Updated: Feb 25
A good communications plan is a vital subsidiary of any project plan, and critical to project success. But how do you create one when you’re staring at a blank page? Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can follow.
Step 1. Stakeholder list
The first step is to compile a comprehensive list of stakeholders. The Project Management Institute defines a stakeholder as “anyone who is impacted by the project or can impact the project in a positive or negative way.” This includes individuals and stakeholder groups, for example “All Employees.”
Begin building your list by interviewing your key stakeholders, like project sponsors, executives, managers, and others who have significant influence over the project. During the interview, ask for their preferred level of engagement with the project, including the frequency and type of communications they would like to receive, which meetings or presentations they would like to attend, and ask for any other individuals or groups they feel should be included in the stakeholder list.
Now gather your project team and complete the list in a brainstorming session. It’s important to have the team’s input on the list, to ensure that it’s accurate and comprehensive.
Once you’ve accomplished those two activities, your stakeholder list should be in good shape. You will update the list as the project progresses, but it’s important to start with a well-thought first pass.
Step 2. Stakeholder analysis
The next step is stakeholder analysis. I have found Mendelow’s power-interest grid to be an easy-to-use approach. It’s simply a matter of deciding the appropriate grid quadrant for each stakeholder or stakeholder group. For example, a high-level executive who has a lot of interest in the project should be designated as a Promoter and managed closely. An executive who doesn’t show high interest in the project, but may still have a lot of influence, should be designated as a Latent and you should work diligently to keep them satisfied with the project. Stakeholder analysis is a great exercise for the project team.
Step 3. Outline the plan
Now that the stakeholders are assigned to a quadrant, it’s time to determine what communication techniques, channels, content, and frequency are appropriate for each. That is, what does it mean to "manage closely?” This is the heart of your communications plan and should also be developed as a project team exercise. Each project is different and will likely require a different mix of communications. These are some examples:
Step 4. Draft the plan
Once you have defined the appropriate communications for each quadrant, it’s time to draft your communications plan, and there are links at the end of this article that will help you translate the work you’ve completed in the steps above into the final document. But there are a couple more considerations to highlight before continuing.
First, it’s important to realize that one size doesn’t fit all. While it may be mandatory for some communications to reach a specific audience, it can be equally important that stakeholders have some control over the communications they receive from the project. Opt-in channels such as email groups or cloud services such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Groups, or Discord, are great for this purpose. In-person project presentations can also be offered on cloud conferencing services like Zoom or GoToMeeting, to expand the number of attendees. Offering choices contributes to higher stakeholder satisfaction with the project.
Finally, don’t forget internal project communications. That is, the communications to other project managers, the project team, and other stakeholders who are assigned to perform project activities and action items. This audience is sometimes overlooked in the communications plan because it’s incorrectly assumed they will be well-informed, just by virtue of team membership.
Project EMC2 can help
There are several ways Project EMC2 can help with project communications.
First, Project EMC2 provides a unique version of the power-interest grid. It extends the power-interest concept to project “engagement” by including special designations for project resources, project managers, and stakeholders who might become inactive on the project, either temporarily or permanently:
The Engagement designation forms the basis of your target audiences for status reports, assignment reminders, and impromptu communications. Just select them as the target audience and send:
Project EMC2 also helps with communications uptake. Most stakeholders want project communications to fit into their existing routines. They don’t want communications that require them to “go somewhere”, use special apps, or open and view documents. That leaves email, which remains the staple of business communications. However, we all know that many emails go unread, separate attachments are ignored, links aren’t followed, and emails that are difficult to read on mobile devices end up in the trash folder.
So Project EMC2 carefully crafts each emailed report for high readership. Specifically, there are no links to follow and no attachments to open. The body of emailed reports contains only the tailored information that the audience needs, and its responsive HTML design resizes itself to fit any screen while retaining clarity and readability.
If you’d like to learn more, this video shows how Project EMC2 provides high readership with its mobile-friendly, HTML-formatted project reports.
Thank you for reading! We hope you’ll take advantage of our free Project Planning Workbook and Project Plan Template, which will help you translate the work you’ve completed in the steps above into the final document. And please let us know how we can help improve Project EMC2 to help you meet your project communications needs.