Communication strategy – how do you view the big picture?


Recently, I attended a professional development and networking event hosted by the local chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). It was a small, but elite group of seasoned campaigners (of which I was the least experienced) working in a variety of contexts. The topic for discussion was strategic planning for communicators.

The plan for the evening was for the group to share and explore approaches to planning, stakeholder management, research and measurement, and discuss any ideas we wanted to flesh out with each other.

As the workshop progressed, it became increasingly evident that ‘strategic planning’ denoted different meaning for each of the various practitioners in the room. For some, strategic planning was a structured and detailed process of formally documenting the way in which a communication portfolio would contribute to delivering the business objectives of an organisation during the course of the year, right down to the tactical execution and timing of a range of communication activities. For others, it was about knowing where their business was currently at, where they wanted it to be in twelve months, and having a high level road map of how to get there – with built-in opportunity for detours along the way. Some people wrote down their plan and distributed it to key stakeholders. Others kept it in their head, holding a vision of desired outcomes and the proposed itinerary to achieve them.

This was news to me.

Wasn’t ‘strategic planning’ (in the context of communication, anyway) the process of developing an execution plan that would deliver on the business strategy? So you knew the types of activity you need to undertake during the year to meet your goals?

The revelation dawned on me, as I listened to the perspective of each highly experienced  and successful professional around the table, that there was not necessarily a single,  static meaning for strategic planning. That there was no right or wrong way to ‘do’ strategic planning. Planning to implement your strategy might be a vision, a mind-map on a single page, or a highly detailed document about the execution of  tactics designed to deliver on strategic goals. Or some combination of all these. Or something completely different.

Some of you are reading this are going, ‘well, d’uh. What a noob’. And of course I feel a wee bit silly – there is generally more than one way of doing things. Sometimes my brain struggles to think outside its little box of ‘known stuff’.

How about you? Are you a detailed planner? Maybe you have a vision of where you will take your business this year. Or simply a list of goals.

How do you undertake your strategic planning process?


  1. Hi Susan, Thanks for the great post.

    The “aha moment” for me (and I admit to being over-structured in my planning) was that a strategic communication plan doesn’t have to be as formal as I’ve tended to do in the past.

    I know I can get analysis paralysis, and I know I have a strong need to get the plan down on paper, perfect, approved, and signed off. I’ve been struggling with a more realistic way to deliver – day-to-day demands mean that perfect plan often doesn’t get written! The work gets done, of course, but not always as it would have been planned in a perfect world.

    So it was really valuable to hear how others do it. Everything from a calendar of deliverables to a one-page high-level plan – I’ll definitely be trying out some of those.



    1. I totally hear what you’re saying. Sometimes I think I enjoy the planning even more that the execution! It would be so nice to set out the itinerary, but sometimes you’ve just gotta hit the road, so we might as well learn to enjoy the journey.

  2. Hey there, thinking in terms of my new venture, I’ve put a little thought into the types of activities i’ll do to get the word out about my business – and they’re currently in my head – logo design, letterbox drops, posters and business cards – but nothing strategic – I haven’t really put into a plan what outcomes I expect/want from these forms of comms…but in time i will do a more structured comms process with timeframes and outcomes. Cheers, Bren

    1. Oh I can just imagine there’s so much running around in your head! Don’t over-think it. So much about a new business is organic, so let the ideas and the thought run freely – write everything down!

      Remember, it’s not what you want from your comms, but what you want from your business, and how your comms can help facilitate that. When you’re ready, decide your business objectives – all the tactics and execution will fall out of that.

      I’m just ’round the corner if you need a sounding board!

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