Communication planning is the art and science of reaching target audiences using marketing communication channels such as advertising, public relations, experiences or direct mail for example. It is concerned with deciding who to target, when, with what message and how.
In 'The Better Mousetrap: Brand Invention in a Media Democracy', Pont emphasises that “Communications planning takes the consumer as the start point, rather than the brand, and acknowledges that people don’t experience brand messages in neatly wrapped and singular packages. People build an overall and ever shifting impression of a brand through a non-linear set of messages, whether that brand exposure is a million-dollar TV ad, a beer coaster, bumper sticker, or an editorial piece they read on the train. It is “channel agnostic”, and thus argues that brand communications is the sum total of all points of contact with consumers, how they join up, interplay and write themselves large and compelling, adding (with hope) to a significantly greater whole.”
In execution, the communication plan serves as a guide to the communication and sponsorship efforts throughout the duration of the project. It is a living and working document and is updated periodically as audience needs change. It explains how to convey the right message, from the right communicator, to the right audience, through the right channel, at the right time. It addresses the six basic elements of communications: communicator, message, communication channel, feedback mechanism, receiver/audience, and time frame.
A communication plan includes:
- “Who” - the target audiences
- “What” – the key messages that are trying to be articulated
- “When” – timing, it will specify the appropriate time of delivery for each message
- “Why” – the desired outcomes
- “How” - the communication vehicle (how the message will be delivered)
- “By whom” - the sender (determining who will deliver the information and how he or she is chosen)
Many agencies, PR, advertising and media alike, claim to have this capability.
- Ferguson, S.D. (1999) Communication Planning: An Integrated Approach, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN 978-0761913146
- Pont, Simon (2012) The Better Mousetrap: Brand Invention in a Media Democracy, Kogan Page. ISBN 978-0749466213
- Taylor, Jim (2005) Space Race: An inside view of the future of communications planning, John Wiley & Sons Ltd ISBN 978-0470094518
- Young, Antony (2010) Brand Media Strategy: Integrated Communications Planning in the Digital Era, Palgrave MacMillan ISBN 978-0230104747