Lane Fisher

Communicating is what we, as marketers, are good at — translating our fabulous products and services into digestible content to wow our target audiences. At least, that’s how it should be. We likely don’t need to tell you all of the pain points that stand in the way of communicating effectively, especially when it comes to getting your products out there in the world to be enjoyed.

Now that many workers are remote, collaborating efficiently is that much harder. Nobody means to make mistakes, but miscommunication is all too common when there aren’t clear channels between project creators, collaborators and key stakeholders.

This is where the explicitly named “Project Communication Plan” comes into play. Let’s look at what this is, why you need it and how to make it work for your brand.

Why Every Project Needs a Communication Plan

Maybe you’ve been here before: You’ve worked for days, weeks, maybe even months on a project. It’s perfect — no, it’s a dream come true. You’re thrilled to present it, ready to get all of the glowing feedback you deserve for the pure genius you’ve brought to this endeavor. Expectantly, you hand it over for team approval and — it falls flat.

Now you’re confused and definitely frustrated. You’ve been perfecting this project for quite some time, but it totally missed the mark. When did everyone else meet to discuss a different direction?

We’ve all been there, developing something that ends up in the metaphorical trashcan because of some key communication error, like a message or email we missed or even a meeting invite that never arrived. Or, maybe you were there for every meeting, but wires were crossed somewhere and now it’s too late to untangle them.

Even with easy access to the new tools that should make collaboration a breeze, the cost of poor communication can have big effects. Data from SHRM tells us that, on average, companies lose $62.4 million each year due to inadequate communication.

We all know that communication issues aren’t uncommon, but we shouldn’t write them off as typical parts of the trade. Barriers to effective communication aren’t like your niece’s resistance to leaving the playground — you don’t have to keep letting them slide.

Luckily for you, your project management team and your projects, there are effective ways to smooth communication processes. Just remember that you’re all working toward a common goal.

Like Dumbledore says, “differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.” In other words, our communication styles may be dissimilar, but they shouldn’t impact our ability to reach a communal objective.

The magic spell? A project communication plan.

Put down your half-constructed emails, take a minute away from your Slacks and Gchats and turn off those webcams. A communication plan for your project is exactly what you need to streamline your communication management, make sure everyone’s on the same page and deliver that brilliantly crafted final piece.

Ideally, every communication channel operates smoothly, eliminating barriers and helps to avoid project failure. Don’t be reluctant to try something new; your project success depends on your ability to use these tools for optimal project management.

What Exactly Are Project Communication Plans?

Alright, let’s talk about project communication plans. These nifty tracking documents are built in a spreadsheet or table and they outline the who, what, when and how of project communication. They help all team members — from clients to internal stakeholders — stay on the same page with:

  • Meeting times and locations.
  • Goals for every correspondence and meeting.
  • And the responsibilities for each participant.

Within the neatly tabulated squares of a project communication plan, a project manager records all important information, removing the guesswork that’s sometimes associated with who should reach out to what person on what timeline.

Key Elements of a Project Communication Plan

This is the document where anyone on your team, from the newest intern to the director of sales, should be able to find information about communication strategies.

Here are a few critical things you should be able to find in a communication management plan:

  • The communication methods you’ll use for specific stakeholders. There might be people who want to use a custom client portal to be in constant touch with you, while others might want another communication channel. Documenting this will help you remember which person is terrible at getting back via email and what client wants everything done as a Microsoft project.
  • Deliverables with descriptions. Whether you’re delivering a status update or handing over a report, explaining the ‘what’ is critical so nothing gets misplaced or forgotten.
  • Project status updates. The absolute last thing you want is for your team to do double the work on one project, or — maybe worse — not complete any work at all. Either way, you’ll be wasting time and precious resources by not managing work optimally. An effective communication plan needs to be regularly updated either live or through team communication apps so that every viewer knows what tasks need to be done and where each deliverable is in the production process.
  • Who will be taking on what role. Keeping a list of the project stakeholders, project manager and team members in one location for ease of access ensures no one will ever be emailing the wrong person.
  • Who will be responsible for every deliverable or product. Providing clarity around who is in charge of what element reduces confusion. This also lets everyone else know whether they should be routing information to the project manager, lead analyst or another team member.
  • Timelines and frequency of events. Whether you’re having weekly status report meetings, outlining goals and budgets at a one-time kickoff meeting or connecting internally to summarize progress and future tasks, a communication plan should be a one-stop-shop for all meeting and deliverable timelines.
  • Target audience. Keeping the intended audience information centralized makes sure that the target public is who you’re creating for, and that these needs and views aren’t lost in the shuffle.This is by no means an exhaustive list of the elements a communication plan might include, but they are some of the essential ones. The rest can be tailored to your company, project and team. You may find that it’s absolutely necessary to have client contact information within your communication plan, or that there needs to be more oversight into the information behind every deliverable.The specifics will be up to you — so get creative! And don’t forget to gather input from your team on what they’ll find most helpful. A project communication plan isn’t just for your benefit, after all. At the end of the day, however, these plans should increase operational efficiency and promote positive brand perception at every turn.

Types And Methods Of Successful Project Communication Plans

No matter how communication is organized, making sure these tools are effective might require getting a little meta. You may find yourself needing to get communicative about your communication plan. Project management communication can be hairy under the best circumstances — everyone has their own objectives and desires, after all!

To be an effective communicator, embody Ted Lasso. Transforming your team into a happy, goal-oriented communication machine should be equal parts meeting players where they work best and choosing the types of communication that will get the job done — getting the ball in the goal every time. While the folks on your squad may not be premier league footballers, they should be premier league marketing communicators.

Deciding which types of communication you want to use and which will be the most beneficial may be just as complicated as soccer field positions. This includes everything from verbal and written communications to visual forms of expression. Play the game right by using communication methods that will achieve the benefits of each communication type, including emails, instant messaging, meetings, calls and so on.

For example, if you’re attempting to keep all project-related information in one place for everyone’s future reference, you’ll need to rely on written communication and might turn to an email or shared folder. Or, if you’re trying to clarify with a team member about the complicated minutia of a project, you probably want a communication type that relies on verbal expression. In that case, you can easily hop on a call — video or otherwise — with your team.

Objectives For a Successful Communication Plan

Now that you understand all — or most — of the elements that go into a comms plan it’s time to sort them all into a project communication plan that will work best for you. Tailoring and optimizing your strategy might force you to take a step back from your project and team to consider the full picture.

First, you should examine the goals that you want your communication plan to meet. Specifically, what sticking points have caused issues in the past? These could include:

  • Resolving lost communication opportunities, such as emails that have disappeared and meetings that participants consistently push back or miss entirely.
  • Improving oversight on deliverables, which may require a more detailed overview of each participant’s actions to track project progress.
  • Managing different stakeholders’ aims. If there are multiple stakeholders, a communication plan’s objective can be to handle these differing aims and create a fully optimized product.
  • Streamlining methods of communication while increasing transparency. This is especially important if multiple channels are used and if miscommunication happens frequently.

You already know how miscommunications can hurt your brand reputation and your final product. Ultimately, a successful plan will be based on areas where you want to unstick communication and the objectives you’d like it to achieve within your project. Once you’ve got miscommunication handled, maintaining your content marketing strategy will be easier than you could have imagined.

A Project Communication Plan Template That’s Brafton-Approved

Looking for somewhere to get started? We’ve created this template as a starting point where you and every other project team member can find the most important elements.

Enter in your communication method, audience, goals, timeline, responsible team members and any other elements that are important to your project. It may even be helpful to have a column or two that go into more detail about certain elements. The more detail you can provide, the better, until everyone’s gotten a hang of how this project management communication thing works.

This is us giving you permission to play with your project communication plan. Be the creative-minded marketer we know you are, and make this project plan as tailored to your needs as possible. If you check back in in a month or two and communication still isn’t where you want it to be, try adjusting and focusing on different parts.

Project Communication Plan Template

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How to Make Your Own Communication Plan

If you’d rather work from the ground up to get a deeper understanding of this communication tool, making your own project communication plan is an equally admirable endeavor. Establish your goals, timelines, plans and audiences. This may require a bit more research and outreach as you collect the desired information from your stakeholders, team members and executives, but will be well worth the effort.

Know your resources, ideal communication methods and desired outcomes before you get started to make the process much smoother. Then, pull up a document and start crafting your own project management plan. Input all of your research — but condense it down for readability — and then check, and triple check, the details with every collaborator to ensure the initial plan works for them just as well as it does for you.

Communicate Like a Pro

Got all that written down? Now you can go back to your communication methods with more awareness of how communication impacts your work and every project.

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Editor’s Note: Updated February 2024.