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Planning a communication program is art and science.

The Communication Planning Workshop

The science is in the planning process, the art is in the content. It's impossible to find the art without the science. Yet so many communication "planning" processes start with a clever tactical idea and some vague goals or, worse, they're cobbled together in response to a management directive such as "get our name out there to the public."

As a public relations educator and judge of countless regional and national public relations programs, I've evaluated far too many communication "plans" that set-out to "educate the public," "generate excitement," and "position the client as a leading provider of solutions in the insert-your-product-here space."

There's no shortage of communication planning models in the public relations literature. Yet for many reasons (that could be the subject of another workshop) many organizations seem unaware that they exist. So I've developed a structured workshop that provides a communication planning team with the science they need to discover the art.

The workshop program begins weeks in advance of the workshop. I develop a customized questionnaire that is precisely targeted to the client and its communication goals. Generally, all the intended participants in the planning workshop complete and submit the questionnaire to me. Then, based on the responses, I develop an interview guide that I use to explore in interviews with senior management and, occasionally outside sources such as industry analysts and news media editors. I use all of this information to develop a workbook that gives workshop participants a running start on the planning day. So, for example, goals and objectives expressed by the participants in the questionnaire and interviews are listed in those sections of the Workbook. The four-quadrants of the S.W.O.T analysis show the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats gleaned through the pre-workshop process.

Through a straightforward, rigorous, facilitated structure, the workshop drives the communication team through a step-by-step process that starts with defining the problem or opportunity the plan is supposed to address. Depending on the core competencies of the participants, the extent to which the actual communication plan is developed during the workshop itself will vary. In every case, the participants leave the program with a "ready to go" framework to complete a specific communication plan with the appropriate communication professionals in the organization.

Typical Contents of the Workshop

  • Define and prioritize the issues

  • Analyze Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT). 

  • Identify, segment, profile and prioritize audiences. 

  • Develop message platform(s).

  • Set goals and (if appropriate and possible) objectives.

  • Develop strategies. 

  • Develop tactics and evaluation methods.*

  • Identify partnerships and alliances.

  • Identify staffing and resources.

*Rarely developed in the workshop itself because additional research is almost always required. However, participants are provided with tools for use after the workshop.

Please note that developing a customized Communication Planning Workshop generally requires a five-figure budget and, thus, is most frequently requested by larger organizations. I do not have an "off-the-shelf" or "generic" workshop program.

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