A communications strategy summarises the key decisions that will direct your overall communications approach. A standard strategy includes what you need your communications to achieve (objectives), who you need to engage as a priority (audiences), what they need to hear from you (key messages), and broadly how you will communicate with them (communications channels).
A communications plan is your action plan that sits alongside your communications strategy. If your strategy is the ‘why’, ‘who’ and ‘what’ of your communications, the plan is the ‘when’ and ‘how’, and includes all the communications channels you will use to reach your audiences. It also identifies what actions need to be achieved over what timeframe.
What your communications must deliver to help you achieve your wider goals. Communications objectives should avoid focusing on the output (ie produce a leaflet for GPs), and concentrate on the desired impact (ie raise awareness of the benefits of our new service among GPs, to prompt an X% increase in referrals from primary care).
The messages you think your audiences will remember and respond to above all else. Concise and clear statements that provide a focus for the content of your wider communications.
The people you need to engage in order to bring about the change you wish to see. In health care improvement, this term is often interchangeable with ‘stakeholders’. A strategic approach to communications encourages the identification of ‘target’ or ‘priority’ audiences: those who have the greatest interest, influence or ability to deliver your objectives.
The extent to which the learning and change principles from your project have been adopted in other parts of the organisation or system that could benefit from them.