Guideline Thirteen | Communicate

13. Define a clear communication plan following stakeholder analysis and detailed media review.

Good communication is a part of effective project management, yet all too often we don't give it enough thought. As is the message throughout this website, we need to sit down and plan; answering key questions:

  • Who are we communicating with? 
  • Why are we communicating with them?
  • What are we communicating to them?
  • Will there be a ‘two-way’ aspect to our communication?
  • What medium are we going to communicate with?
  • Who will be responsible for the communication?
  • When will we communicate?

The first step for our communication strategy is stakeholder analysis. The answer to the above questions may be very different for the different stakeholder groups. It is also useful to undertake a media analysis that assesses the usefulness to the project of the various publications, media and communication methods you can access. This might consider target audiences, typical content, distribution/visibility, frequency of publication, lead times and ‘ownership’ (i.e. who controls the content). On the basis of the stakeholder analysis and media analysis you can begin to develop a communication plan. This needs to be discussed with your project team and Reference Group (or similar) and ultimately signed off so that it becomes part of the formal project documentation – therefore subject to review and evaluation. Involving the project team and some key stakeholders in drafting the plan will not only result in a better plan but will increase engagement and ownership of the plan, and therefore the project. The plan can be a simple spreadsheet or a more formal document. The key point is that you have to be comfortable with the format of the plan and your ability to manage, review and, if necessary, modify it. There should be links from your communication plan to other plans associated with managing the project. This will help to ensure that communications are appropriately geared to key project activities and its overall progress.

Putting the term "writing a communication plan" into Google resulted in 1,880,000 items; clearly evidence of the importance of having a plan! While looking at all these sites is not recommended, we suggest one that covers all the key points with a bit of humour. Link  This, together with a look at the three examples in the resources section, should be enough. Draft a rough template that covers the questions above. Refine it with the project team; ask members of the team to populate it. Refine it. Take it to the Reference Group. Modify. Decide on indicators that will show communication is happening as desired. Evaluate and be prepared to change your plan at any time.