by Scott Chaikin

February 11, 2014

I’ve talked to a lot of CEOs and business leaders who don’t believe their communications operations are addressing their priorities. And to a lot of CCOs who feel that planning has become a luxury – it’s essentially been replaced by the annual budgeting exercise.

Clearly that’s a disservice to both parties and to their organizations. Imagine the opportunities that are being underserved and the resources that are being wasted because communications strategies haven’t been reset.

How do you address the CEO’s issues and adjust your approach without adding another months-long effort? We’ve developed a streamlined approach to planning that has worked for a number of clients. Here are the keys:

1. Get the CEO and CCO to explicitly agree to the next year’s communications priorities.

We like to do that by facilitating a 60- to 90-minute discussion that covers long-term aspirations, major business objectives for the coming year, any concrete goals that should be addressed and, finally, agreement on where communications can contribute the most.

2. Use those priorities as a filter for existing communications programs.

Boost those activities that fit and, more importantly, weed out or scale back on anything that doesn’t.

3. Brainstorm new approaches that will better support the newly agreed-upon priorities.

This is an opportunity to engage, redirect and energize the full communications team, as well as colleagues from marketing and other relevant functions. Again, this is one meeting.

4. Give your CEO a high-level summary of the priorities you agreed to and plans for addressing them.

Tell him or her in the beginning that you’re going to produce a simple overview – one or two pages. Part of the idea is to provide a reminder of what you agreed to and to show the alignment of communications and business priorities.

In a few hours of meetings and a day’s worth of drafting you can have a shared picture for the coming year, context for your annual budget that’s built on leadership’s priorities and a better chance of seeing communications have maximum impact. It’s easily worth the time – do you see ways to improve the process?