Developing a communications strategy

Use these prompts as a template to plan your communications


Are there existing organisational, brand, audience and content strategies that your campaign communications needs to take into account?

What’s the current situation? Use analysis tools:

  • PEST: Political, Economic, Social & Technological factors
  • SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Competitor: identify main competitors and rank them against certain criteria, assessing current strengths and weaknesses

Goals and objectives

What do your communications aim to achieve? Are the goals compelling, targeted and impactful? Do they fit with the organisational strategy?

Are the objectives SMART (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Timely)? Do they make up the necessary steps that lead along the critical path to the goal? Are these steps causally linked?

Priority audiences

How many different audience groups do you need to communicate with? Who are they? What do you know about them? What are their demographics? What values do they relate to? Some of these audience groups will be closely related to the actors you’ve identified in your campaign plan, others may be the means by which you can influence the decision-makers.

Key messages

What will be the most powerful ways to motivate your audience? Tell your story answering the questions:

  • What’s the problem?
  • What’s the solution?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What’s the call to action?

Have no more than 3 points for each, written as simple, clear and direct soundbites that all your communications will focus on delivering.

Audience-specific and secondary messages

Are there specific messages for different audiences? These too should have prepared soundbites. Don’t stray far from your key messages, but you should be aware that the different priority audiences won’t always share the same values.

Communications channels

What are the most appropriate channels to use to engage with each of the priority audiences? Examples of channels include local or national newspapers, email, door-to-door leafleting, TV news, website, social media (if social media, specify which social media channel will be suitable e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). Briefly outline the specific content expectations for each channel (e.g. if Facebook is an important channel, audiences might expect a regular mix of text, image and video content.

Communications mechanisms

What activities will you use to focus and deliver your communications? Examples include photo ops, stunts and events, online activities, surveys, reports and celebrity endorsements. Remember that visual campaigns (and all campaigns need to be strongly visual) need actions, not just talking.

Communications evaluation

How will you evaluate your communications effectiveness? As well as the main organisational goals, your communications strategy should have clear, measurable targets, such as:

  • # pieces of national print coverage
  • # features placed in consumer magazines or websites
  • # visitors to website
  • # social media actions

Prepare for success and failure

How will you communicate a campaign success or failure, and make the most of it for achieving other organisational goals, or control it to reduce harm?


This article was written by Simon Williams, who delivers the Strategic Communications, Writing for the Web and Build your own Website courses. It was first published on

Written By...

Simon Williams

Simon Williams runs the Writing for the Web and Build your own Website courses. Simon teaches digital and campaign communications at Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, and is a freelance journalist specialising in environment and outdoor activities. With nearly 20 years experience of online editing, design and development, and 8 years as communications manager for Friends of the Earth Cymru, Simon now provides communications strategy consultancy and training. Find out more at


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