Planning communications – a straightforward approach

Business in Canada has a treasure trove of communication tools unlike any period in the past. Yet, effective communication within the business continues to be a struggle. The most successful companies communicate well – unsuccessful ones don’t. Communication planning does not need to be a grand, resource-consuming initiative. The key is to step back and assess the situation…then make a plan accordingly.

For the professional tasked with more effective communications, a simple, even informal plan can go a long way. The return on investment is usually impressive in terms of tangible and intangible benefits.

Characteristics of an effective communication plan include:

  • The ability to take advantage of communication mechanisms that already exist in the business
  • A reach that extends to everyone in the company, ideally in at least two modes that maximizes the richness (depth and quality) of communication
  • Allowance for questions and clarificationsCommunication mechanisms are the specific means or channels by which your company communicates. They are usually written or verbal. Generally speaking, the richer (deeper) mechanisms are more expensive; cheaper mechanisms are leaner and less powerful. An effective ensemble of varied communications can yield a variety of benefits, including better strategic execution which increases your competitive advantage.Here is a table of mechanisms with which companies can strategize, with a (somewhat arbitrary) points scale to indicate the richness:


Written        Points Verbal
Personal e-mail 10 One-on-one meetings
Targeted e-mail 8 One-on-one phones calls
Targeted memo 7 Small group meetings
Brochures 6 Targeted voicemails
Newsletters 5 Special purpose meetings
Intranet 4 Town hall meetings
Bulletin board postings 3 Orientation, training programs
Internet 2 Executive talks


An example:

To demonstrate utilization of the chart above, we will look at how a company that is undertaking a balanced scorecard initiative might prepare a communications strategy. The company will want to prepare a list that identifies all the groups to communicate with (i.e. all the stakeholders affected by the initiative, either directly or indirectly). Since senior management makes up the scorecard task force, they need not be on the list. It might look like this:

Groups to communicate with

Internal External
Admin. Groups (HR, Ops, Finance, etc.) Sales force – field reps
Production Key suppliers
R&D Key customers
Sales & Marketing Franchise owners

The company will then want to undertake some form of mapping or charting, to ensure that each group is communicated with, maximizing the number of points to each group. Here is an example of what the chart might look like:

Internal groups communication plan

Initiative: Balanced Scorecard         Points: 


Communication mode:     







Sales & Mktg.

Targeted memos (customized)









Town hall meeting 4 4 4 4
Intranet 4 4 4 4
Small group meetings 7 0 0 7
Total points 15 15 15 15

*Note that the same strategy need not be applied across the board (and total points per group could be different) – effective planning necessitates considering what mechanisms will work best with various groups

External groups communication plan

Initiative: Balanced Scorecard         Points: 


Communication mode:     

Sales – field reps Key suppliers Key customers Franchise owners










Targeted e-mail to key customers 0 0 8 0
Personal e-mail to field reps 10 0 0 0
Targeted e-mail to key suppliers 0 8 0 0
Targeted voicemail to franchise owners 0 0 0 6
Total points 14 10 10 8

Note that for mechanisms like targeted e-mails, the more customized you make it to one group (as opposed to a generic one that can be used across many groups), the richer it is.

The above example is simple, just to give you the sense of how you might go about mapping out a communication strategy that ensures key groups are involved, and that the points meet or exceed some minimum level. you could easily attach another column that has a budget of resources (dollars or time), to incorporate that reality into the plan. The company might also review the plan with an eye toward certain indicators. For example, perhaps the company has a minimum level of 10 points per group – in that case, they would need to re-visit the franchise owner communications to add another mechanism (or make one of them richer).

Communications planning does not need to be overly complex or expensive. A simple, regimented approach like the one here can go a long way in terms of maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of reach, which maximizes the return on investment.

Cam Scholey, MBA, Ph.D., FCPA, FCMA, has been a speaker, author and innovator for the past two decades, focusing mainly on the strategic concepts of balanced scorecard and strategy mapping.   Specific areas of interest are accounting, management controls and finance. Cam also teaches (both in-class and online) at Royal Military College of Canada (in English and French).

Cam is an experienced writer and is the author of the book entitled A Practical Guide to the Balanced Scorecard (CCH Canadian). A writer for CPA Canada, he has written several management accounting guidelines and guidance documents on strategy mapping and the balanced scorecard. Cam is also a session leader in the new CPA Professional Education Program (PEP), and has written development and assessment content for PEP.

Cam’s newest undertaking is a certificate program on performance management for CPA Canada. He enjoys playing hockey and practicing hot yoga when not immersed in all the intellectual matters.

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