Boosting Strategic Communication Planning for 2023
Fall is known for many things: the scents of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg; cider mills, apple picking and autumnal décor; and harvest festivals and Halloween parades. And for internal communicators, it’s known for rushed timelines, frantic typing, a million calls, and urgent launches.
It makes sense; everyone is working hard to wrap up initiatives and push goals to the finish line before the end of December – us included. There’s only so much time.
While it may seem counterintuitive to claim this is the perfect time to start thinking about your 2023 strategic plan when you’re busy with so many urgent needs, it is.
As you march into year-end financial reviews, this groundwork will help you present your business case for the 2023 budget and resources. We’ve heard from many clients that procurement is adding more rigor to this year’s Q4 process as well, a precaution for some and a necessary financial move for others.
However, communicators know that internal comms needs never stop and that having a break in your plan or agency support in Q1 can cause major issues for you and your team. Where do you start?
Before you develop your 2023 internal communications plan (which we'll get into), consider these three factors:
1. FOCUS ON EMPLOYEES
When you think about your major stakeholders, c-suite execs may top the list. We’re not delusional enough to think the leaders of your company aren’t major players, but your biggest and most important clients are your employees. Your employees, including mid-level managers and individual contributors, are the people driving your business, and they deserve attention.
If you don’t fully understand the day-to-day work or obstacles front-line employees face in gathering and internalizing job-critical information, you need more data, and you need it now. It may look like a communications preferences survey or take the form of targeted focus groups and UX research. The data you gather will help you focus your efforts on the right topics and channels, limiting the amount you’re guessing.
2. FOCUS ON NOISE REDUCTION
At home, we’re constantly flooding our senses with ads, information, graphics and opinions. And I’m sure you’ve seen the same thing at work: one group rolls out a successful internal newsletter, and the next thing you know, two more pop up and three more after that – each diluting the other’s effectiveness, not to mention tanking your company’s productivity.
According to Asana’s Anatomy of Work Global Index, 58 percent of an employee's time is spent on menial tasks – what Asana labeled "work about work" – which includes work communications, searching for information and switching between apps. Meanwhile, only 33 percent of their time is spent on "skilled" (i.e., meaningful) work, while only 9 percent of the day is dedicated to strategic work toward major goals.
To help increase your people’s focus on the tasks that matter, remind yourself that what you choose not to send, share or post amplifies everything you do send. Good IC planning isn’t about including a million touchpoints. It’s about restraint.
3. FOCUS ON QUALITY
At Brilliant Ink, we believe quality beats quantity every time. (True, repetition is key to good communication, but there are many ways to repeat and reinforce.)
As you think about your plan for next year and focus on what’s most important to communicate, think about where you can do fewer things better.
- Consider boosting your creative approach around organizational goals and values because those are the tenants you need employees to take into every decision.
- Scale back on your newsletters and invest in one with dynamic or interactive content.
- Reduce your comms channels and upgrade your intranet or search capabilities so people benefit from the tools you already have.
How To Create AN Internal Communications Plan
With these three factors in mind, it’s time to create your internal communications strategic plan. Comprehensive strategic plans typically include some combination of these 10 sections:
- Data Sources: Share the data sources and high-level themes that informed your plan. Whom have you asked, what did they say and why are those insights important?
- Major Goals: What are the key goals the comms function will work toward based on the data you gathered?
- Major Themes: What will you be driving through your comms? Strategic priorities, values and major organizational shifts might show up here.
- Key Channels: What are the essential channels you’ll leverage next year?
- Frequency/Timeline: How much and how often are you going to be speaking to the people? You can list the number of all-team meetings or the frequency of publications here.
- The Team: Who makes up the IC team? Are there open seats or important agency partners or vendors? Capture all the people you need to keep things running and achieve the goals you’ve outlined for the year.
- Measurement: How will you show progress or measure the effectiveness of this plan? What data sources will you tap? What metrics will you monitor?
- Appendix: This is where all the detailed information can live – things your boss and team might love, but your partners in finance could care less about.
- Messaging: Beyond the major themes, how will you be talking about key organizational messages or priorities this year? How are you going to talk about values and employee experience?
- Tactical plan: Knowing what will go out to whom, when and why is critical for any IC strategy, yet only some people need this level of detail so leave it for the end.
LET’S MAKE THE NEW YEAR COUNT
If this is all too overwhelming, you can call on us. We partner with most of our clients on 2023 planning because we bring our outside perspective, strategic thinking and templates – making the planning process as painless as possible. Plus, we get insight into your priorities and challenges in a new way, which helps us to be even better partners and plan for your needs throughout the year.
Not a client? We’re happy to chat with you about the year ahead, share some insight into how to approach your plan development and recommend any support or partners within our network that might be helpful to you in the future.
And if you need some additional resources to anchor your big-picture thinking, check out these articles:
- How to Build Successful Communications Plans for 2023 (PRGN)
- How to Audit Your Internal Communications + Free Templates (Brilliant Ink)
- How to Build a Brilliant Internal Communication Plan (LumApps)