In order to get and keep the stakeholders on board you should have a communication plan. The scope and extensiveness of the plan obviously depends on your type of organisation and the size of the digital badge project. The main elements of a communication plan are described below. Set up a plan by describing your situation on each of the described elements below. We advise you to first identify and map your stakeholders before starting your communication plan.
Make sure that all stakeholders are informed well on the idea of digital badges. It will take some time to digest the possibilities and impact the use of digital badges can have in your organisation and network.
The communication plan describes the following eight interrelated components which are all necessary to manage communication.
1. Target groups
The target groups are the stakeholders with whom you want to plan communication. After the stakeholder analysis, this is a logical starting point. In the communication plan you name the different individuals and departments you want to communicate with. Then you describe them concisely and indicate their relevance to, their interest in and their influence on the project.
2. Communication objectives
Describe in outline the various communication objectives you have. You can make a link with the most important project phases. Each objective belongs to at least one target group and can apply to several target groups. For example: 'at the start of the project, all internal stakeholders are aware of the project objectives and can explain their added value to the organisation to others’.
Then you determine the messages. The messages are a concise statement of what you want to communicate to the target groups in order to achieve your communication objectives. Messages are usually a mixture of informing, motivating, clarifying and convincing.
- Informing concerns providing new, up-to-date information. For example, you inform the target groups about the current project status, results achieved or changes.
- Motivating focuses on involving stakeholders. You do this by highlighting your own responsibility, the possibility to contribute and initiating contact and information exchange. You can also indicate options for exchanging information, for example the possibility to participate in discussion forums and intervisions.
- Clarification helps remove ambiguity. A change often causes a lot of uncertainty because stakeholders do not know what to expect. You can reduce this uncertainty by clarifying what will happen and what impact this will have on the stakeholder's situation.
- Convincing you do by substantiating what benefits the stakeholders have in the project. You do this, among other things, by sketching an attractive and realistic picture of the future situation and by emphasising the results to be achieved and those already achieved (success stories).
4. Means of communication (media)
You can use various media to communicate messages. Sometimes a single medium is sufficient, but often a combination is necessary to ensure that the target group is reached and the message gets across. Consider, for example, a short message on the intranet homepage, which refers to a film on youtube, with the possibility to respond to it in a forum. The means of communication to be chosen depends on the media used by the target groups to find information. For successful communication you often have to research this first. Where does your target audience get its information from? Which websites, newspapers and magazines does he read? And which networks are they affiliated with? The means of communication to be used depend on the target group, but the following are generally accepted:
- Web Sites/Apps
- Banners / Online Advertising
- Newsletters (Paper or by email)
- Mailings and flyers
- Social media (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, industry or organization specific networks, etc.)
- Personal approach (approach, call, e-mail)
- Exhibition visit / exhibition stand
- Press agencies (press releases)
- Newspaper (online/offline)
To be able to know whether you are achieving your intended communication results, determine in advance how you want to measure the effectiveness of your communication. For example, if you want to measure whether everyone knows what your project will yield, you can plan a sample among the relevant target group. If you want to know whether employees are aware of the upcoming change, you can interview them. And do you want to know whether your future customers are already looking for your new product? Then you can, for example, analyze your website visit or other online activity.
In addition to the elements required to provide communication, a communication plan also describes how this is organised. The plan therefore usually contains a description of the various roles that are important for managing communication and their tasks, authorities and responsibilities. Some common communication roles include:
- Project manager The project manager is usually ultimately responsible for project communication within a project. He sees to it that a good communication plan is drawn up, that it is implemented and that any problems are resolved.
- Communication manager The communication manager – often a temporary hired communications consultant – supports the project manager in managing communication. Usually this employee writes the communication plan and draws up the communication calendar, after which he organizes the actual communication activities and reports the results.
- Editor-in-chief Where content (graphic designs, written content, images, etc.) is created, the editor-in-chief is the one who determines whether it is good enough (publishable).
- Editor The editor is responsible for the content of a publication. This may concern editing (and layouts) of a supplied piece, or writing it yourself (author).
- Designer A designer takes care of the graphic and/or physical design of the communication. This can concern all kinds of designs, such as a project website, newsletter, information folder, pull-out banner, information stand, etc.
- Facilitator A facilitator supervises meetings. This could be the facilitator of a brainstorm or intervision meeting, a moderator, coach during a brown paper session or any other facilitator of a social process.
7. Communication calendar
In order for the communication messages to reach your stakeholders properly, you must plot them in time. In the above you have determined which messages you want to send to which target groups and through which media you want to do this. What you haven't determined yet is how often you want to do it: the frequency. When determining the frequency, you determine how often and with what regularity you want to send each message. For example, you send out a newsletter every month, post at least one new article on the intranet every week and send out a press release every project milestone. By determining the frequency, you lay the foundation for planning your communication in time. By then recording the communication moments in a time schedule – the communication calendar – you can plan the preparation, implementation and effect measurement.
8. Cost calculation and communication budget
Once you know which activities you want to develop, you can usually also make a good estimate of the costs involved. Depending on how the project is organized, approval is required from the project manager and/or steering committee, after which the communication budget is made available and implementation can begin. Follow-up and adjustment of time planning, budget and results of project communication are part of project management.