Steps for an effective communication plan

1. Provide the situational analysis (background section):

You need to state the overall aims and objectives of your communication plan and what you want to achieve.

In this section you need to provide a reason for the writing and implementation of your communication plan. You should also address any similar communications activities which have been carried out in the past and the impact that they have had. You should also consider whether or not there may be any controversial reactions from particular groups within the population.

For example: If you are trying to launch a product that may not be favourably received by a specific group, you should address this. Also, if you have devised a communication strategy for the launch of a previous product, you should state what the outcomes of this were and whether or not the aims were met.[1]



[1] Pophal L (2009) An 8-Step Process for Creating Effective Internal Communication Plans. http://www.stratcommunications.com/media/cushycms/Resources_83_2776689510.pdf

 

2. Determine goals/objectives:

Your goals or aims should outline what you want to achieve and your objectives need to outline the steps that you need to undertake in order to fulfil your aims. You should make your objectives SMART. The acronym is described below: 

Specific: Are the objectives clear and defined?

Measurable: Are they easily measurable?

Achievable: Can the objectives be achieved with a given number of factors including time frame, resources available and consumer behaviour patterns?

Realistic: Can the objectives be met within a designated time frame, with the resources available?

Timely: How long will the objectives take to achieve?[2]

 


[2] CGIAR Developing a Communication Plan. http://www.cgiar.org/www-archive/www.cgiar.org/communicationstoolkit/pdf/Developing%20a%20Communication%20Plan.pdf

3. Identify and profile target audience(s):

In order to target the correct audience and to successfully bring a product to market you should have an understanding of how your audience evaluates the benefit of a new food product. For example, are their choices about whether to select a new food product primarily influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations from people within their social network or via another route?[3] You should also understand the sociodemographic profile of your target audience, in order to determine how much you can sell a product for. For example, in a report, published in 2007 by the European Commission (EC) CORDIS, which is a dissemination service for EC funded projects, it is estimated that 13% of the average European family budget is spent on food.[4]


[3] CGIAR  Developing a Communication Plan.
[4] European Commission (2007) Food consumer science: Lessons to be learnt from FP projects in the field of food and consumer science. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/food/docs/booklet-consummer.pdf 

4. Develop key messages: 

You should carefully consider the communication channels you are going to use to put your messages forward and limit the number of messages you develop, to between three and five. If you have several target audiences, the actual phrasing of each message can be varied to suit the audience in question. Messages should also be clear, simple and memorable. One way of assessing whether your key messages are effective is by testing them out on your target audience, prior to implementing your communication plan.[5]

A blog is one example of a platform that can be used to garner feedback when launching new products. Examples of questions which could be asked about the development of a new food product could include:

How does this work? What’s new about it? How much will it cost? How long will it last? Where can I buy it? Why would I buy this when the competition already has a better product on the market? Who tested the product to prove its efficacy?[6]

In a paper about launching a new food product, Alison Rudder discusses several strategies for commercial success. In this paper she quotes Graf and Saguy, who conclude that food companies need to be “competitive and cost-effective and must have the ability to produce high-quality products whilst responding to the needs of the marketplace.”[7]

You could develop some of your key messages to state how your product meets the points listed above.[8]

Finally, you need to have an awareness of the ideas and discussions surrounding similar products and the sector you want to launch into. For example, new technologies and the issue of food risks have been widely discussed in recent decades.[9] You should also consider any current trends in the way food issues are framed and discussed; such as, how are health claims and words such as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ discussed by the particular consumer groups you are targeting?[10]


[5] Schneider Associates Excerpts from the New Launch Plan. http://mmnpl.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/create-key-messages/

[6] ibid.

[7] Rudder A. (2001) New food product development: strategies for success. British Food Journal. 103: 657-670 (p. 667).

[8] ibid.

[9] Blue G. (2010) Food, publics, science.  Public Understanding of Science 19: 147-154 (p. 148)

[10] Blue G. 147-154 (p. 151).

5. Choose strategies and tactics:

A strategy refers to the overall picture of how you will achieve your objectives and it should be closely tied to them. Your tactics refer to exactly how your strategy will be implemented, e.g. ‘I will post this number of Tweets on this account a certain number of times per week.’

You need to determine what your short and long term tactics will be in order to implement your communication plan. Later, you can evaluate both your strategies and your tactics.[11]



[11] Fleet D (2008) Strategic Communications Planning. http://davefleet.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/comm-plan-ebook.pdf

6. Select communication channels: 

You should have an understanding of what communication channels your target audience uses already, in order to access information about new food products. Many communication channels are available, including social media, the press, television, radio and face-to-face communication. You should select communication channels which are applicable to the key messages you want to communicate. Additionally, you need to consider how a particular food topic is framed and discussed both online and offline by the audience you are trying to reach. During the last couple of decades, particularly with the rise of the Web, the discussions surrounding food issues are often strongly influenced by consumers and consumer groups.[12]



[12] Blue G. 147-154 (p. 148).

7. Estimate the budget: 

You should ensure that you have a fully devised budget in order to implement your plan correctly. A guide to devising a communication plan, produced by the European Commission, suggests that at least 10% of the overall budget should be included as a contingency.[13]



[13] European Commission (2013) How to Prepare a Communication Plan? http://ec.europa.eu/ipg/go_live/promotion/communication_plan/index_en.htm

8. Establish partnerships:

You should consider who the partners (e.g. organisations or businesses) are, who could help you with the provision of additional resources or advice. This will probably include organisations with whom you have worked previously.[14]



[14] Centre for first Nations Governance Communications Plan http://fngovernance.org/resources_docs/Communication_Plan_Template1.pdf

9. Assign responsibility and accountability:

You need to determine who is going to take responsibility for implementing each part of the communication plan. For example, if an objective is to achieve a particular volume of social media traffic in a certain time frame, then you need to determine who is responsible for implementing the social media strategy.

10. Implement the Plan:

You need to determine all the steps which need to be taken to ensure an objective is met. You need to assign resources, staffing needs and deadlines to each step to ensure its completion.[15]



[15] ibid.

11.  Evaluate and make mid-course corrections:

Your objectives specify how your aims are met. It is important to make the objectives of your communication plan measurable, so that they can be evaluated and adjusted if necessary (for example, if they are not realistic). Your evaluation, half way through your campaign or activity should also take into consideration and address the steps already outlined previously. For example, you will need to evaluate whether your target audience and communication channels are right.[16] Finally, you need to measure both short-term and long-term goals in your evaluation.[17]



[16] European Union INTERact Monitoring and evaluation of communication activities.  http://admin.interact-eu.net/downloads/3087/Presentation_Evaluation_and_communication_INTERACT.pdf

[17] CGIAR  Developing a Communication Plan.

 

12. References:

Blue G (2010). Food, publics, science.  Public Understanding of Science 19:147-154. 

Centre for first Nations Governance Communications Plan http://fngovernance.org/resources_docs/Communication_Plan_Template1.pdf

CGIAR Developing a Communication Plan. http://www.cgiar.org/www-archive/www.cgiar.org/communicationstoolkit/pdf/Developing%20a%20Communication%20Plan.pdf

European Commission (2007) Food consumer science: Lessons to be learnt from FP projects in the field of food and consumer science. ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/food/docs/booklet-consummer.pdf

European Commission (2013) How to Prepare a Communication Plan? http://ec.europa.eu/ipg/go_live/promotion/communication_plan/index_en.htm

European Union INTERact Monitoring and evaluation of communication activities. http://admin.interact-eu.net/downloads/3087/Presentation_Evaluation_and_communication_INTERACT.pdf

Fleet D (2008) Strategic Communications Planning http://davefleet.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/comm-plan-ebook.pdf

Pophal L (2009) An 8-Step Process for Creating Effective Internal Communication Plans.http://www.stratcommunications.com/media/cushycms/Resources_83_2776689510.pdf 

Rudder A (2001). New food product development: strategies for success. British Food Journal. 103:657-670.

Schneider Associates Excerpts from the New Launch Plan. http://mmnpl.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/create-key-messages/

end faq