Communications Strategy, Communications Plan – What’s the Difference?

Communicators are often asked to work with many different types of strategies and plans – and there’s often a lot of confusion swirling around these various products. That’s a real problem, as it can set up a disconnect between expectations and deliverables, right out of the gate.

Here’s a quick guide to demystifying strategic communications planning deliverables:

Communications Strategy

A comprehensive, detailed strategic plan designed to guide the communications of an organization or of a significant initiative or issue. A Communications Strategy typically includes an in-depth Strategic Considerations section providing sound analysis of the internal and/or external environment. A Corporate Communications Strategy is designed to direct an organization’s high level communications. It often has a three-year time horizon, with a more detailed implementation plan for year one.

Communications Plan

A more focused, brief plan that guides the communications for a particular project, event or initiative.  A communications plan follows the basic structure of a full communications strategy but presents less analytical detail, and generally more specific information on implementation planning, such as as including a workplan.  In some cases, a marcom plan is developed to help direct both marketing and communications activities in an integrated fashion. 

Crisis/Risk Communications Plan

A crisis communications plan provides a recommended response to a crisis, that is a situation that poses a serious threat to an organization’s operations, reputation or safety.  A risk communications plan is similar but tends to include less urgent situations that do not necessarily threaten an organization’s core functioning.

These planning deliverables can be for internal and/or external communications.  Another variation is a stakeholder communications strategy or plan, which includes a more detailed focus on an organization’s stakeholder groups and how they relate among and between each other.

The Results Map® System of knowledge products and tools includes the Results Map® Process Guide to Strategic Communications Planning with downloadable plan templates and samples.