Communicator and journalist Anton Nebbe explains why he believes proper planning should be at the heart of good internal communication.
Looking back to when I first started out in internal communications, I could do one thing very well – OK, at least moderately well – and that was to write and construct a coherent, clear message, and translate complex messages into Plain English.
This at least showed my journalism degree and background wasn’t wasted and was enough for me to progress and get by for the first few years.
But it was when the first job came to an end – thanks to redundancy – and I had to find other work that my shortcomings were exposed.
I couldn’t plan effectively around campaigns, nor did I know how projects and programmes work, or what a channel management strategy even was, never mind how to conduct an audit, analyse the results and implement the recommendations.
All of this I had to learn on the job – and quickly, but the problem was, I didn’t know where to go.
I got a lucky break fairly early on.
A career-shaping learning experience for me wasn’t gained from fellow communicators, but from a group of project managers during a SAP implementation.
Having achieved a basic understanding of how projects work from an intensive project management course; speaking to the project managers and seeing the project unfold, I began to see how a comprehensive communications and engagement plan that accounts for all the interfaces between a project and its stakeholders, both internally and externally, is key to a project’s success.
To provide real value, I realised, you can’t start with a vanilla tactical plan that isn’t phased against a project’s key milestones, or doesn’t follow at least the basic project communications lifecycle of ‘raise awareness’; ‘create understanding’; ‘encourage participation’, and ‘support involvement’.
Subsequent work on various projects followed, ranging from IT systems implementations to divestments, and I began to assimilate different approaches and templates into something that I found made sense of change for me.
I even trained the process out at various businesses, and it was the reaction I got that made me realise I wasn’t alone in being frustrated at the lack of resource available to programme communicators, and this manifested itself in ‘The Communicator’s Guide to Effective Project Planning’.
The process encourages the interface – or relationship – between communications teams and projects, and projects and key stakeholders – to be more structured, planned and less ad hoc.
It also means it’s easier for a communicator to manage multiple projects simultaneously because not every project needs full-time communications support.
Tips for effective project planning
• Involve your key project stakeholders in the planning – without them your plan won’t be as rich as it needs to be
• Keep the plan as simple as possible – your stakeholders’ needs will be, for the most part, fairly straightforward
• Don’t start with the tactical plan because your key messages may be at odds with the project’s background.
Anton’s six-steps to successful planning:
Step 1: Overall project objectives and priorities
Step 2: Identify and prioritise your audiences/stakeholders
Step 3: Define objectives and messages for each audience
Step 4: Specify communication channels
Step 5: Plan and sequence communications activities
Step 6: Evaluate and measure success.
• Anton Nebbe’s book The Communicator’s Guide to Effective Project Planning – is available out now, priced £14.99. To purchase a copy, click on the link below…