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Developing a communications plan

Once we know who are stakeholders are, we need to consider how best to communicate with them as we'll discuss in this step.
Once you’ve identified who your stakeholders are in the change process, you will need to think about how to engage with them. And part of this involves drawing up a communication plan. Often, the comms are designed for quite a high level in the organisation. And one of the things that I do often with my clients is to say, OK, let’s define our audiences. So we might have a senior managers. We might have our shareholders, customers. We’ve also got our frontline staff. So let’s have a think about how can we translate the benefits of the change in a language that all of those levels of people would understand. And I’ve very rarely seen that done well, I have to say.
But the organisations that understand that, again, are the ones that really are much more successful in bringing the staff along with them.

In the last step, you identified who the stakeholders were in the case study. Once we know who are stakeholders are, we need to consider how we will communicate with them – who do we need to inform about what? When should we do this? What is the best way to communicate?

Take a look at this example of a communication plan, which includes an example of how you could apply this to a particular stakeholder – in this case a sales team in relation to a change process which relates to the acquisition of a company. (If you have difficulty opening this zip file, please see downloads section below for a pdf version.)

Think about how you would fill this in for the stakeholders you’ve identified in the case. Alternatively, if you need to create one in your own context – try and relate what we’ve covered to this.

Remember to consider the full mix of communications tools you may have. For example, roadshows, newsletters, departmental meetings, one-to-one’s with staff, team meetings and so on.

It will be important to include line managers within your plan. Depending on the size of your organisation, you will likely need to rely on middle managers to support the change – and provide feedback so you have an understanding of how the messages are being perceived by employees.

While the initial communication plan is vital, you will need to revisit and adapt this as the change process begins – as we’ll come on to next week.

Further resources

If you’re interested, more resources on how to write communications plans can be found in the following books:

Hodges, J. and Gill, R. (2015) Sustaining Change in Organizations, Sage: London.

Mattock, J. (2017) Cross-cultural Communication: The Essential Guide to International Business, Kogan Page London.

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