Why You Need a Communication Plan Template
Communication is the backbone of any project. Well, good communication, that is. With this free communication plan template you can ensure that your project documentation, messages, data and reports are as clear and effective as possible.
This document describes the way you’ll transmit information to your project teams and stakeholders so that they’re heard correctly and targeted to the proper party, who receive it in a timely manner or within the timeframe that you require.
Not only that, but a communication plan will note the goals, stakeholders, strategies and activities as they relate to communications, along with the timeframes surrounding your outreach.
Think of the communication plan template as a repository for your communications objectives; how you plan to bring about those objectives; in what timeframe and the effort involved to fulfill those goals; and finally, the metrics to measure whether you’re successful.
There are more appropriate times than others to use your communication plan template. For example, if you’re working on a large project, with many resources, vendors, managers, et al., then you’ll want a more structured delivery for communications. That way you’ll make sure everyone’s needs are being met.
The need for informal communications is also crucial to a project’s success. It’s smart to consider that as useful a tool as this communication plan template can be, there needs to be a line item in which you remember to talk informally with team members, stakeholders, and even vendors.
How to Use this Communication Plan Template
Now that you’ve downloaded your communication plan excel template, it’s time to put it to use in your project. While this document is ideal for larger projects (as communications on smaller ones are less complex) even if you’re working smaller, it’s good to get a handle on how to organize and run communications for when you eventually do manage a larger project.
This section asks you to describe your communication plan in context to get buy-in from stakeholders and team members alike. Among the things you will address here are:
· Vision and Objectives: Be clear as to why there is a communication plan. There could be several reasons, what are they? And note the goals and objectives for those communications, so it’s all clear from the start.
· Goals and Timeframes: As you detail the goals, you’ll also want to put them within the borders of time. Nothing gets done without a deadline.
· Communication Staff and Tools: For communications to work, there needs to be a person or group who has ownership over the process. Who are they? Now, what tools are they using to disseminate those missives, email, text, etc.?
· Review Effectiveness: There’s no way to know if your communications are in fact getting through if you’re not measuring the results. Have metrics in place to see how well your communication plan is working, and keep that data for historic precedent.
· Make a Plan: It goes without saying that you have to plan all this out, but maybe it should be said, clearly and definitively. You wouldn’t start a project without planning for it first, so follow your own advice and get a plan in place prior to setting up a communications process.
· Record Outcome: As part of your measurement process, after the project has closed, take time to see how effective the communication plan was overall. You’ll learn a lot: what to repeat next time and what to change.
Here you address the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats inherent in the communication plan. Strengths can include where your team excels in communications, while the weaknesses note areas where communications are not being well-served. As for opportunities, they are areas you find that can be improved upon. A threat is a problem that can bring down the whole communication process. Make sure you’re clear on these four areas and record them out in detail here.
Now it’s time to sketch out a history of communications at your organization to get a picture of trends and how to support the positive and move away from the negative. Begin by listing the basic communications that have already taken place. How have these communications been made and to what extent were they successful? Finally, document what you’ve learned from this investigation.
You’ve outlined the background, now you want to move into the future and express what you will achieve with this communication plan.
Start with a simple list of your top-three objectives. Be sure that these are very specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timely. You can remember this criteria with the acronym S.M.A.R.T.
Now that you’ve got objects, how are you going to achieve them? Guidelines to help you get out your communications will help. Make a list of how you want communications disseminated. That can included regular feedback or meetings, approval before sending, only communicating pertinent information, etc.
Make a list of the key personnel in the project by name, followed by their role and then the information they need to know. After that, you can indicate the frequency in which them should be communicated with. Have this list approved by the people on it to make sure you’ve gotten what they want and when they want it down correctly.
What are your key messages? Some regular communications for projects include: project status, project issues, project risk, project deliverables and project resources. These are markers that will be included in most of your communication messages.
By what mechanism will you disseminate your communications? What is the channel of preference of your target audience? It could be email or text or even printed matter, but find out what it is and use that access point which will in fact reach your reader.
Once you’ve decided on the channel, you’ll want to create a document that collects the information you will be sending off through this channel. Write the name of the channel, the information required, who the information provider is and the timeframe.
Now you’re ready for the communication plan, which starts with a schedule. You can create a schedule on a Gantt chart to visualize the frequency of communications, including meetings, newsletter, social events, conferences, seminars, alerts, etc.
Finally, you want to describe the events in your communication schedule in detail to help team members complete these events on time. So, number the events, name them, describe them, write what their purpose is, the frequency and then the date.