Project Communications Planning: Who Gets What

Project Communications Planning: Who Gets What

Way to go! You’ve set the goal for your communications plan, identified your stakeholders and divided them into segments. Now you’ve actually got to send them something.

You can take a couple of approaches.

Approach one
 is to decide what you’re going to send and then decide who gets it. Many shops have the communications deliverables already codified; you can simply follow the rules, deciding which folks get the charter, which the monthly report, and so on.

Approach two is to revisit your goal, look at the people you’re dealing with, consider the environment and determine what you’re going to send, to whom, based on that analysis.

Either approach will work, but I like approach two the best. It demonstrates and builds your project management prowess.

In our exciting September 10th episode, I talked about having a goal for your communication plan, such as to provide information (yawn), build relationships, build morale, or get a promotion. If you’re going the straight provide-information route, you can probably stick to the company methodology and not worry about it. If you’re bucking for a promotion, you’ll want to figure out who needs to notice your brilliance and what sort of communications will attract their attention. You get the idea.

What about the people you’re dealing with? It probably wouldn’t be worthwhile to customize communications for every stakeholder, but you’ll want to customize to some extent for each segment. Pay special attention to stakeholders with high interest and high power (see previous post). Does the company president read your monthly report? Is she over 50? Consider sending her a report in a font a couple of sizes bigger than usual; that is, if you usually use 10 point, try12 point, or even 14 point, type. Her aging eyes will thank you for it. (I have no experience as a company president, but I do have aging eyes, so I know.) Also, in reports for your top execs, you might want to use more highlighting, bulleting, horizontal rules and headings to make the material scan-friendly.

How about your environment? If your organization is strict about doing everything by the book, it might not be a great idea to deviate. On the other hand, if you have a freer hand, innovate! Try sending a 1-minute status video, or a video of your prototype in action.

Here’s an afterthought. Some PMs stress the importance of having your scope clearly defined before you make a communications plan. While there’s no doubt having your scope in hand would be a tremendous advantage in crafting comms, it’s not necessary. Normally, you’re going to have some idea of what the project’s about and who some of the stakeholders are when you start out—that’s enough to get you going. During the scope definition process, you’ll discover even more stakeholders and work them in.

Lastly, another communications alternativeOperate in secret. Keep everything under wraps until launch day. Then launch and go on vacation someplace without cell phone or internet access for a month. If you try this, please write and let me know how it turned out. And how your job hunt is going.

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