This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme

10 Steps to Create A Small Business Communications Plan

DATE: 21/10/20


Every business needs a communications plan. No matter how big or small. No matter how many customers you have or what your product is. Getting to grips with the messages you put out and what your goals are is a key part of any business.

It’s All About The Plan

A communications plan is an agreed strategy for how your business intends to communicate with all of its stakeholders. That is to say, the messages you’ll use to communicate with customers, with clients, with peer businesses. The goals of your brand, the language you’ll use and the strategy around how you plan to communicate that externally. It can also cover interactions with staff and colleagues inside your business.

Many of us may assume a communications plan covers only PR and Marketing but really it is so much more. It represents your face to the public.  If your company had a personality, how that personality would engage on a day to day basis. It reflects your mission, your goals, your voice and your brand. Spending some time digging into these issues can serve you incredibly well in times of success and of challenge.

If this all sounds like another language to you, don’t worry. There are  some key aspects that you can dig into to start pulling together your own Communications Plan.

Here are our 10 Steps to Communications success:

  1. Audit

No matter what your stage of business, it’s important to take stock of any and all communications you are currently engaged in. Perhaps that means very little, just your logo, branding, web content and initial press release? Or maybe you have more communications to look at, emails with customers, social media posts, advertising campaigns to name a few. Whatever ways you have ‘communicated’ with the world outside of your business count. Take a look at all of them and consider honestly what is working and what is not. You may notice that there are some areas for improvement, or some gaps in your messaging. Maybe you’ll realise your brand has evolved since initial communications and its time for a refresh going forward.

  1. Rules and Goals

Now that you know what’s happened so far, it’s time to examine where you want to go from here. What are your goals? What is the mission of the company? What does your brand stand for and what is the message you want and need to communicate to the world? Consider your company as having a personality and imagine the type of conversations it would have. What language would it use to set out its objectives? What platforms would it use to communicate with customers online and offline?

It might be useful to separate your goals into short term and long term. For example in the short term you may wish to develop brand recognition. In the long term you may wish to grow your customer base and be a leader in your field. Once you identify your goals, you can start to develop rules around how you plan to reach them.

  1. Who?

Next stop is all about your audience. To whom is your brand talking? Who are you customers and peers and who will be receiving your communications whether they are in person or online? Try and flesh out your customer groups as fully as you can. Information like age range, geographic location, family demographics, income level, beliefs and interests are all useful. The more details you can build up on your target audience, the easier it will be to engage with them in an authentic way.

  1. Where?

Now that you have established who you want to talk to, you’ll need to figure out where that conversation will happen. Where does your audience ‘live’ online? Are they social media users? If so, what platforms? Can you establish the best day or time to post and engage with them on that platform? Perhaps they are more likely to digest thought leadership so crafting a blog that speaks directly to them will be best. Breaking down the various platforms you’ll use in this way will yield more success than using a blanket approach. It’s also more cost efficient for a small business budget to target your communications. You can test out what you’re doing and change accordingly rather than spending big without any parameters for success.

  1. Why? (USP)

Knowing who you’re communicating with and how, you can begin to shape the message you’ll be sending out. What is different about what your business offers? Why should someone make use of the product or service you offer. Taking time to consider the industry and what is currently on offer is very helpful. Knowing what problems exist and what solutions you will be offering will help you to develop your Unique Selling Point and ensure that comes through in your communications plan.

  1. Think Big

Now to put some plans on paper. Give yourself a three or six month window to start with and make a big picture plan about what communications you are going to engage in and when. Use a simple calendar format and mark out when your social media campaigns will be active, when you’re targeting press and any other communications you plan to pursue. Significant times of the year can help guide types of content. And remember that this should be a  ‘live’ document that you keep editing and updating as you move forward.

  1. Think Small

Once you have an overarching calendar plan you can begin to fill in the detail. You plan to post a blog twice monthly, what might the theme of the blog be? A YouTube instructional video is scheduled weekly, you could note down the subject matter of the video and any preparation that will be needed. You can go through every item on the calendar and flesh out titles and text, advance planning everything from social media posts to client mailers. All communications won’t be set in stone and you’ll find you move things around in practice but having this guideline in place will be a huge reassurance and time saver when it comes to how busy your daily work life will be.

  1. Roll Out

Once you’re happy with your strategy you can begin to roll out your communications. It’s useful to do this daily, weekly, and monthly. Monthly, drafting and developing long length content such as blogs, experts opinions, mailers and big campaigns. Weekly, scheduling social posts for the next 7 days, disseminating blogs and engaging with press. Daily, making edits to posts and web copy, posting short form content like Instagram Stories and engaging with your community on their posts and comments. This can be a time consuming job so consider using productivity tools like social media scheduling which can make a big difference.

  1. Test and Test Again

You know what your goals are and now, you’ve shared your content, your campaigns are live. What’s next?  Now you take a look at what’s working. Use all the statistics you can from analytics online to customer feedback on social media, likes and shares, complaints, everything you can get your hands on. Use all your measurements to get a picture of what content is working and why. Have your measurements for success in mind. How many engagements on a social post is success for you? Is a 5% increase in web traffic month on month where you want to be? How many enquiries are you hoping to receive? See your statistics and results through the lens of your original goals and you’ll have a clear idea of what to keep and what to change.

  1. Pivot

Responsiveness is everything. Being able to regularly test and review success allows you to make changes. If something is not working, don’t keep it in your strategy. Pivot and shape it in a different way. ‘Test and change’ is a huge part of any business model so keep that in mind throughout your communications strategy. It’s can be surprising what works and what doesn’t so don’t be tied to any part of your plan if it’s just not hitting the mark. Learning what your customers engage with is fascinating and being able to respond accordingly will mark you out from your peers.

Whatever your business, having a strong and clear communication strategy will serve you well at every stage of growth. Communicating the right message, to the right people, at the right time is an invaluable part of any brand.


Whatever your business idea, whether it’s just something you’ve been mulling over or whether you’ve taken some steps on the entrepreneurial path already, we’d love to help. Read some of our Go For It Success Stories  and get in touch. Our business experts will be delighted to hear from you and to talk you through everything you might need to know to move forward with your business concept.