In a recent post, Avoid Resistance, I identified three useful planning tools that will help you avoid unnecessary resistance:

  1. Stakeholder Triage
  2. Communication Schedule
  3. Transition Plan

In this post, I want to focus on putting together a communications plan.

It�s Just a Table

Let�s assume you want to create a plan for one of the stakeholders you identified as high priority, using your Stakeholder Triage.� Start with a table with seven columns and plenty of rows.� Each row will represent one component of your plan.� Here are the columns you will need:

  1. Objective
    What are you trying to achieve from your communication?
  2. Message
    What message do you need to get across to achieve your objective?
  3. Media
    What tools will you use to communicate this message?
  4. Tone
    This is crucial and missed by many.� Mis-communications often happen because we don�t strike the right tone.� Right from the start, decide whether you need to inform or consult, request or require, tell or sell.� Then, when you have drafted your message, check the tone.
  5. Timing
    When is the right time?� Is it a one-off message or a regular message?� Is it daily, weekly, monthly, � ?
  6. Responsibility
    Who will be responsible for gathering the information, preparing the message, and getting it out?� These may not be the same person
    � or they may all be you!
  7. Feedback
    How will you test that your message has been received and understood?

A Word about Feedback

If your message is really important, don�t wait until you�ve sent it out into the world to test if you got it right.� It’s too late by then.

A colleague of mine had to communicate about pensions to tens of thousands of current and former employees of her organisation.� The message had to go to everyone by law, even though only a small percentage would be affected.� Pensions are complex and confusing so, wisely, she had her staff pick one hundred recipients at random and had them sent the letter.

Confused, angry and upset

Over the next few days, most of them phoned in. Some were confused, some were angry, and some were upset.� Just think what would have happened if the same proportion of the full mailing list had tried to phone in!

Using the feedback

So they listened to the resistance, understood the problems, and re-drafted the letter. As it says on shampoo bottles, �rinse and repeat�.� They sent out another hundred.� After a few cycles, they created a letter that got calls only from people who were affected by the changes.� They could confidently communicate their message to everyone.

The Key Points

  • Plan your communication
  • test your message

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