The architect and the communicator


Any impressive building starts with sound architectural plans. The drawings step is vital to the creative process – it’s where architects and their clients can work together to think big, refine their ideas and validate that they’re on the same page before construction begins.

No one would dream of starting a building project by digging a hole for a foundation and laying bricks all over the place, and then discuss whether we’re aiming for a cabin, an office tower or a sprawling bungalow.

And yet, this is exactly what happens to so many communicators. Our version of architectural drawings is a strategic communications plan. The cold hard truth is that most communications teams – even those with hundreds of staff and millions in budget are working without the crucial foundation of a relevant, practical, evidence-informed plan. There are lots of reasons for this – culture is a big one, along with time pressures, skills gaps and an increasing perception that planning doesn’t make sense in a world that keeps changing.

Executing a communications function with no clear and common vision of what success looks like, who our audiences are, what the message is, how our tactics are supposed to work together and how we’ll know if they’re working is risky business. At best, it’s almost certainly an inadequate management of resources, and at worse this shaky foundation leads to the chronic frustrations and credibility deficits that communicators have complained about for years – and which have only gotten worse in the chaos and turbulence of our time.

There is a better way – lightweight, practical and insightful strategic communications planning frameworks that scale to the business context at hand. I’ll be presenting some of these ideas and tools at an upcoming master class on How to Keep Your Communications Planning Relevant hosted by IABC Ottawa. I hope you can join us!

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