If you’re like most communicators, the term “communication planning” sends a shudder down your spine. But it doesn’t have to be a chore. When done right, the planning process can be a fun and rewarding experience. (Seriously.)

Begin by pulling together a cross-functional team to participate in a one- or two-day collaborative planning session. It may seem like a lot of time to invest, but you’ll get all the information you need to build a complete plan, as well as gain the buy-in and support you need to implement it.

When building your agenda for the session, try incorporating the following elements to engage stakeholders and keep the session lively.

  1. Use mock focus groups to represent the voices of your different audiences.

    Here’s how it works: Select five to six participants and appoint them to be “the focus group.” Ask each of the “focus group participants” to answer your questions from the perspective of a stakeholder (i.e., a non-HQ employee, a senior leader, etc.). As the focus group leader, direct questions to the “panel” about their level of understanding, issues, communication needs, etc.

    Here’s why it works: This exercise is great for making session participants conscious about communication needs and collecting anecdotal feedback. It’s also a nonthreatening way to uncover issues. You’ll be surprised at how easily session participants channel stakeholders.
     

  2. Invite participants to create visual stories that depict the current and future state of communications and/or the business.

    Here’s how it works: Drawing from movies, books and television, ask participants to sketch, using as few words as possible, a visual story (on a flipchart page, using markers) that describes what is or is not working today, and how it will work in the future. After they’re finished, ask them to explain their poster to create learning for other session participants about the change.

    Here’s why it works: This exercise helps communicators detach from the words they love and tell a rich story. It’s especially helpful when communicating change. Session participants can explain what will be different without spending valuable planning time bringing others to the same level of understanding. It also helps get to the heart of what’s changing, in a safe and humorous way, without the unnecessary detail that might be included in slides.

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