Laura Petrolino

Communications Planning: Why More is Not Better

By: Laura Petrolino | February 19, 2015 | 

Communications Planning: Why More is Not Better

By Laura Petrolino

Effective communications planning provides a roadmap for exactly what you should be doing in your communications outreach.

It tells you what, when, who, how much, and why, and then provides you with metrics to measure success.

It also tells you what you SHOULD NOT be doing, both directly and indirectly by exclusion.

Successful communications planning isn’t about being everywhere, it’s about being in the right places—and doing the right things—at the right times.

Unfortunately this nuance is sometimes over looked in our “more is better” society.

And that can mean the difference between success and failure.

Stop Running Junk Miles

Growing up I was an ice skater and gymnast, and took dance all through college.

Running came later in my life—in my early twenties—and it became a fierce competitive outlet for me (as well as a great way to burn off some of my hyperactivity.)

As a competitive runner, I worked with a coach who put me on a very specific program to help me reach my goals. The program integrated several training types, as well as stimuli to help build strength, speed, and endurance.

While I was committed to my program, it also cut way down on the number of miles I ran weekly.

This was mentally challenging for me because despite knowing logically otherwise, I couldn’t overcome the “more is better” philosophy.

So I did the training scheduled for me each day….and then some.

I’d run my sprint intervals. But I would also (oops) run an extra four miles to the track to do them and then run the four miles home.

The result? My speed tanked, I became overtrained, and I eventually had an injury that ended my competitive running career (oops).

Many organizations fall into this same trap with their communications planning. And well meaning efforts to reach their target consumers often turn into spammy, inefficient, and off brand tactics that don’t support, and can often hurt, their goals.

More is Not Better

We’ve all witnessed some of the biggest offenders:

  • News releases gone wild: This includes mass spraying of news releases about everything from the latest industry award to the new coffee flavor in the break room. These releases are not targeted, the pitches aren’t personalized, nor do they consider the reporter, their needs, or the community they write for. The stories often have zero interest to anyone outside the company.
  • Social media overload: These organizations are on every social network there is, often with no objective. They don’t understand which networks their target audience uses, or who they are talking to on each network.
  • Email newsletter harassment: Email newsletters can be a very valuable tool. They can also become spammy inbox filler-upers that make you start to hate the sender with the passion of a thousand fire ants. Emails should have purpose and value. Without these things they are just spam. 
  • The “Everyone’s my market” trap: Sometimes the problem is not necessarily in the tactics, but in losing focus on who you are targeting. The “everyone’s my market” mentality is only effective for those who created air or water.

All these things are the “junk miles” of the communications world: Inefficient, ineffective, and often harmful.

Communications Planning is Targeted

Successful communications planning results in a strategy that is extremely researched and targeted in both what it includes, and what it doesn’t.

Just like an athletic training program it is built around goals (a powerlifter has a very different training program than a triathlete,) and around the individual organization (every triathlete doesn’t have the same exact program, though certain elements may be similar.)

The “more is better” trap is an easy one for us all to fall into. Instead, start off on the right foot with a measurable and targeted plan.

Photo credit: Freiburg Marathon shadow via photopin (license)

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

  • That “less is more” thing for runners is so very hard to accept, yet so true! Enjoyed this post and I am sharing it with some people struggling with email newsletter issues.

  • stephenkentmoore

    Planning too much is something people who are too afraid to fail do. It’s something they can fall back on if things fall apart.

    “Oh, I can’t understand why that happened: we met 40 times, had a 20 page communication plan, and wrote out 8 scenarios.”

    Asking some basic questions can really help frame a flexible communication plan. The first question you need to ask and isn’t asked enough: what does winning look like?

  • stephenkentmoore “Oh, I can’t understand why that happened: we met 40 times, had a 20 page communication plan, and wrote out 8 scenarios.”  Egad. My worst NIGHTMARE come true! LOL

  • You’re such a keener, LP!! <#

  • belllindsay WOOHOOOO!!!

  • belllindsay stephenkentmoore That is such a great point! I actually never thought of it that way, but you are totally right. I’m going to refer to that in conversations – overplanning is something people who are too afraid to fail do. 

    I don’t know if you read “A learning a day” (one of my fav blogs,) but he actually had a post today about being scared to fail (random FYI)

  • biggreenpen email newsletter issues….yuck!

  • stephenkentmoore

    LauraPetrolino I’ll be sure to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation. Cheers!

  • stephenkentmoore LauraPetrolino Yep, that’s the one!

  • “Running came later in my life—in my early twenties.” I like that “later in life” is twenty-something. Ha! 

    Some form of the phrase “Ideas are easy, execution is a !#^@%” is uttered around my office weekly. Endless planning is easy. The hard part, for some people, is putting the plan into action.

  • Social media overload is taking over marketers brains like a disease! Why do companies think they have to be on every platform in existence!!?! Pick one or two where your target audiences are, invest time in thinking and being creative, and do an incredible job on it – don’t do a lukewarm job on many. Make it count!

  • lkpetrolino

    johnjanney Thanks John!

  • lkpetrolino

    JasculcaTerman Thanks folks! Stay warm!

  • CarrieMorgan Yes, and yes. Choose your weapon!

  • Kara HAHAHA! Well, I had been through several sports by that time…so context.

    And yes, you are exactly right. This is especially true if people don’t make a plan that fits where they are and who they are. Execution becomes impossible (and not effective)

  • AshleyElaineS

    You make a really great point in this article that less is sometimes better. Quick question, how do you find the fine line between too much and too little when communicating?

  • Pingback: Communications is a Marathon | Arment Dietrich()

  • AshleyElaineS Hey Ashely, sorry for the delay in responding to this. You know find the balance comes down to research and testing. So prior to developing your strategy you should have an extremely solid understanding of your community and the market you are communicating with. That alone will give you some guideline to follow. Then you want to test and measure. This also is true for times, days, ways to communicate with them. 

    Collect weekly metrics of what works and what doesn’t and then evaluate trends at the end of each month. Tweak from there.

    Of course you also should make sure every communication has a clear goal and purpose. Always asking yourself that question first, will prevent a lot of needless communication.

  • Pingback: The Auto Guide to Your Communications Plan by @lkpetrolino Spin Sucks()

  • Great points about quality over quantity and how to target your market correctly, thanks for sharing