Strong communications are more important now than ever before. To properly manage our organizations’ employer brands during a period of crisis, we need to communicate effectively.
From an internal standpoint, we need to regularly communicate with employees in order to protect their health, safety and well-being. We need to have an added layer of empathy for the overload of information our audience is receiving, inside the office and out. We have to craft messages and communicate changes as clearly and concisely as possible now more than ever. Getting this right is essential to providing a positive employee experience now and protecting our brands over the long term.
Similarly, from an external standpoint, we need to ensure that we’re communicating appropriately with candidates and the public. This means adjusting our communications to suit the tone of this time. It also means connecting with your marketing team and working together to identify the sorts of stories that might be good ones to spotlight and share externally right now.
Ashley Cheretes also wrote an excellent bog about managing the candidate experience during the COVID-19 crisis here.
In short, while there is a lot to do from a communications standpoint, this work can be facilitated with the creation of a strategic communications plan that will help you to list out what you’re trying to achieve and adjust your individual communications in a way that contributes towards that goal.
Strategic communications plans have been a key tool in my toolkit since my first role in communications. I’ve been using communications plans to drive our Recruitment Marketing activities, and find that they are particularly essential during this time.
Here is a tried-and-true template that I’ve used, along with some tips to make the most out of this document:
Why a communications plan can help you right now
A strategic communications plan is the perfect tool to help combat the overwhelming options many of us are faced with when determining how to communicate.
A communications plan is always helpful, but especially in this current climate, because it allows you to focus on your objectives and only commit to the tactics that will help you meet those targets.
Here are some more details on how this works:
When to use a communications plan
While communications plans are imperative for a time of crisis, you can also use a communications plan anytime you have a project, change or initiative you’d like to communicate to other groups. Some examples include: the relaunch of a careers site, an internal employee advocacy campaign or the activation of a new EVP toolkit. You can also learn more about how even a small team can lead a large-scale EVP activation strategy here.
To succeed, all of these initiatives require strategic communications to a range of internal and external stakeholders — which is where your strategic communications plan can come in to help chart your course.
How to build a communications plan
There are many different approaches for building out a communications plan. I’d like to share a template that I’ve developed and relied on over the years and which you may find useful. You can also click to download this Recruitment Marketing resource as a Word doc now.
Click the image above to access and use this template!
In the above communications plan template, you’ll find 6 sections in total. The first three help you hone in on your targets (objectives), and the last three help you roadmap your plan of attack and ROI to achieve these objectives.
Here are more details about each of these sections:
Background and analysis: The first part of the plan is all about identifying the context of what you’re looking to achieve, who needs to be involved and any other factors that might impact the project’s success.
Goals: The next section is about identifying the big picture goals that you’re looking to achieve through this initiative. Things can remain fairly high level at this stage, as you will break down your goals into more tactical chunks in the following sections.
Objectives: In this next section, you will make your goals more concrete by building out SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) objectives. This section is all about getting more granular about what success looks like for the initiative.
Strategies: From there, in this next part, you can identify the high-level strategies that will help you to achieve the SMART objectives you’ve laid out.
Tactics: Using your strategies as a guide, you can then break down your strategies into bite-sized actions you can take to get the job done and hit your targets!
Measurement and evaluation: Last but not least, you’ll want to think through and list out how and when you’ll measure progress to evaluate if the initiative was a success. This way you can learn what’s working well and where you can improve in order to optimize your efforts on a continuous basis!
As you work through the sections in this template, challenge yourself to tell the complete story and make your bullets as clear and concise as possible. The more specific and to-the-point you are, the more helpful this plan will be as a reference and guiding star as you work on crisis communications or any other project or initiative.
I hope that this communications plan template is a helpful roadmap to set you and your team up for success during this difficult time and beyond Although you may encounter challenges along the way, I think you’ll be surprised by how effectively you can communicate with a range of stakeholders if you break things down piece by piece while remaining in alignment with your strategic objectives.