Writing a Communications Plan

In the course of executing a project, the various stakeholders communicate with each other through documents, e-mails, meetings etc. Communications may be one-to-one (between project manager and team leader) or one-to-many (project leader instructing the team members) or many-to-one (team members submitting status reports to team leader).

A communication plan helps to maintain uniformity and streamline verbal, written and electronic communication. When there is a good communication plan in place, it becomes easy to retrieve information about the project by scanning through the recorded communications. For example, the plan can state that after a project meeting, minutes of the meeting have to be prepared in a pre-defined format and circulated via e-mail among the team members. This would enable absent members to know what items were discussed and what decisions were taken at the meeting. The meeting minutes will help to track action items assigned to a team member during the meeting.

Items which call for communication between various entities involved in the project:

  • Periodic status updates
  • Operating procedure instructions
  • Meeting notes for internal team discussions
  • Meeting notes for discussions held with the client / vendor
  • Media and public relations announcements (if any)
  • Queries and reports
  • Task allocation and tracking
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Preparation, review and updates for project documents

For each type of communication expected to take place during the project, the following information should be documented in the communication plan.

  • Objective of the communication – what you want your audience to know.
  • Context
  • Initiator
  • Target audience
  • Mode of communication (e-mail / phone / in-person / document / online publication)
  • Standard template or sample showing how the communication is documented
  • Whether follow-up is required
  • Whether a reply is expected and timeframe for the reply
  • Timelines for action items (if any)
  • Tools for manual and automated communication (For example, all team members receive a mail when a shared file is updated)

A communication plan should enable each communication to have the following features

  • Clarity and understanding
  • Focus on the context
  • Capture attention of the target audience
  • Feedback to ensure that the communicator and the audience are on the same page
  • Timing
  • Credibility, consistency, correctness and relevance of  information passed on
  • Specify what is expected of the audience

In order to prepare an effective communication plan, brainstorm with team members and all stakeholders to formulate a plan that is convenient to all. Find out how existing modes of communication may be improved. The plan should facilitate a means of measuring / evaluating results (For example, when defining templates for submitting reports ensure that the percentage of completion of the task, list of pending items, expected completion date etc. are readily available on a cursory glance)

The communication plan may require constant update as the project progresses. Initially the team members may have to submit weekly status reports. As the delivery dates approach, a more frequent status reporting might be required. A good communication plan gives a project a better chance of success by dissipating information smoothly to stakeholders.

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