed.
What is the context in which the interaction will take place?
The context of communication should also be considered. How have previous communications been received? Is the company or organization in a successful period or a downturn? Are employees engaged? Are there cultural factors to consider? You need to consider the impact of these type of questions to understand how your message will be heard by the audience and include these considerations in your plan.
A communication plan can ensure that everyone has the information they need in an effective manner to drive the desired outcome. The plan does not need to be a written plan, but you should take the time and initiative to prepare it. Without it, it is difficult to do your best. Don’t overlook the fact that some of your audience are visual learners, so having a printed copy you can distribute is a plus.
A communication plan is the foundation for success. When you have a plan and work your plan, success comes much easier. Recall the old adage…those who fail to plan, plan to fail!
For the Faith-Based:
Would it make a difference in life nowadays if leaders followed biblical examples when creating and executing strategic communication plans? In 2 Chronicles 1:10, King Solomon asked God for wisdom and knowledge to better help him lead God’s people. Solomon demonstrated a key aspect of leadership – knowing where you want to go before asking others to follow you. Once the leader’s mission is defined, the mission becomes easier to clarify to the audience.
When thinking of biblical principles that can be applied to communication planning, we should look at Proverbs 25:15, where King Solomon boiled down the topic of communication to this; “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” This verse outlines the importance King Solomon placed on how words are communicated. He chose the word “aptly,” which can be defined as unusually intelligent. These words are well thought out and planned to evoke a specific emotion or idea in the receiver. When this type of consideration and effort is applied to our communications, King Solomon says we will be likened to “apples of gold in settings of silver.” How valuable and precious are those words that are aptly spoken? Can you get more valuable than being compared to gold and silver?
By taking the time to plan your words and your communication, you give valuable treasures of information to your listeners. King Solomon also gives us the other side of the coin for those who do not plan their communications in Proverbs 29:20, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
It is truly a biblical principle that effective leaders must take the time to plan their words. All of us would rather be compared to “apples of gold” than “a fool.” God has given us a mission that requires leaders to plan as part of their leadership.