CHANGE & PROJECT MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION PLANS
Communication Plan With Samples, Strategies, and Templates for 2020
This simple to use communication plan provides you with a step-by-step overview of everything you need to know to communicate with project stakeholders, business leaders, and internal or external impacted audience groups.
This plan includes best communication practices, templates, and sample communication messages that can be leveraged by Change Management Practitioners, Project Management Managers, Program Leads, Marketing Practitioners, and Communication Managers.
Illustration: Sample Communication Plan Matrix Template
First, What is a Change Communication Plan?
A change communication plan is a documentation of the who, what, when, how, and where. It outlines who the communication target audience is, what they need to know, when they need to be communicated with, how they will be communicated with, and where.
To be effective, a change plan should include a detailed overview of the target audience groups and individuals, as well as the delivery channels, objectives, timing, prioritization, and the approach that will be used.
What is a Project Management Communication Plan?
A project management communication plan is also a change communication plan, but it is focused on the who, what, when, how and where – from a project management perspective. It includes an overview of the impacted project stakeholders that will be communicated with, as well as the project delivery channels that will be used to communicate with this audience.
To be effective, a project communication plan should include an overview of the communication objectives (What do you want your project messages to achieve? What do you need project stakeholders to do? What do you need them to be aware of? etc.). It should also include the timing and prioritization of your various project communication campaigns.
Example of Project Stakeholder Groups – Included on Project Communication Plan
Communication Guide – Everything You Need to Know
- Best Ways to Identify Your Target Audience
- What Needs to be Communicated for Your Program
- Your Communication Plan Must Include These Channels
- Samples & Templates for Your Communication
Best Ways to Identify the Target Audience for Your Communication
Decades of change management studies have shown that there are some key steps you need to take to effectively identify your communication target audience groups.
These key steps are outlined below for you to use as a checklist when developing your communication plan for a change.
- Conduct a stakeholder audience assessment
- Identify who will be impacted by the project or by the change
- Perform a change impact assessment
- Identify how they will be impacted, and what they need to do
- Meet with the project sponsors, key stakeholders, and other project resources to gather additional information on who else will be impacted by the change, and also gather a high-level summary of what these additional individuals and groups need to know
- Review project documents including the project charter, work breakdown structure (WBS), and project plans to see if you can identify any additional groups that need to be communicated with
After completing your assessments, you should integrate your findings into your change management communication plan, or your project communication strategy.
On your plan, include an “Audience Analysis” or an “Impacted Audience Groups” section, which will involve an overview of the stakeholder groups identified above.
When providing status updates or when meeting with project sponsors, and other firm leaders, this Impacted Audience Groups section will be of great interest to them.
Managers, project sponsors, and key stakeholders are always interested in knowing – at a high level – which groups and departments will be impacted and what needs to be communicated. Especially because they will often help in cascading your communications through their respective departments and groups.
What Needs to be Communicated?
How to communicate: One of the questions you should be asking groups that will be impacted by a project is how they prefer to receive communication. See below sections for a detailed overview of the various communication channels you should leverage for your project management communication plan and strategies.
For what to communicate, leverage the output from your change impact assessment (sometimes referred to as a gap analysis – current state vs. future state). Click here to read more: Change Impact Assessment | Everything You Need to Know. Also, see the below image.
Illustration – Change impact template for identifying communication groups
Your Communication Plan Must Include These Channels
Effective communication of a project, program, or business transformation is vital to the overall success of a change or a business transformation. Based on decades of studies by Prosci and other change management organizations, a lack of awareness about a change is the number one reason why stakeholders and impacted users resist a business change.
Best practices show that to effectively communicate with stakeholders, including internal and external audience groups, you should utilize a multi-prong communication strategy, which involves applying at least 4 of the communication channels listed below.
Communication Channels & Templates
- Communication via Email
- Communication via Newsletter
- Two-Way Communication
- 3×5 Leadership Communication
- Intranet/Blog Communication
- Videos & Recordings
Communication via Email | Sample & Template
Communicating the status of a project, providing awareness to customers or internal groups, communicating a new program, impacts, business change, or transformation are often done using emails.
Depending on the global or regional scope of your target communication audience, email will be the primary communication channel you will use to broadcast your communications.
Outlook has a feature that allows you to track when someone opens and reads the email. However, the reader has to first click “Yes” on a pop up asking them to allow tracking. Unfortunately, most people will click no.
To more effectively track the success of your email communications, it is recommended that you use a 3rd party tool or an Outlook extension.
Your company (e.g., your HR department or Corporate Communications) most likely already has such a tool you can use to broadcast email communications, plus track metrics like open rates, number of people that “clicked on links within the email”, how much time people are spending reading the email, number of times the email was forwarded, and other trackable metrics.
Structure & Format to Use for Your Email Communication
How should you structure and format your communication broadcast message?
We recommend that you break up your email message into segments – paragraphs and bullet points. People don’t like to read long lines of text messages in an email. Bullet points and short paragraphs are best practices.
Sample Email Communication Template
Benefits of Email Awareness Communications
Regular change management awareness communications and program status update emails are essential for engaging with key stakeholders. It is a vital way to communicate with your internal audience (company employees and managers) or external audience (customers, suppliers, vendors, etc.), especially those that are directly impacted by the change.
Awareness and status-update email communications are effective for providing impacted employees and customers with a good understanding of the program (what is changing, what are the benefits, and what’s the risk of not changing), as well as keeping end-users engaged throughout the duration of the change.
Click here to download an email communication template that you can use for your project: Email Awareness Communication Sample Template.
Communication via Newsletter | Sample & Template
People generally skim through communications, without really taking the time to read every word. As such, using a newsletter format, which involves succinct messages and images is an important communication delivery channel that should be part of your communication plan.
When available, also add embedded videos or video links to your newsletters.
Leveraging newsletters as one of your communication delivery channels will greatly increase your ability to engage with readers and stakeholders. You should draft, socialize with selected people for feedback, and then broadcast your newsletters using a set cadence (i.e., weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, every 2 months, etc.).
This sets an expectation in people’s minds to expect your newsletters on a regular basis, which is important because people like to feel that they are “in the loop”.
Sample Newsletter Communication Message
What Kinds of Messages Can you Communicate Using a Newsletter?
Sample communications include:
- Program kick-off
- Program status updates
- Implementation roadmap
- Completed milestones
- Heads-up / what’s next
- How and where to get help
- Training communications
- Go-Live & post Go-Live messages
Where possible, make sure to customize your newsletter based on the targeted audience that you plan to send the change communication newsletter communication to.
For example, verbiage and wording used in newsletter communications to Sales, Finance, and Accounting will be slightly different from communication broadcasts sent to IT or Operations.
You want to include verbiage that the reader can relate to. If you send a communication to Sales that is filled with technical jargon, your audience will not relate and will quickly disregard your communication.
Click here Newsletter Template to download a template that you can use for your project.
Two-Way Communication Strategy
As part of your communications plan, you should include a two-way communication strategy that involves both “Telling” and “Listening”.
- Telling is communicating to people
- Listening is hearing what these same people have to say
Change Managers, Program Leads, and Communication Specialists often communicate using a Telling strategy where all they do is communicate to their target audience. They don’t often involve the Listening component which involves hearing what people at the grassroots level are saying about what is being communicated.
By applying a Telling and a Listening strategy, you are communicating and also getting valuable input that will allow you to gauge the success of your communications.
Your Listening strategy should involve meeting with Change Champions, Super Users, Managers, and other stakeholders to gather what they are hearing from people at the grassroots level. What are front-line employees saying, and how are they reacting to what was communicated? How are customers reacting to communication? Is there support or resistance to what is being communicated?
3×5 Leadership Communication | Sample & Template
Your communication strategy and plan should also include 3×5 regular updates to key stakeholders, impacted managers, senior executives, and any other senior project resources.
As the name implies, a 3×5 communication strategy involves providing a succinct update using three columns (what you achieved, what you are working on, and what you plan to do next).
Each of these three columns will list five achieved, in-progress, and planned activities, respectively.
Click to download: Sample Template – 3×5 Leadership Communication
When communicating a change to senior leaders, and project management leads, they generally like to receive communication that is succinct and presented from a high-level perspective. When leaders desire more detailed information, they prefer to be the ones asking for such details versus you sending them a very detailed first communication.
You will immediately lose the attention of most senior leaders if you send them communication that has too many details, which is why including a 3×5 as part of your change management communications plan or project communication strategy is highly recommended.
FAQs Communication Strategy
To address frequently asked questions about the change, you should include FAQs as part of your communication strategy.
You can have one FAQ page that includes all frequently asked questions and answers or you can have individual pages. Irrespective, this page or pages should be maintained regularly, and kept up to date with frequently asked questions and provided answers.
Also, a best project communication practice is to include a link at the bottom of every communication that you send out that points people to your FAQs.
This will help drive end-user traffic to the FAQ page(s).
Sample FAQ Page
The FAQ page(s) should be published and maintained on the firm’s internal or external blog, and should be accessible to all target audience groups. Using SharePoint or another internal platform that requires special access and approvals will not be ideal.
Open access provides the broadest level of access to all target audience groups.
If you need to ensure exposure to customers and external parties, then post it on the company’s public site (you might need to work with Corporate HR or legal to get approval for this). Confidential level information should never be posted on an FAQ page, irrespective of whether the page is a public or an internal page.
Intranet/Blog Communication | Sample & Template
In addition to, or separate from an FAQ page, you should also have an internal page or site where content can be posted that focuses on the project or initiative.
Use this dedicated project site to communicate progress and awareness. Upload communication videos, project documents or artifacts that end-users can view or read. You can also upload training content and use the page as a repository for presentation and training documents.
Alternatively, you can also use SharePoint, Dropbox or other collaborative platforms as your centralized program repository. However, as mentioned in the section above, if you need all impacted end-users to be able to quickly access the repository without having to go through approval hoops, then effective communication strategies call for using a platform that is easily accessible by all impacted end-users.
Videos & Recordings Strategy to Include on Your Project Management Communication Plan
Where possible, you should record your team’s end-user meetings, training, coaching, workshops, and other touchpoints, and post the recordings on the firm’s website, on your FAQ page or on the project page for stakeholders to view.
If you are using video and audio tools (Skype, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, etc.) these platforms generally come with recording features. You should record your meetings and post the information on the project site.
All of the channels and strategies outlined above are effective communication strategies that when implemented will help you increase the success of your communication activities.
Conclusion – Developing an Effective Communication Plan for a Project or Business Change
Over the last decade in my role as a Senior Change Management Program Manager, I have delivered end-to-end change management capabilities for large, complex business transformations. Something I have identified again and again is that different groups and individuals have different preferences for how they consume communication.
By applying a multi-prong approach as part of your project and change management communication plan, you drastically increase the success of your communication efforts.
Best of luck in your communication planning and delivery. Let us know if you have any questions or comments on this project and change management communication guide.
Author: Ogbe Airiodion (Senior Change Management Leader and Founder of AGS).
Note: Content on Airiodion Global Services (AGS)'s Airiodion.com website is copyrighted. If you have questions, comments, or tips about this Airiodion Global Services content, please contact Airiodion Global Services today.
External sources: https://products.office.com/en-us/sharepoint/collaboration and https://pixabay.com/illustrations/film-photo-slides-cinema-1668918/