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)

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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