A project communications plan is a document that describes the communications goals, strategies and measures needed to ensure all stakeholders of a project have the right information at the right time. In this article we’ll show you how to use a simple project communications plan template to create a document that’s easy to update, share with stakeholders, and use throughout the lifecycle of your project.
Good communications management is at the core of every successful project, as experienced project managers will tell you. Bad communication can lead to missed opportunities, missed deadlines, frustration among team members and many other issues that can negatively impact a project.
Most, if not all of these issues can be avoided by determining clear communication rules during the project planning phase. As the communications manager, it is your job to determine what needs to be communicated, when it needs to be communicated, by whom and via which channel. Keep in mind that communication doesn’t just happen in meetings and emails. Communication can take place in various settings and have different dimensions. The PMBOK® Guide, Fifth Edition, lists the following types of communication:
- Internal (e.g. team members) and external (customers, the public etc)
- Formal (reports, briefings) and informal (emails, phone calls etc.)
- Vertical (up and down the organization) and horizontal (with peers)
- Official (e.g. newsletters) and unofficial (off the record)
- Written, verbal (voice inflections) and nonverbal (body language)
The Project Communications Management Processes
There are five processes that make up project communications management, according to the PMBOK® Guide. To help you get the most out of our communications plan template, we’ll quickly go over each process:
1) Identify Stakeholders
Knowing who the stakeholders of your project are, what their interests are and how much influence they have is important for many areas of project management, including your communications plan. You can conduct a stakeholder analysis to identify stakeholders and create a stakeholder register. Conducting stakeholder interviews will also help you understand the different expectations each stakeholder has towards your project and communications.
2) Plan Communications
The main output of this process is the project communications plan, which we’ll discuss below. To create the plan, you will need to identify the needs of all project stakeholders and decide on communications models, methods and technologies to use throughout the project management phase.
3) Distribute Information
Now it’s time to execute the communications plan you’ve created in step two, and distribute information to stakeholders accordingly. You may for instance schedule a weekly status meeting, or keep people in the loop using automatic notifications about project progress. Project management tools such as MeisterTask allow you to set up such automations (called Section Actions) to inform stakeholders via email, Slack, and other communication tools.
4) Manage Stakeholder Expectations
Sending automatic updates to stakeholders is not enough. As mentioned under step one, a good project manager needs to be aware of the differing expectations stakeholders have and use his or her people skills to resolve conflicts, build trust, and keep people motivated throughout the project lifecycle.
5) Report Performance
The last process involves creating performance reports which the project manager i.e. communications manager submits to concerned audiences to inform them about project progress, the current status of issues and risks, proposed changes to the project, and other topics of interest.
The Project Communications Plan Template
Text documents with dozens of pages can be intimidating and take a long time to read through. By switching to a more visual format, you can help team members and decision makers get to the most essential pieces of information quickly, and grasp the implications of even complex issues at a glance. The mind map format is uniquely suited to create a project communications plan for a number of reasons:
- It shows all important pieces of information at a glance
- It shows how individual elements are connected
- It’s easy to edit, update and expand upon
- It’s easy to share and facilitates collaboration
- It offers space for attachments, links, comments and more.
Involving stakeholders in the planning process and giving them the opportunity to provide feedback, for instance by commenting on individual topics in the mind map, is a great way to ensure that everybody is on the same page and has a clear picture of the communication goals and strategy.
We’ve prepared a project communications plan template for you which is suitable for a variety of project types. Take a look:
How to Use the Mind Map Template
- Clone the template to your MindMeister account. (If you don’t yet have one, you can sign up for free now).
- Start filling the template with information. You can expand branches by adding new subtopics anywhere on the map; you can write notes into the note section of each topic; you can also upload file attachments, paste links or drag & drop images onto topics.
- Share the mind map with the members of your decision making team, either by providing them with a share link or by inviting them to the map via email.
- Ask your collaborators for feedback. They can vote and comment on topics, or assign priorities using colors and icons.
- Create a secure share link to the finished communications plan map and paste it into your main project plan.
- Refer to the communications plan map throughout the project management phase and update it if necessary.
Here’s what a finished project communications plan can look like:
Notice that a lot of topics have note icons next to them, indicating that additional information is stored there in the form of notes. While the mind map provides a great overview of the contents of the plan, it still manages to store a large amount of information that is readily available when needed.
We hope you find this mind map template useful and will give it a try when working on your next project communications plan!