As a small business owner, it’s essential to have a communication plan. But, very often, business owners do not think it is necessary.
Imagine you need to communicate with a buyer to convince them that your product is their best option. Except that you cannot talk, you cannot write nor make any gestures. It would be impossible to help the customer understand anything.
In a way, not having a communication plan is precisely that: it prevents you from conveying essential information. The lack of planning can result in disseminated misinformation. It can also prevent you from communicating with your employees during an emergency.
Creating a communication strategy doesn’t have to be a complex process. But it is vital.
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know to create the most effective communication plan.
What is a business communication plan?
A business communication plan is similar to a road map because it includes everything you need to reach an audience and communicate a message. This formal strategy plan lays out key components your business uses to communicate with recipients.
This plan should have an internal and external communication strategy.
Examples may include methods to interact with audiences, advancement strategies, and measurements to evaluate communications campaigns, to name a few.
Why do you need a communication plan?
Consider for a moment how a business would operate without a communication plan in place.
No one in your business communicates with each other because communication channels aren’t in place.
Email alerts and automated text messages were never set up, and landlines weren’t installed.
No one is privy to essential communication information, so people wander around aimlessly in a chaotic environment because they lack direction.
Not to mention, the buying public isn’t aware that your company exists.
That certainly describes a worst-case scenario, but a company without a communication plan misses out on opportunities. They waste valuable resources by not communicating efficiently and effectively, both internally and externally.
Without a communication plan, your business could fail to build brand awareness, nurture business and employee relationships, and lose its market share of sales. Businesses use communications planning to deal with sudden changes, such as launching a new product or announcing a change in a business location.
A communication plan ensures consistency, sets forth requirements, and meets an audience’s needs.
What should a communication plan include?
A well-written communication plan puts everyone on the same page because critical data is mapped out ahead of time and should include these elements.
What’s the purpose of your communication outreach? In what ways can you improve how you communicate with employees and customers to focus on promoting products and services?
List your goals and then formulate ways to achieve your objectives within a defined timeframe.
Determine who you interact with the most. It could be investors, customers, shareholders, employees, or government officials. Then, you can prioritize what, when, and how you communicate with these individuals and organizations
Once you determine your goals and target audiences, you can tailor your messages to each group.
For example, a message to an employee won’t be the same as you send to customers or members of your community. Messages should strengthen your business objective to promote your company and what it offers.
Be specific about the resources you’ll use to reach your audiences. Outreach methods may include websites, emails, social media, press releases, paid advertising, and other systems.
By measuring results, you’ll see immediately how well your communication plan operates. Your business should be reaching predetermined objectives and benchmarks. If you aren’t, then make changes by tweaking your plan.
Are people opening emails, and did traffic and sales increase? What methods worked the best? Do you need to change your key messages to garner more interest?
5 Tips to Create an Effective Communication Plan
1. Turn Inward
Internal communication is about your employees. It helps create and promote a positive and productive work environment. They need to stay well-informed on any changes. These could be changes in products, services, or business practices.
Let’s say you are preparing to launch a new product. Employees need to be aware of the launch date, the details of the product, and any other “talking points.”
Perhaps your small business has grown to the point of being able to merge with another business. This growth could affect them. So they must be aware, and the process is transparent.
Would you know how to communicate that sensitive information?
2. Turn to Digital
Let’s imagine that your town or city is experiencing inclement weather. A blizzard or a hurricane. How do you communicate with your employees about closures? Do you have an emergency plan in place?
This information also appears in the internal communication plan you should have. You may say, “well, I will send my employees an email anytime I need to let them know about something.” After all, emails have become a staple of office communication.
But your employees already receive enough emails, which could cause them to miss yours. Consider newsletters, social media, and the intranet. Also, have a plan in place in case your city loses power. In which case, no digital strategy would matter.
This said, do not underestimate the power of in-person meetings and events. We have become accustomed to doing everything online. We forget that sometimes an effective way of communicating our message is face-to-face. So rather than sending a newsletter, consider an event that gets them away from their desks for a bit.
3. Create a Calendar
While using different ways to communicate with your employees, try to do so consistently.
Work with your Communications Department to establish a content calendar. This will ensure that newsletters, email announcements, and staff meetings occur at regular intervals.
If your employees know that, on the last day of every month, a newsletter circulates, they will know to keep an eye out for it. If they are aware that the first day of every new quarter there is a staff meeting, they will keep it on their calendars.
Keep in mind that, as much as we want to believe otherwise, people talk. It will be essential for you to communicate any upcoming changes as early as possible. Stay ahead of the rumor mill. This will help avoid misinformation and creating undue concern among your staff.
And don’t be afraid to make it fun!
Employees should enjoy coming to work every day. You want to create an enjoyable work environment. Celebrate your team’s efforts and accomplishments. Include this in your internal communication plan. Whether it is formal or informal, remember to keep it consistent.
4. Sing Out, Louise
Don’t think that when a customer needs to be aware of something, they can just look at your website.
How often do you think people are visiting your small business’s website? Other than to place an order, for example.
What we want to say is that external communication is not always the same as marketing. It can be true that, for your small business, it may be the bulk of your external communication efforts. Yet, even small businesses will have external communication needs beyond sales and marketing.
Common examples of effective tools for external communication include:
1. Direct mailings
2. Email Blasts
3. Social media updates
4. Press releases
First, it will be important for you to be clear on the need. Are customers confused by the details of a promotion? Are you implementing changes to your terms and conditions? Are you discontinuing a certain product or service? These are examples in which having an external communication plan is necessary.
Don’t neglect or fail to communicate with a clear voice to your customers. When they feel that they are an essential part of your small business, they will become loyal to your brand. This is part of enhancing customer relations.
5. Be prepared for the negative
Technology plays a significant role in the way we communicate. While it allows regular dissemination of information, it can open up your small business for backlash. This takes form in the way of negative posts on Facebook, Instagram, or in the comments section of a website.
Make sure you know how is your small business going to handle these incidents. This is something else you will want to include in your external communication plan. Don’t wait until it happens. Start considering how to address it ASAP.
Make sure your communication plan has a section that describes how to react to negative reviews or comments.
Internal communication vs. external communication plan: what’s the difference?
The content of internal and external communication is entirely different, but each one contributes to a business’s success.
For instance, internal communication is when you communicate with members of your business organization. Examples include instant messages to employees about an upcoming staff meeting or a notification about the company Christmas party. Information shared internally isn’t distributed to the public.
On the other hand, a company sends external communication to customers, investors, vendors, or other third-party entities. Messages might include product and service updates, announcements about an upcoming event, or links to your business’s website.
Start Communicating Effectively
Public relations also play a key role in affecting a business’s bottom line as much as sales and revenue. It will help you shape your public image to the community and your customers.
Do you want to be identified as a small business with a strong philanthropic spirit?
Are you donating a certain percentage of your revenue to a charitable organization?
Are you participating in a work-release program?
Then ensure that your stakeholders and customers know these initiatives.
These are the basics of how to develop a communication plan, both internal and external. It is time to execute it and stick to it! Communication plans are an organic document always subject to change. It is crucial not to deviate from whatever plan is currently in place: it could create chaos.
Remember this: communicate early and honestly.
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