Carrying out the tactics you’ve set forth in your plan will guide many of your efforts. Evaluation shouldn’t be reserved for the end of your campaign. Check your progress as you go by asking yourself whether your messages are resonating and whether your tactics are having the intended outcome. There may be some degree of trial and error involved and you may decide to make adjustments to your plan.
During the intermediate stages of your campaign, you might have to make more aggressive course corrections or even revisit the original objectives you established. Learn from what you have achieved and decide which elements in your plan are not working.
In the more advanced stages of your communications efforts, you will hopefully be able to see some positive results. You should see that you have made measurable steps toward your objectives. You may have faced new challenges you didn’t anticipate and made new discoveries about your audience. You may need to expand or refine your audience and you might need to develop new tactics or make other changes to your plan. Measurement tools can help you determine how successful your efforts have been up to this point and assist in sharpening your goals and setting a course for the future.
A tactic/audience matrix
One useful way to plan execution is with a simple matrix, matching each key audience to one of the tactics or channels at your disposal, something like this:
The more audiences you can reach, the easier it is to justify — for yourself or others — pursuing the avenues you feel are best. You may also see plainly that the tactic you anticipated carrying most of the burden is actually relevant to just one audience. If that’s not your primary audience, consider whether that tactic is worth your while.
Timeline and responsibilities
If you’re going to take on a comms plan, you need at least a rough timeline of what happens when, and who is responsible. But that’s not enough either, because you have to actually commit to it, revisit it on a regular basis, and hold people accountable for their role.
Accountability is the great struggle of the American workplace — doubly so for nonprofits and universities. We’re not management gurus, but we’d like to think that accountability starts with ownership of the process. Don’t make your plan in a vacuum or the proverbial smoke-filled back room; give everyone involved with the plan a seat at the table. Ask what they think, and listen. If they have a role in making the plan work, they deserve a role in making the plan itself. If you push it out in an e-mail and say, “Okay, here’s the plan,” then don’t be surprised if people don’t get invested in it.
If there are significant consequences for failure, like non-renewal of a grant, that’s important to get across but if you can get everyone invested in the plan and its creation, they will feel more like they’re an essential part of a larger team. Communicate the consequences of success, too.