Communicating clearly and concisely isn’t always as simple as it seems. For company executives, delivering the right message to the right audience requires a solid communications strategy. Between every draft of your plan, however, fatigue can set in, making it easier for potential issues to slip through the cracks.
Below, a panel of 13 experts from Forbes Communication Council share questions you can ask to grade your own communications plan. Answering these questions will help you accurately gauge its effectiveness.
1. Does Our Plan Express Who We Are And What We Do?
Based on your current communications plan, what do people think you do and who do they think you are? If you can’t objectively answer these questions by looking at your communications plan, then you should refine the plan until you’re able to. – Mason Burchette, Best Buy Metals
2. How Will Our Audience React?
Put yourself in the target’s shoes. How would you react to the messaging? It’s hard to be objective, but start with you and pass it around to unrelated people to see what their reaction is and whether your message is clear. – Kobi Ben-Meir, Edge
3. How Does This Further Our Mission?
Communication is so nuanced and depends on the topic, audience(s) and more. The flurry of activity can sometimes muddle the intent or purpose. To stay on course and ensure that the energy put in will add value, executives and their teams need to continually do gut-checks to confirm that communications activities support a big-picture goal, narrative or mission. – Niki Hall, Contentsquare
4. What Are Our Key Performance Indicators?
Multiple checkpoints within a communication plan are critical to success. To understand if communications are working, there must be a defined plan that includes what the KPIs are. Each indicator tells a different story and is critical to understanding how your campaign is working and being received. – Alexa Dagostino, Marketing By Modification, LTD
5. Who Will Care About This?
It is vital to answer this question with the target audience in mind. It is so easy to approach a plan with what we already know and shroud it in business-speak, when we should be doing the opposite. Most of the time, the target audience doesn’t know what we want them to know; that’s why we have a communications plan. We are not preaching to the choir. – Laurie Wang, Legal Aid Alberta
6. What Response Is The Plan Generating?
You need to move away from semantic and theoretical approaches. The proof that your communications program is working is measured solely by the response it generates. The response is the statistic you need to constantly keep an eye on. The rest is semantic and theoretical, and quite frankly, not needed nowadays. – Andrea d’Agostini, American Power & Gas
7. Does This Contribute To Our Strategic Initiatives?
Assess whether the plan contributes to the organization’s strategic initiatives, tactical efforts and its meeting of accountability metrics (such as raising brand awareness via digital brand tracking and reporting). Monitor how well the message is disseminated to media outlets and the quality of what is shared with target audiences. Lastly, track quality leads that are generated from communications campaigns and funneled into the sales pipeline. – Donna Jermer, iptiQ by Swiss Re
8. Can I Explain This Plan To A Family Member In Two Minutes?
Try to explain your communications plan within two minutes to your partner or kids. If they have no idea what you’re talking about, you need to go back to the drawing board. Too often, we fall into the trap of using industry jargon and internal abbreviations or try to pack so many different messages into one story that our audiences shut off. So, do a quick at-home test before finalizing plans. – Rafael Schwarz, TERRITORY Influence (a Bertelsmann group company)
9. Do We Have The Right Feedback Loop In Place?
Find the right feedback loop or mechanism to gauge the reception of messages and the impact. Don’t look purely at reach and delivery as validation. Look deeper into quality and engagement metrics. It is easy to get someone to follow, attend and listen one time. Maintaining an audience and continuing to build on it over time is much more cost-effective and helps you build and scale faster. – Corey Morris, Voltage
10. What Does An Outsider Think?
Ask someone you work with who isn’t directly involved to do a read-through. Their knowledge of the brand and outsider’s perspective will give you the insight you need to know whether the plan you’re making is effective or not. If it’s a big message, don’t just ask one person; ask multiple people and see what they say. You may be surprised to learn that what you think is not what others think. – Victoria Zelefsky, The Menkiti Group
11. Is The Message Clear And Universally Understood?
Ask qualifying questions: “Is my message clear and understood by all?” “Have I considered multiple views and perspectives?” “Am I communicating via an appropriate medium for the task at hand?” and “Is my audience receptive to this style?” The whole point behind communicating well is understanding what you are trying to explain. – Haseeb Tariq, Haseebtariq.com
12. Does An Introvert Understand It?
Get an introvert’s opinion. More often than not, communications plans are written by extroverts. The natural bias they may have is not a major problem, but it does need to be accounted for. Executives should run their plan by a trusted introvert, preferably someone from the technical side of the house or with an analytical brain, to confirm that the message is clear and can be understood by all people. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
13. Have I Explored Multiple Points Of View?
Don’t just assume that you did well because you are a leader. Run the plan by someone within the company you know to be an objective critic who will speak up and challenge your plan. The best-developed communications and marketing plans are those that have every angle and multiple views considered. My best planning is done by leveraging my team’s expertise and points of view. – Kris Pugsley, ON Semiconductor