Ready or not, it’s communications planning season. Here are five things to think about now to make sure your 2019 plan hits its mark.

Don’t stick to your old strategy

Your current communications plan isn’t broken – it’s getting media results, driving web traffic, contributing to new leads – so why fix it? Remember: change is constant, even if it’s small shifts. And evolution is essential, even if it’s iterative. Take a look at your competitors. Explore emerging channels. Consider new technologies. Evaluate your processes and performance. Fresh thinking is always a good thing. So, for now, put this year’s communications plan to the side.

Target the right audience

Your target audience is the heart of your communications plan. Many communicators believe they know who this is – but you can’t make that decision based on the past or by gut feel. Researching your market – regularly – is important. Otherwise you risk squandering valuable effort, time, money and resources. Effective communication starts with this question: who is my company’s ideal buyer? Be realistic. It’s not everyone. Knowing who you’re selling to (and who you aren’t) will guide you and your business toward success.

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Focus your message on solutions

It’s a common mistake. After all, your company sells products (or services), right? But today’s customers aren’t buying things; they’re buying into solutions – expertise, knowledge, counsel, thought leadership. Your messaging should reflect this mindset. How are you solving problems? Addressing issues? Satisfying needs? Every company has good products. Focus on what differentiates your brand from the competition. By doing so, you’ll help increase engagement with prospects, strengthen relationships with existing customers and improve overall market value.

Set realistic goals

The “less is more” maxim applies to communications planning goal-setting. Prioritize and hone in on the two or three things that must be achieved to make your year (and that of your business). Include a stretch goal too, but stop there. Resist the pressure to list anything that is immaterial or that you can’t come close to achieving, or that your team lacks the capacity to accomplish. Reality trumps aspiration.

Get your boss’ buy-in

If your boss doesn’t buy into your strategy, your communications plan won’t take you very far. Keep in mind that CEOs and other executive-level leaders think in numbers and growth. The ultimate arbiter is always, “Does this expenditure move the company forward?” Your communications plan must do two things: 1) align with business goals and 2) equate tactics to ROI. Get inside your boss’ head. Ask questions. Ensure you’re in sync before you start planning. If you take this extra step at the onset, you’ll not only save time and potential headaches, but you’ll also underscore your value – and that of your team – to the future of the business.

For more communications planning insights and tips, read our guide, “How to Create a Communications Plan Your Boss Can’t Refuse.”

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For more than 12 years, Jen Zottola has helped bring clients’ stories to life – through media opportunities, digital and marketing content, executive presentations, employee communications and more. Fusing creativity with strategy, she crafts compelling, award-winning copy proven to reach and resonate with the right audiences in the most impactful ways. As editorial director, Jen collaborates with clients and account teams to provide counsel on messaging and voice, as well as writing and editing support. Her creativity isn’t reserved only for writing; Jen also gets a kick out of party- and event planning.