Communication plans matter more than you might think. Even if information has been covered in a meeting or an email, people can be forgetful. All the time spent combing through meeting notes and messages for details adds up. A 2023 survey by work management platform Asana found that people spend up to 60% of their time on “work about work,” wasting most of their day looking for documents, chasing down approvals, and checking in on projects.
A communication plan frees up your team to develop and deliver the engaging content behind the project itself, eliminating inefficiencies where possible.
What is a communication plan in project management?
In the world of project management, a communication plan is the single source of truth for an in-progress project. These outlines communicate top-level, executional information, such as timing and preferred methods of communication between relevant team members and key stakeholders. Communication plans are integral to the planning process, because when they’re done right, they keep your entire team on the same page.
What should be included in a communication plan?
An effective project communication plan should address the who, where, and when of any given project. It’s an outline of who needs to communicate which details to whom, where they will share the information, and how frequently they will provide updates. In some cases, a communication plan may also address the post-mortem stages of a project, with instructions on how to analyze relevant metrics post-launch.
Benefits of a communication plan
The main benefits of a communication plan include:
Fewer duplicative efforts
Duplicative work can be independent (say, rewriting a document from scratch because you couldn’t find the original) or collaborative (updating a colleague for the third time that week about the status of a project, leaving you less time to make progress on that project). When team communication is unclear, it creates repetitive overlaps, preventing critical focus periods that are necessary for execution. A communication plan can be a first line of defense against this kind of busywork.
Better communication across teams
Communication goals are at the core of most organizations—with good reason. Poor communication can lead to errors, decreased productivity, and a less harmonious work environment. More effective communication starts with clear expectations, and a communication plan establishes helpful boundaries that empower teams to streamline their productivity and respect each other’s schedules.
Keeping all pertinent information in a central, easy-to-find place is one of the best ways to unify a team and make the most of everyone’s time. Not only does a public plan help answer questions before they arise, it also provides insight into what each team is working on, which can be helpful when an opportunity or connection presents itself.
When team members are clear about the road map—and individuals’ roles within it—it allows for a more informed style of collaboration. Coworkers can funnel ideas to the correct teams and spend less time debating ownership of certain tasks.
How to write a communication plan
- Know your audience
- Identify stakeholders
- Determine communication methods
- Establish a communication cadence
- Outline the framework
- Keep details up-to-date
A communication plan can be a detailed and specific project map or a general best practices document to refer back to as needed. Here’s what to consider when writing your own plan:
1. Know your audience
Throughout the span of a project, there will be key audiences who need to be made aware of specific updates. Those audiences might be internal team members. Or, if part of your project involves external stakeholders, you might need to loop in individuals like investors or community members who are helping to sponsor the project.
2. Identify stakeholders
Each project has a unique network of people involved, and a communication plan is an opportunity to spotlight how their work should intersect. For each stage of the project, list the key stakeholders involved, including relevant team members and any external players. Go over these details in a project kickoff meeting to secure stakeholder support.
3. Determine communication methods
Noting your team’s preferred communication methods is an essential part of a good communication plan. As a project manager, you have multiple tools and communication channels at your disposal. The different channels you choose will depend on company preference and likelihood of adoption. If you’re considering introducing new platforms—like Slack or Microsoft Teams—ask for input from the team members first.
No matter the tools you choose, there are two styles of communication to be aware of:
- Asynchronous: Asynchronous communication is anything sent without the expectation of an immediate response, like an email.
- Synchronous: Synchronous communication refers to interactions in real-time, like instant messages or in-person meetings.
An effective communications plan charts how these two modes of communication intersect. For example, you might decide to reserve email for communicating with external stakeholders from other organizations and to use video conferencing software like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet for brainstorms.
4. Establish the communication cadence
Some team members will need to be involved in each step of the project with daily updates and some will need to be looped in at critical junctures only—like executive stakeholders and business leaders. Establish communication frequency guidelines within your plan that respect everyone’s time and minimize unnecessary interruptions or tangents.
5. Outline the framework
Communication plan templates are typically broken down into grids that divide the full timeline into stages. Each stage should include a short description (for example, “general project status update”), the frequency of check-ins (“monthly”), where those check-ins should occur (“Zoom meeting”), the intended recipients or audience for those updates (“full team”), and the lead team member handling those notifications (“Jane Doe”).
6. Keep details up-to-date
House your finished communication plan in a central shared location that all team members can access. For example, if your team uses instant messaging platforms like Slack, pin important links to the top of group channels for quick retrieval. Keep the document up to date with any shifting deadlines or project developments and communicate them accordingly.
Communication plan FAQ
What is the purpose of a communication plan?
In project management, a communication plan outlines important timing information about a project and highlights the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders. Establishing the preferred methods of communication and communication cadence between different groups makes for more efficient team collaboration and less duplicative work.
What makes a good communication plan?
An effective project management communication plan clearly delineates when to loop specific team members into the different stages of a project, how teams should communicate with one another, and where they should do it. A good crisis communication plan ensures executive stakeholders have a consistent message across various touchpoints in the event of a crisis.
What shouldn’t be included in a communication plan?
Avoid including sensitive personal information, confidential business strategies, speculative information, or anything else that could jeopardize the company’s security or create confusion in your communication plan.
Are there different types of communication plans?
Many different scenarios drive communications planning. In addition to project management communication plans, there are crisis communication plans that provide a step-by-step action plan for when a crisis occurs, and marketing communication plans that detail how and where you plan to reach your target audience regarding a product launch or brand update. These plans typically outline the phases of a social media campaign or the main points in a press release to media outlets.