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There are few concepts that seem to unnerve today’s internal communication professionals as much as strategic planning. Many communicators perceive the process as time-consuming and complicated, and ask: where do I start? What does it require? How can I help drive the process, and how will I measure success?

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” – President John F. Kennedy

Strategic planning can be straightforward, efficient and even fun, providing a roadmap that ensures your efforts have the greatest possible impact. Outlined below are nine basic, successive stages to the process, each one building on the previous:

Step 1: Situation analysis
Define the “current state” or your organization – its challenges, environment, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Leverage existing data (surveys, interviews, focus groups).

Step 2: Future state vision
Envision the ideal future – how you want the communication environment to look, feel and operate a year from now. Consider the following areas: messaging, content, tools & channels, processes, leader and manager communication, reputation, culture, roles, your team, partnerships, measurement.

Step 3: Prioritize vision elements
Looking at your vision, identify the key 3-5 elements that need to be addressed first to arrive at your desired future.

Step 4: Develop communication objectives
Translate those 3-5 elements into specific objectives that can be achieved through your concrete actions.

Step 5: Develop strategies and tactics
Brainstorm a range of potential strategies to achieve each of those objectives, and a short list of tactics to support each strategy.

Step 6: Prioritize strategies and tactics
Develop consensus and finalize the chosen strategies and tactics for your team and/or organization to pursue.

Step 7: Define metrics, timelines and responsibilities
Create the detail behind those strategies and tactics – who will be responsible, with what resources and timeframes, and how success will be measured.

Step 8: Develop strategic and tactical plans
Capture the content in a written plan, and refine as needed.

Step 9: Implementation and beyond
Execute the plan, measure your success on a quarterly basis and make adjustments as needed.

Strategic planning, in reality, can be as simple as following a nine step roadmap. With an ever increasing business focus on internal communication, communication professionals can approach strategic planning with confidence.