Your Strategic Plan Needs a Plan

We’ve all read articles (and heard from colleagues) about how strategic plans get “put on a shelf” and stay there. We’ve all witnessed that process at one time or another.

The solution: the plan needs a plan.

As your institution develops its institutional strategic plan, include a goal of communicating the plan to engage individuals outside of the project team early and often. It’s a key component to the plan’s success to help others understand your process, framework, timeline, and measurements for success. Communicating the plan to your internal audiences throughout the institution sets up you for higher engagement when it comes time to implement the plan. Your strategic plan needs a communication plan.

Your strategic plan should include a strategy for communicating progress after the implementation phase has begun.

It is important for internal and external audiences to have a number of ways to learn about the strategic plan and its progress along the way. The communications plan includes a variety of ways to reach target audiences, providing multiple points of entry, such as web, video, print, email, social media, meetings (faculty meetings, department meetings, board meetings), and events (on-campus and off-campus).

The communications timeline includes a series of key messages to:

Engage Internal Audiences

  • Convey how the strategic plan will advance the mission of the institution (presidential message).
  • Encourage participation from all constituents, and how they fit into the plan (presidential and/or planning chair message).
  • Tell stories that reflect the areas of the strategic plan, including opportunities for comments.
  • Publish/distribute/communicate periodic progress.
  • Provide feedback forums to encourage comments, suggestions.

Inform External Audiences

  • Convey the importance of a strategic plan and how it will benefit the institution, the community, the world (presidential message).
  • Tell stories that reflect the areas of the strategic plan (including opportunities for comments if appropriate).
  • Publish/distribute/communicate periodic progress reports.

Map Out the Process

  • Illustrate the process via a matrix identifying components of the strategic plan.
  • Indicate points where individuals and groups can join the process.
  • Provide a timeline for key goals and milestones.

Communicate Progress

  • Use stories to show how various groups are involved in the process (faculty, staff, students, alumni).
  • Celebrate milestones along the way to maintain a level of engagement and engagement.
  • Make the most of your existing communications channels to show progress.