Create a stakeholder communication plan

1. Identify and prioritize the project's stakeholders.

Every project has components that require approval and communication from various stakeholders. For example: Budget approval. Cross-functional collaboration and dependencies. Messaging priorities. Internal and external deadlines. When mapping out the project and the necessary steps to complete this project, identify which approvals need to be obtained before the next step can be completed. For example: Before any internal or external communications can be constructed, you need stakeholder approval on messaging components to comply with their needs. If you wish to print a communication piece on a heavier stock of paper that would exceed the pre approved budget, you will need to inquire with the stakeholder who approves the project’s budget before you can move it to the next stage.

2. Determine goals and objectives of your stakeholders and schedule meetings appropriately to maintain a proper chain of command as things develop.

Stakeholders have certain expectations for projects that concern them, and the project will help them achieve their goals within the company. Before you begin to create your communications tools and channels, determine which stakeholders need to know what information and how their goals will be achieved, such as: Project manager: Leads the process and manages communication. Key stakeholder: Approves budget and messaging. Trusted consult: Provides an informed opinion. Liaison: Stays informed of progress and developments.

3. Align stakeholders' vision with company objectives.

If the project’s objective does not align with the company mission, challenge the stakeholder to reassess the project so that it functions as an extension of the mission. Things to include: Clear CTAs, for example internal and external contact information. Templates to repurpose and populate. Calendars for regular updates.

4. Maintain communication with stakeholders.

Keep the stakeholder informed of developments like: Project delays. Budget increases. External roadblocks, for example, printing delays. This also allows them to have a voice in the process, especially when approval is needed.

5. Set expectations for communication, reviews, and approvals to keep the project on schedule.

Different stakeholders will want different information, so ask them what metrics they require. For example, if the project looks like it will exceed the approved budget, check with the stakeholder to see if additional budget is available or if the project needs to be reassessed. Communicate with the stakeholders who influence timelines and approvals. For example, establish when the stakeholder will need to provide content and direction, and then plan dates for delivery of proofs. Set deadlines for approval and feedback, so that the stakeholder can plan their time accordingly.

6. Choose your tools, templates, and calendars to allow stakeholders and project managers to stay connected and informed throughout the creative process.

Consider project management platforms like Basecamp or Asana. Files can be hosted and archived, and deadlines can be assigned for approvals, revisions, and sign-offs. If communicating solely by email, utilize your shared calendar for deadlines. Large files will likely exceed the attachment size limit for your email provider. To overcome this obstacle, use a file transfer protocol like Dropbox to deliver large files to your stakeholder.

7. Assess the plan for continual improvement, and each project with a comprehensive review and assess the overall project and process

Whether the project stakeholders change each time or remain the same, revise the current communication plan and processes as needed. Allow stakeholders and teams to express concerns on the process and communicate how the project could have been improved, especially if it’s a recurring project.