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Creating an Effective Communications Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

Published May 2, 2024
/ Updated May 8, 2024

Good marketing looks effortless. But it has an underlying structure – a communications plan. Every message is well-executed, and marketing is one moving part of a greater whole. Not only that, but the messaging cuts through the noise and resonates with your audience.

So what goes into a communications plan, and how can you make one for your team? We’ll explain what this nifty resource is and the 10 steps it takes to create one.

What Is a Communications Plan?

A communications plan is a full-scope plan for delivering key messages to your audience to drive positive business outcomes.

The phrase “communications plan” can refer to any plan for an organization’s communications but in this post, we’re thinking on a top-down level. When you complete the steps outlined here, you’ll have the foundation for your communications operations.

CoSchedule graphic on what communication plans will establish


It’ll frame your communications with clear goals and methods to keep them consistent and results-oriented.

Step 1: Conduct A Comprehensive Marketing Communications Audit

Before crafting your communications plan, evaluate your current communications with an audit. The auditing process involves reviewing all of the communications material and strategies you have now to see what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to conduct an audit:

  1. Establish Objectives and Scope: Define the purpose of the audit and what you aim to achieve. You can also determine the scope of the audit, such as which channels, campaigns, and strategies will be assessed.
  2. Gather Information: Collect all relevant marketing materials, including advertisements, social media posts, email campaigns, website content, and promotional materials.
  3. Review Branding and Messaging: Evaluate your brand identity, including your logo, colors, typography, and tone of voice.
  4. Analyze Marketing Channels: Evaluate the performance of each marketing channel you utilize, including digital (website, social media, email, search engine marketing) and traditional (print, TV, radio).
  5. Identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT Analysis): Summarize your findings from the audit and identify key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing your marketing communications efforts.

Here’s a helpful example of a SWOT analysis:

CoSchedule graphic on an example of SWOT analysis


Step 2: Define Clear Objectives And Goals

To define clear objectives and goals for a communications plan, it’s crucial to start by aligning them with the organization’s overall strategic objectives and priorities. This involves understanding the company’s mission, vision, and values, as well as its long-term goals and short-term targets.

From there, you can identify the specific outcomes that you aim to achieve through your communication efforts. This could include increasing brand awareness, driving sales, improving customer satisfaction, or enhancing reputation.

CoSchedule graphic on how to choose the right marketing objectives


Step 3: Define Your Brand’s Unique Voice And Messaging

How does your brand like to communicate? Is it fun and upbeat? Is it to the point and punchy? Your messaging and communication plan will depend solely on your brand voice.

Once you have your brand voice defined, you’ll want to make sure your messaging, content, and overall communication reflect your brand voice. CoSchedule’s AI software Hire Mia lets you input your brand voice and incorporates it into all of your content, so you don’t have to.


Step 4: Identify And Understand Your Target Audience

Let’s learn not only how to identify your target audience, but to understand them.

How to Identify Your Target Audience

Good, old-fashioned data will help you figure out the best audience for your product or service.

Regardless of your organization’s age and resources, you have high-quality audience data available at your fingertips.

Try one of these strategies:

  • Survey your customers: Use a tool like Google Forms to ask your current customers about their demographics, and preferences, such as age, gender, and their favorite products.
  • Check out your Google Analytics: Hook up Google Analytics to your site to learn more about your visitors. It delivers data on demographics like location, gender, and interests.

Step 5: Develop Key Messages For Each Audience Segment

Once you’ve identified your target audience, it’s crucial to develop key messages that will resonate with each segment. Consider the unique needs, interests, and priorities of different audience segments and tailor your message accordingly.

CoSchedule graphic on how to segment customers based on certain categories


Craft messages that highlight the benefits of your products or services, address audience pain points and communicate your brand’s value proposition effectively.

Step 6: Choose Your Communication Channels

Choosing the right communication channels helps you effectively reach your target audience. Consider where your audience spends online and offline and select channels that align with their preferences and behaviors.

There are different types of marketing channels, and each is beneficial depending on what you’re looking for.

Here are some examples of marketing and communication channels:

Free Marketing Channels: Social media apps like LinkedIn, Q&A platforms like Quora, and websites like Product Hunt.

Paid Marketing Channels: Paid ads, commercials, and influencer marketing.

Digital Marketing Channels: Social media, organic search (SEO), paid search, blogs, emails, and video marketing.

Traditional Marketing Channels: Direct mail, broadcast, print, and outdoor advertising such as billboards.

By using a mix of channels, you can maximize your reach and engagement with your target audience while ensuring that your messaging is delivered in the most relevant and impactful way possible.

Step 7: Create A Messaging Matrix

With your target audience, key messages, and communications channels under your belt, you can bring them all together in a messaging matrix.

A typical messaging matrix coordinates these marketing concepts by audience:

  • Brand Statement: The value you provide.
  • Target Audience: The people who benefit from that value.
  • Core Problem/Issue: The problem you solve for your audiences.
  • Key Messages: How you communicate your value.

CoSchedule graphic on what you need in a messaging matrix


Step 8: Outline Your Communications Tactics And Campaigns

Your Communications Tactics

Communication tactics define the actions you’ll take to spread your key messages. On a base level, they explain three levels:

  • What you’ll do to spread your message
  • How you’ll take that action
  • When/how often you’ll do that action

Check out the example objectives we shared and possible tactics to achieve them:

Communications Tactics

  • Increase social media followers: Schedule daily posts on Instagram using CoSchedule
  • Increase web traffic: Publish bi-monthly blog posts on thought leadership topics using the CoSchedule CMS
  • Enhance brand reputation: Conduct customer surveys every month on product quality and customer experience through Qualtrics

Your Communications Campaigns

Marketers organize and measure their communications tactics through marketing campaigns. Marketing campaign projects have these three elements:

Communications Campaigns

  • More than one event, action, or piece of content
  • A unified theme that connects them
  • Clear beginning and end dates

Step 10: Refine Your Communication Plan Based On Feedback And Results

Effective communication plans are fluid, adapting based on real-time feedback and measurable results.

From customer surveys to social media insights, every piece of feedback is an opportunity to fine-tune your strategy. Establish clear metrics for success and utilize analytics tools to monitor your progress.

These could be quantitative, like increased website traffic or newsletter subscriptions, or qualitative, such as improved brand perception. Use analytics dashboards, sentiment analysis, and engagement tracking tools to gather data. Then, set regular intervals to review this data. Is your message resonating? Are you reaching your target audience?

But don’t just collect data—act on it. If certain messages are underperforming, tweak your copy or the channels you’re using. If one platform is yielding better results, consider reallocating resources to capitalize on that success. Remember, the goal is to enhance your communication continually.