29 May A communication plan today: what needs to be changed and how to do it
In these days of social networks first and communities after, communication as we once knew it no longer makes sense. Today, consumers have changed, and in front of consumers-actors, who are more attentive and active, you need to engage in a more adult and aware relationship. In a word: transform your audience -customers or collaborators- into a community.
This does not mean, mind you, just calling customers or collaborators members, but building a sense and producing value together. I believe this should be the goal set by anyone who plans to create a communication plan aimed at fully meeting the needs of their customers or collaborators.
Let’s look at 5 key steps on how to achieve this.
- Defining goals: from mission to purpose
AnI know you’ve probably read this many times, but a communication plan today can only start here. High, self-referential communication expressing a distant and poorly understood mission no longer works. This does not necessarily mean taking a stand on the big issues of our time, which is rather complicated and not very common in Italian organizations, but building simple contexts of meaning within which people can find themselves. This is done by some companies, such as Gengle, whose goal is simply to bring together single parents in small events; but also by big companies such as Adidas that aggregates running enthusiasts to share workouts, nutritional advice, etc. Miro also does it, with a huge community of people experimenting and sharing its product. Therefore, the communication plan must include a simple, understandable, and engaging purpose to be achieved, in order to aggregate people and get them involved in small actions for change.
“Turning your audience into a community is not about calling your customers or employees members, but about building meaning and producing value together.”
- Defining the narrative: from storytelling to storydoing
Defining the narrative of a communication plan for a community means no longer just telling about the company and its mission, but describing the shared value, what is done together, the achievements, and the people who are part of it. The “we” is no longer a plural formality, but the word that explicitly highlights the mutual trust pact between the organization and its members, both recognizing themselves in the same value proposition. Apart from that, the narrative must also be very simple, able to reach everyone, and aggregating: it must be able to activate those who are already part of the community, but also reach new people in a way that ensures development and growth.
- Defining the right message: from product to people
It is easy to see, then, that a communication plan for a community will no longer focus on the product but on the people. It doesn’t mean that the product should no longer be talked about, but the focus should definitely shift to the use of the product together, its value, the facts, and the people who use it. In the Miro community, they talk about the product all the time, but it is the users who do it. They are the ones who ask for help, explain how to use it, and organize workshops. On the other hand, those who organize communication facilitate, emphasize, stimulate, add input, support, and bring people together. Instead of talking about the product, an updated communication plan should inform what the community does with the products, celebrate the people who actively use them, provide insights, and launch discussions.
- Defining content: from communication to conversation
By now, it should be clear that in the era of communities -thus, in our times- there should be less emphasis on communication and more focus on fostering conversations. The plan, therefore, should not only include information and news but, above all, encourage discussion. These conversations create and nurture relationships, allowing people to exchange a wealth of information. That is why a communication plan needs to incorporate contributions that stimulate discussions around problem-solving, the exchange of opinions and news, sharing of experiences, and more. The role of those promoting the plan is no longer solely to promote but to stimulate, listen, collect, and relaunch. In short, to create value for members rather than for themselves.
“Instead of talking about the product, it is good for a communication plan today to inform what the community does with the products.”
- Defining return on investment: from leads to relationships
Discussions create relationships, and relationships create communities. If this holds true, then ROI measurements should focus not so much on the infamous leads, which are a nightmare of everyone involved in communication, but on the participation of members in the discussion and in the life of the organization. What exactly does that mean? It means implementing a series of surveys that monitor not only satisfaction with conversational stimuli but, more importantly, participation. This involves measuring, for example:
- The number of participants in discussions and events
- The number of spontaneous contributions from members
- The number of those who contribute multiple times to discussions or events, bringing value
- The number of people who are willing to put themselves out there for the community
- The number of people who spontaneously propose activities, ideas, insights to grow the community, and so on.
However, it is important to note that it’s not just numbers. A good communication plan should also include qualitative listening moments that involve collecting feedback, conducting short surveys, organizing idea gathering and co-design sessions, and engaging in more or less formalized chats.
In short, the goal of Internal and External Communication managers should no longer be just to communicate the brand and its values, but to build a relationship with those they engage. And this will not be built by letting people imagine vague self-referential scenarios, but by weaving a relationship with people on a daily basis according to the logic of meaning. This sure is a painstaking task and it will take time, but from which you cannot exempt oneself for the clients and collaborators are now asking for it. And the punishment for not meeting their demands can be the most dreaded ordeal in communication: irrelevance.