Ask communications professionals if they think planning is important and most will agree it is. However, it seems clear from study after study that planning is still one of the weaker areas for communications as a profession. At ICPlan we’re on a mission to uncover the pitfalls and barriers to planning across the Corporate Comms function. We have collaborated with author and consultant, Liam FitzPatrick, to develop a comprehensive study on the issues that influence the way organisations plan communications.
On that note, we’ve launched a survey aimed at communicators from across the spectrum – from internal to external. We want to hear how they plan and are asking them to take just a few minutes to tell us what influences and affects their approach to planning.
You can take the anonymous survey here: Planning in Communications Survey
Planning in Communications: A Paradox
Communications always benefits greatly from thoughtful planning. In fact, we’ve seen companies that have been reactive in their communications during the recent COVID-19 crisis are those that have struggled more than others. Meanwhile, those that clearly have their strategy and plans defined and agreed are able to weather challenges pretty well. Despite this contrast, many times communicators operate without a clear idea of what they want to achieve much less how they want to get there.
Why then does this happen? Well, there really are a diverse range of reasons. Those reasons include too little time to allocate towards focusing on planning and implementation, a general lack of interest from leadership in the company, and even divergent opinions on what should even be contained in plans. It’s also worth noting that many plans are pulled together hastily—without due diligence—and can collapse when coming into contact with the real world.
Lessons from the Crisis
No one was truly prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. With many businesses temporarily closed down or forced into adapting new ways of operating by government restrictions and measures, a lot of communicators found whatever existing plans they had were no longer fit for purpose. The earliest days of the global lockdowns saw many scrambling to come up with a plan for their comms in the face of disjointed and anxious employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
For communicators, this activity was taking place against a backdrop of the ever-present challenge of integrating internal and external communications, which all too often creates a situation within comms teams where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. This crisis has proved once again that planning in communications is something that can’t just be put off or fall to the bottom of the pile. We need to start getting things right.
Better Planning in Communications: The Necessity of Study
As communicators, for us to be able to navigate the challenges we all face in terms of planning in communications, it’s critical that we start with understanding what the common barriers and roadblocks are. The survey we have created will only take ten minutes of your time but will still cover a lot of key areas of interest. These include what kind of planning takes place in your organisation at the moment, what planning approach you apply to individual projects, and even what factors help or harm implementation. Finally, we also explore who you involve in the development of your comms plans and ultimate sign-off.
We want to stress that this is not just for internal communicators exclusively. We also want to incorporate the views and experiences of every kind of comms professional from across the diverse comms spectrum. Do internal communicators view and approach strategy in the same way as those in media relations or public affairs? How tightly integrated—or disparate—are these plans? Is there overlap in the utilization of tools? Do comms teams in a company strive for consistency in their messaging?
We Learn and Grow Together
Please also note that this research project is also open to communicators from around the world. In fact, we are hoping to get a more diverse global perspective on planning in communications. We are interested in learning how comms professionals across the world view, approach, and deal with the problems we all face as a community and a profession.
What’s in it for YOU?
We will be carefully analysing the collected data over the course of the summer. We will then be publishing the report in September. Respondents who want to receive a copy of the research report can leave their email address at the end of the questionnaire. Additionally, we are also making a donation of $1 for each completed survey to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)/Doctors without Borders Coronavirus Crisis Appeal.
The world has changed a great deal from just a few months ago when the COVID-19 crisis hit, yet the challenges of effective communication planning remain. In seeking to understand what needs to be improved in terms of planning, we believe that we can make a lasting impact for the communications profession.