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This post is from the CollabNet VersionOne blog and has not been updated since the original publish date.

Last Updated Apr 21, 2010 — Enterprise Agile Planning expert

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Enterprise Agile Planning

Many a project has gone down in flames because they failed to take the time to really think through a communication plan that educated their stakeholders of the organizational value of their project.  Communication is one of the most important factors to the success of your community. Without communicating your project or program’s benefits and successes, users and stakeholders alike won’t be aware of new offerings, program progress, or the goals and direction of your project.

“The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them.”

–Sam Walton

The first step in any Communication Plan is identifying your stakeholders.  This is a key step that is often overlooked.  Many projects and programs focus only on keeping users informed about community news, however its important to look outside your active community members and find the stakeholders that are most important to your continued success.  This may include management, partners, or even other projects and programs only tangentially related to yours.  Putting together this list comes first and will help you, not only identify key players, but also discover the correct communication channel to reach them through.

Next up, you guessed it, identify all your potential communication channels.  Don’t just rely on email or Twitter to get your message out.  Make sure you talk to others within your organization or your partner’s organizations to understand what options are available to you.  For instance does your organization have building monitors that display company news?  Can you schedule webinars?  Does your partner’s have community newsletters that you can contribute articles to?  There are lots of ways that you can communicate to a larger audience usually you just have to look around and ask lots of questions.

The next step is to think through a communication plan that makes sense. Community communications can broadly be grouped into two types, event driven and regularly scheduled.  Your community planning needs to have plans established for each type.

Event driven communication is, as the name aptly implies, usually driven by some event within your project.  This could be the election of new officers, platform upgrades, scheduled downtime, new releases, etc.

Regularly scheduled communications are necessary in projects to keep the general audience and key stakeholders informed about the progress your project or program is making.  This form of communication is where you have a great opportunity to keep your most important stakeholders up to date on progress you’ve made in achieving organizational goals.

The plan below is a basic skeleton plan that identifies which channel will be used to articulate messaging for each communication channel and provides an estimated frequency for communication. Each plan will be different but this should give you some ideas.

Regularly Scheduled Communications

CommunicationPurposeAudienceChannelFrequency
Stakeholder Status ReportCommunicate project progress to key stakeholdersKey StakeholdersManagement Distribution Lists, Senior Management Meeting, emailQuarterly
NewsletterCommunicate project news, recognition awards, procedural changesUser communityWebsite, emailQuarterly
Community of Practice NewsCommunicate community related news to interest groupsCommunity of interest groupsemailMonthly

Event Driven Communication

CommunicationPurposeAudienceChannelEvent
Platform upgradesCommunicate upcoming platform upgrades of your website or supporting infrastructureUser Communityemail, websiteAs Needed
Project related newsCommunicate support opportunities, project releases, etcUser CommunityemailAs Needed
Training NewsNew training opportunities such as webinars, new tutorials, FAQ updates, etcUser Communityemail, websiteAd Needed

Of course you’ll want to actually go through the Communication Plan and fill in your own specific information and dates. You may even want to be very specific and include the Communication Channel owner and prep dates that include coordinating with each channel, but using this model you can plan several months ahead and never be caught “reacting” rather than “communicating”.

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