A business communication plan can help you clarify the purpose of your business, the intended use for your products or services and the most effective ways to communicate with your various audiences.
A communication plan can help you through a crisis, so your business reputation doesn’t get damaged.
As a small business, you need to be prepared for the unexpected, and creating a business communication plan is one way to do this. Natural disaster, a change in leadership — whatever you need to communicate, you just pull out the plan and off you go.
Now that you understand how a communication plan can be helpful, it’s time to learn how to create one for your business.
How to write a simple communication plan
While your business may be small, it doesn’t mean that you can’t (and shouldn’t) communicate effectively with your audience. In fact, you can gain an edge on larger companies by being better at communicating with your customers. Here are the five steps to creating a communications plan for your business:
- Look at what you’re doing now.
- Know who you’re talking to.
- Set SMART communication goals.
- Sketch out your plan.
- Choose your channels.
Now let’s walk through each of these steps one by one.
1. Look at what you’re doing now
Before you can sit down and start making a plan, you’ll need to take a look at your current communications.
A communications review will help you find gaps and identify any problem areas that you can take care of before they cause damage to your business.
To effectively run your review, you’ll need to gather all available information about:
- Your current ways of communicating (email, website, social media, etc)
- The messages you share
- The responses you’ve received to these
Then you’ll need to interpret this information to decide what’s working and what’s not right now.
2. Set SMART communication goals
Once you’ve reviewed what you’re already doing, you’ll want to set goals for future communications.
Always remember to set SMART goals when it comes to any type of business plan. Every goal you set for your business communications should be:
- Specific. Make your goals simple and precise.
- Measurable. Ensure that your goals are trackable.
- Attainable. Create realistic goals, rather than pie-in-the sky goals.
- Relevant. Set goals that are valuable to your business.
- Time-Based. Include start and end dates.
If you would like to learn more about setting SMART goals for your business, then you can find more information here.
3. Know who you’re talking to
The best communication plans start with listening to your audience, so you understand what they’re saying. However, you’ll need to identify your target market before you can begin communicating with them.
You may want to run focus groups with your customers or send surveys to your past customers. After all, these people have dealt with your business firsthand and can show you how to better your business.
There are also internal audiences that you may want or need to communicate with, such as:
- Owners, partners
And there may be external audiences that your business needs to reach from time to time:
- Local government
- Media outlets
- Partner organizations
You don’t need to know everything about each of these groups, but you should be mindful that they may be expecting to hear from you, should something newsworthy or unexpected happen with your business.
4. Sketch out your plan
When you’re ready to start writing, it may be easier to create an outline for your communication plan. This will help you identify the message you want to send and the audiences that should receive your message.
You’ll also want to determine what each audience needs to know.
For example, investors will have very different questions about a crisis that shutters your business for a period of time than customers will.
Here are some questions that, when answered, will help you know what to say to each group:
- What: What is your final decision? What does this mean for business? What should your audience know about your situation?
- Why: Why are you taking this course of action? Why is it the right choice? Why is now the right time?
- Where: Which locations will be affected? Where can they find more information?
- When: When is it all happening?
- How: How will your business implement the decision? How does it impact customers?
- Who: Who made the decision? Who will it affect? Who’s in charge of the situation?
No matter the size of your business, make sure that you use/create a template for your business communications so that you can remain consistent, organized and concise with any future communications. This way you can quickly alter the template for the current situation, without having to rebuild it from scratch.
5. Choose your channels
Once you know the what-when-how of your message, you’ll want to choose the channels that your business will use to share this message with your audience. The communication channels that you decide to use will depend on the audiences you’re trying to reach.
For instance, to communicate internally to your employees, you may choose a channel such as:
- A business-wide email
- A company-wide meeting (digital or in-person)
- Team leaders you ask to inform their departments
If you’re trying to communicate with your customers, then you may choose a different channel such as:
- Text or SMS
The communication channels you use will depend on your goals and the audience. Still, you should always keep your distribution methods in mind while you’re creating your plan to ensure that your message is received. Don’t discount the possibility of sending a similar message more than once, as the first one may not be read.
Editor’s note: Automated email tools like GoDaddy’s Email Marketing allow you to create and pre-schedule emails for various groups all in one sitting. You can go about your business knowing your messages will be sent as planned.
Keep the communication flowing
We hope that this article has helped you create a communication plan for your business. Remember that to effectively communicate with your audience, you’ll need to know who you need to talk to and what you want to say to each group.
If you’re dealing with crisis communication, you’ll need to ensure that your message is sent in a timely fashion. Planning your response and creating templates now will make this much easier.