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Strategic Plans vs. Communications Plans – Breaking Down Their Roles

Perhaps it’s simply an assumption fueled by similar terminology, but when I ask a prospective job candidate or new client whether they’ve had experience in developing strategic plans, they often conclude I’m referring to the development of strategic communications plans but they’re different processes that serve unique purposes.

While communications planning and execution is our industry’s bread and butter, NST also has some serious strategic planning chops. Our firm has facilitated the development of strategic plans for more than 40 years, helping our clients chart a course for the future, and in many cases, strengthen their communications and leadership approach.

Strategic Planning

At NST, we approach strategic planning as an organizational management process that is focused on answering three basic questions: Where are you now as an organization? Where do you want to be? And how do you get there? Through a number of in-depth inputs and facilitated discussions, NST provides organizations with a systematic way of thinking through these questions and developing a roadmap for the future by gaining consensus on the organization’s mission (core business), vision (destination they’re working toward), purpose (benefit to people/society at large), core values (principles for decision making) and strategic priorities (areas of focus to achieve the vision).

These plans tackle disciplines that are often far removed from the communications department – topics like supply chain management, regulatory or legislative advocacy, program enhancements, revenue diversity and more. From pork producers to housing authorities to social services charities, NST has guided hundreds of organizations in articulating their vision of future success and developing a blueprint to make it a reality.

Communications Plans

As PR pros know, communications plans describe how an organization plans to get their messages out to audiences to drive a specific behavior. These plans typically include details on how the organization is positioning itself in the marketplace; key messages for each audience; outreach goals, objectives and strategies; and a detailed list of tactical recommendations (paid, earned, shared and owned channels) to help achieve the organization’s objectives.

Strategic Plan Elements:

  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Purpose
  • Core Values
  • Strategic Priorities
Communications Plan Elements:

  • Brand Positioning Strategy
  • Key Messages by Audience
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Communications Strategies
  • Tactical Recommendations

While these tools serve different roles in supporting organizations, for communications professionals, it’s essential to understand an organization’s strategic plan to develop an impactful communications plan. Increasingly, individuals are looking to support organizations and industries that share their beliefs and what’s important to them personally. How can an organization connect with its stakeholders, if it can’t articulate its own values or purpose? How can it recruit support if it doesn’t have a vision for where the organization is headed?

A salient communications strategy will expertly weave an organization’s strategic plan elements into its positioning strategy and key messages in a way that strengthens connections with stakeholders, fuels the plan’s objectives and drives progress toward the organization’s vision of future success.

It’s through this multidisciplinary approach that NST is able to fuels its own vision of “Redefining PR” and providing value to many facets of our clients’ businesses, not just traditional marketing and communications avenues. Whether you’re interested in developing a strategic plan or creating a communications approach that builds on your organization’s existing strategic trajectory, NST would love to connect.

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