How to Develop an Innovation Communications Plan






Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” If anybody knew, it would be him.

One of the most essential elements of any campaign is the preparation of a communications plan, but this is especially true for innovation initiatives. A comprehensive, well-developed communications plan can make or break an innovation challenge.

Developing a communications plan is covered under two main umbrellas: channels for communications and talking points. It’s recommended to choose the top four of eight channels (website, email, social, public relations, partners, events, offline, and beyond) for getting your message out there, and focusing on those. Then there are talking points to consider and think through, which you’ll eventually share through the channels that you’ve selected. These include thinking about the program launch, promoting promising and popular ideas, sharing the progress of ideas as they’re proposed, shortlisting the best ideas, talking about ideas that have been implemented, and tracking successes and publicizing them. These points are outlined in more detail in the infographic above.

But why is it so important to think through a communications strategy before you implement an innovation initiative? What could possibly go so wrong if you only have a few basic ideas in place?

Almost everything these days is incredibly accessible, with an entire digital world at our fingertips 24 hours a day. If you don’t make participating in your program easy for your target audience, why would they participate? Including where and how to participate in your program launch is the first step to making it easy. Following up with communications reminding people where and how to participate via the channels that you’ve selected for sharing information is the second step. When you establish ahead of time the best methods for sharing these pieces with your desired participators, it is that much more likely that your program will be successful. I refer you back to our friend Ben’s saying about preparation.

Hand in hand with that, people are much more likely to participate if it feels to them like their ideas and involvement are being appreciated and recognized and respected. This is where the talking points come in handy, because these are all ways of communicating to your community that you appreciate their contribution. Once again, these methods of recognition are infinitely harder without a plan already in place when you implement your campaign.

Have you ever posted something on one of your organization’s social media outlets, only to realize later that somebody had already done that? For teams of all sizes, preparing a communications plan allows everyone to be on the same page about the particular messaging and timing surrounding the campaign. Perhaps there’s a thought to emphasize certain ideas at certain points, so that folks can see what a great idea looks like, or to share the progress of ideas as they move through the process. But if not everyone on the team is on the same page about that, outward communications through the channels you’ve selected can get tricky.

As you can see, the success of any innovation campaign relies on how thoroughly the communications have been discussed. It’s super easy to avoid those negative consequences: just get everyone on the same page ahead of time with a well-thought-out communications plan.

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