Communication Plans

One of the first jobs I ever had was working in a shampoo factory.  They made mouthwash at the same location, so the running joke was that it was a good place to work because all of your co-workers had clean hair and fresh breath.  Besides a new found appreciation for personal hygiene, there were two take-aways that I had from my time there.

  1. Most shampoos are the same.  95% of what’s in the bottle is water and a detergent like sodium lauryl sulfate.  It’s the remaining 5% of ingredients that really differentiate the product.   
  2. Directions for use recommend that you “rinse and repeat.” 

These two insights provide perfect guidance for communication planning.  It doesn’t matter if you’re responsible for a global marketing campaign or a grade school bake sale, 95% of the activities for developing your communication plan are exactly the same.  They only thing that’s really different is budgets and scale.  Furthermore, one of the most important elements for a successful plan is to repeat key messages over and over again.  

In spite of this, I’ve observed that many projects don’t give the necessary time and attention to communication planning.  The most common explanation is that people often get so internally focused on keeping things on time, budget, and scope, that they forget to give the proper attention to one of the things the matters most – communicating to the people who will be affected by the project.

Communication plans don’t need to be fancy or complicated.  On the contrary, a simple, well executed, plan will undoubtedly deliver results.

Attached below is a basic communication planning template that I use for all of my projects.  I’ve also successfully used this format to train other project and product managers. 

A good communication plan should always start with defining “Why” you are communicating in the first place.  Take some time to clarify what it is you’re trying to accomplish.  This should be more specific than “to make