How flexible is your communications plan?

Gioconda Beekman
Jan 18, 2017 · 3 min read

In a world where people’s expectations are constantly changing, businesses need to think about new ways of working to succeed.

Image copyright: Chris Guy

At the Vision conference last year, Mark Curtis from Fjord touched on this as part of his presentation about living services. He talked about “living operations” when describing the organisational change needed both from a culture and operations perspective as part of the “digitisation of everything”.

I found it an inspiring topic and have been thinking about how this concept impacts the communications environment and more specifically communications planning.

To give some context, I have come from a world where annual plans and quarterly reviews are king. Every single detail of activity planned and agreed in advance for the entire year, with progress on set targets and metrics reviewed every quarter. A way of working which aligned with annual budget cycles and business reporting. It made sense… then.

But times are changing and in my opinion these planning cycles need to change with them, to reflect the environment we operate in and make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.

So, what are the key considerations when changing your approach to communications planning?

1) Stay focused on the long term

· Where do you want the business to be in 3–5 years’ time?

· What needs to change for that to happen?

· What are the key elements needed to make this work?

2) But be flexible

· Listen and learn from what is happening around you.

· Get insights from across the entire business.

· Anticipate change, where possible and be prepared to act upon it.

3) And measure from the beginning

· Focus on measuring business outcomes as well as outputs.

· Make sure the right tools are in place to get feedback, often.

· Review and discuss regularly and be prepared to make changes.

You may think that some of these points don’t sit naturally side by side. Think long term but be flexible and change things? It is possible. But it requires a willingness to regularly review and discuss what is happening and — if necessary — to adjust or change activity based on what you learn.

We now live in a world where we can have so much information at our fingertips, so why not use it? Some things may seem a great idea at the beginning of the year, but if they’re not working well, why not adjust your resources and budget on something that will provide better results? Learn from what you see and hear and listen to your audience.

In my view, today’s communications plans need to reflect the real-time environment we find ourselves in, while not losing sight of the long term business goals it needs to support. Flexibility is important, together with strong insight and good collaboration across the business. For many organisations, this means a change in approach and mind set, working much closer together and breaking down silos. Yes, it’s different and yes, it’s likely to be a challenge at the beginning but eventually (and I personally hope soon), this will be the norm.

What do you think? I would love to hear your views on this topic and find examples where making changing to your planning process have made a positive contribution to the business.

Gioconda Beekman

Written by

Communications Consultant, Interim and Strategic Projects.

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