How do I establish a Communications Plan?

Before you begin mailing, come up with a mailing strategy that fits within your office's overall communications plan. (See our list of Communications Plan Considerations.) What is your purpose? To inform, to educate, to incite readers to action, all of the above? Who is your audience? Are you reaching out to people who have solicited your communication? Are you reaching out to people with a particular interest? You might have a different plan for each purpose and/or audience as you attempt to accomplish different things with your e-newsletter campaign. What are your goals? If you have nothing in mind, how will you know if you’ve improved or accomplished anything? 

Every plan starts with a general goal. Do you want to reach more people, increase engagement with your existing audience, strengthen your brand?

  1. Grow your outreach. Most people want their message to reach as many people as possible. Take a look at where you’re at currently and decide how you want to build your lists. Do you want more subscribers? Do you want more targeted lists for content-specific mailings? If you’re brand new to mailing e-newsletters, you might only have an All Contacts list. If this is the case, one of your primary goals should be to build your All Subscribers list. (See the article Contacts, Viewers, and Subscribers for information.) If you’ve been sending out newsletters for a while, it’s easy to get stuck only sending to your All Subscribers list. Take a look at List Management to see your existing lists, and take a look at Analytics to get an idea of who you’ve been reaching and who you might have been neglecting. Your goal may not only be to increase subscribers, but to increase targeted lists. Or to begin reaching out regularly to your targeted lists.  
  2. Increase engagement. Beyond growing your outreach, you should also be considering how engaged your audience is. Every email address has value because it’s your connection to an individual. If you want your message to truly reach people, think beyond just building your lists to building relationships. What are the trends in opt-ins or unsubscribes? How does your All Viewers list compare to your All Subscribers list? Do you have social sharers? How are your views and click-throughs? What are your survey results? Compare mailings to determine what may have triggered more click throughs or views in one newsletter verses another. If a contact has expressed interest in an issue by signing up for one of your targeted lists, make it a point to send to these lists.

Once you've established a general goal, set a specific and measurable target.

Based on the information you find when you are thinking about your goals, you can determine exactly how you want to improve by a certain deadline. The more specific your targets are, the easier it will be to determine if you’ve reached your goals. For example, you may start out with a general idea that you’d like to have more subscribers. Rather than say, “We should get more subscribers,” set a target such as, “In three months, we will increase our current subscriber list by 10%.” This is a specific and measurable target, which makes it much easier to determine your success.

Establish a strategy to reach each target.

After setting specific targets, you will then need to determine what strategies you will employ to reach those targets. For example, if “In three months, we will increase our current subscriber list by 10%” is your target, you cannot continue to only send to your current All Subscribers list and expect results. You will need to decide how you will reach out to contacts who aren’t currently subscribers. Will you send a monthly mailing to your all viewers and segments of your all contacts list? Will you send out regular 499s? Will you implement an easy e-newsletter sign up method for events? Will you include a poll in Telephone Town Hall events for participants to sign up for the e-newsletter? 

Regularly evaluate and refine your strategy.

  1. Monitor your progress after each mailing. Constantly monitor your progress using your analytics and if you see that something isn’t working, consider refining your strategy. (See the articles on the Executive Summary and Monitoring Your Mailing Results with Analytics for more information.)
  2. Schedule a formal target review. When you do reach your deadline, sit down and examine your targets. Did you meet or exceed them? If so, then maybe you need to set your targets higher and/or set new ones. Did you miss your targets? If so, then take a long look at your strategy. You may need to do some additional research. Are there additional methods you can employ to help you reach your target? Then set your next deadline.
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