A good communication plan for a business or freelancer is like a healthy home garden. It has the appropriate plant with the appropriate soil condition planted at the appropriate time for the most successful harvest.
How does a garden compare to a communication plan?
Any gardener knows that you have to think about where to position each type of plant for maximum effectiveness. Tomatoes need sun and water; some herbs, like parsley, do better with a bit of shade. Beans need a structure on which to climb.
When deciding on what channels to communicate, the business owner or freelancer needs to determine which best suits the desired outcome. For instance, many small businesses find a social networking page more than adequate while others will build a web site. Some use both to cover a wider audience.
Gardeners know that they need to enrich soil for nutrients and provide water. Some plants can tolerate long, very hot, dry spells; others, not so much.
Business communicators need to analyze the relationship between a particular channel and how the message is being broadcast. For instance, a microblog like Twitter might be great for keeping customers and employees updated on events and new products (with links to more detailed information, of course). However, that is not the way to announce negative news like product failures.
Gardeners know they must nurture the plants to keep them healthy. Weeding, fertilizing, and controlling bugs aren’t glamorous, but they need to be done regularly for a successful harvest.
Communication plans need periodic checks, too. Analyzing what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and what options are out there takes time that many business people think they don’t have. However, communication plans need to be maintained to be successful. No one wants to continue to waste time and effort on communication strategies that aren’t working.
Every gardener researches the best time to plant different crops in their garden and the best times to harvest. Last frost and first frost are vital yardsticks to know for a successful garden.
Business communication also goes in cycles. Some times of the year are better for a product campaign than others. (Selling push lawnmowers in the dead of winter usually isn’t a good marketing strategy.) Knowing the attitude of an audience is also essential. (Announcing a deep discount on a product that’s just had a safety recall isn’t the best timing.)
Gardeners often find themselves with a bumper crop they can’t possibly use up themselves. (A zucchini experience comes to mind.) In that case, gardeners will share the bounty.
When successful communication strategies cause such a great increase in business that one organization or freelancer can’t handle it, be generous and share the wealth. It will often come back as new opportunities.
You don’t need to wear bib overalls to create a communications plan, but keeping in mind some gardening strategies might just make it a bit easier.