If project managers had a mantra, it might be that those who don’t plan, plan to fail. Most project managers would also agree that managing stakeholder relationships is one of their most important job functions.
Ergo, just as you should develop a project plan to prepare for project execution, you should develop a project communication plan to strategize about how you intend to communicate with key stakeholders.
In this article, we’ll cover project communication plans and their key components. We’ve also included a template that you can use to create your own project communication plan.
- What is a Project Communication Plan?
- What to Include
- How to Write It
- Communication Plan Example
- Project Communication Plan Template
- How to Use It
- Communication Plan Benefits
- Project Communication Tools
What is a Project Communication Plan?
A project communication plan is a project artifact that outlines an action plan for how you should communicate across project stakeholders. An effective communication plan should include:
- Key stakeholders, including roles and responsibilities
- Communication method
- Communication type
- Communication style
- Key messages
- Communication goals
What to Include in a Project Communication Plan
While the specifics of your project management communication plan may vary depending on the project type and scope, there are a few key items you should include in every project communication plan you create.
Note the key stakeholders, including your primary client contact. Add contact information, such as phone numbers and emails, so that anyone who accesses the communication plan can find this information.
Include each of the project team members, along with their roles. This is handy for anyone new to or unfamiliar with the project. Identify which team members are responsible for producing deliverables, leading strategic discussions, and/or handling technical conversations with stakeholders.
Outline the primary communication methods and channels you use to contact stakeholders, such as email, phone calls, meetings, or Slack or a press release or social media for external stakeholders. Include notes on stakeholders’ preferred channels.
List the project communications plus how to share that communication, what to include, and the target audience. For example, you might be providing weekly status reports to the client. Consider the communication mechanism, distribution list, and what information to include in the report.
Differentiate by stakeholder and communication method. For example, does a certain stakeholder prefer formal communications only, or can you be a little more casual in your tone?
While you can adjust this as needed throughout the project, having an initial idea of how often you meet with stakeholders is helpful. Depending on the scope of the project, you might also want to outline how often you email the client. Be sure to include internal team meetings also.
For each stakeholder, determine the key message or information that you wish to communicate. What’s the right message that resonates with that group? This should also include any information or feedback you need to collect.
A good communication plan includes communication goals. This helps ensure that you make decisions with your desired outcomes in mind.
How to Write a Project Communication Plan
1. Understand your parameters
A project communication plan doesn’t need to be formal, but it should at least be documented for reference.
First, it helps to sit down and define the parameters of the project, including project size, information about the client’s company, project deliverables, timeline, and project team.
Consider your team’s and client’s communication styles:
- How successful have communications been to date?
- Has your client indicated any communication preferences—ie. do they tend to reach for the phone when they have a question, or are they email-centric?
- Have you met in person or over video?
- How frequently does your team interact with you directly on a project? Do they prefer written context over meetings?
- What public relations needs exist, if any?
Once you have an understanding of the team and clients you’re working with, you can apply this to a project communication plan.
2. Define your goals and stakeholders
List your project deliverables and the key stakeholders for the project. Then, add your project goals to this list. Consider what defines successful project communication, not only for your client, but for your team also. Use this list to guide communication-related decisions.
3. Define your communication approach
Now, it’s time to create the plan. This involves defining your approach to communications throughout the project life cycle. Based on the project goals, consider how frequently to communicate with stakeholders, the desired communications mechanism, and what content to include.
You might use multiple approaches, such as weekly phone check-ins to review project timeline and budget, daily emails for on-the-fly questions, and in-person meetings to present major project milestones.
Whatever you decide, keep your project parameters and goals in mind—these should help you identify what types of communication are most beneficial to your project and how thorough your communications need to be.
Communication Plan Example
Based on the items we outlined above, here’s what a sample project communication plan could look like.
List the project communication goals upfront, so everyone who accesses the plan can get on board with decisions that work toward achieving those goals. Make sure they’re measurable.
Stakeholder information and communication preferences
A table can be useful for listing project stakeholders and their preferences.
For more complex projects, you might wish to break down the notes column to share further details (ex. you could create an additional column to share stakeholder availability or any other information that’s crucial to how and when you communicate.)
Types of communication
Use this section to consider the ways you communicate with your stakeholders. This helps ensure that communication is consistent, meaningful, and successful.
Project Communication Plan Template
Looking for a project communication plan template? Would a filled-in sample help?
Download our template for an easy way to gather all of the contact info and instructions you’ll need for your projects. The sample shows best practices for filling out the template.
How to Use a Project Communication Plan
1. Share it with your team
Sharing the plan with your team informs them of your communication cadence—which affects their work and delivery dates—but also gives them more context around how you communicate and with whom. Sharing this information means your team can support you as you execute the plan.
2. Stay on track
Make sure your team knows and understands your communication plan so that your client receives consistent, meaningful information throughout the project.
Book any key project meetings as soon as you have a plan in place, and add reminders to your calendar for regular check-ins and even project emails so that you stay on track with the important items you’ve defined in your plan.
If you find yourself straying from your communications plan at any point and have trouble getting back to it, reconsider the approach you’ve defined:
- Does it still align with your project goals?
- Have the goals—or stakeholders—changed in any way since the project started?
- Are there more effective ways to communicate project information at this point?
Benefits of Project Communication Plans
At their core, project communication plans facilitate effective communication efforts. Developing and documenting a communication strategy makes your projects run more smoothly and helps you avoid project failure.
Project communication plans help you plan initiatives effectively, set stakeholder expectations, and manage stakeholders.
A project communication plan defines your communications roadmap—how to deliver critical information throughout the project, including which communication channel to use, by whom, and at what frequency. While completing project planning, you should also be planning your project communications.
Projects of differing goals, budgets, timelines, sizes, and deliverables require internal communication tailored to those needs—and that’s something to keep in mind as you create a project communication plan.
Set stakeholder expectations
Project communications are a two-way street. Much like project planning, you have to define expectations upfront for communication to have any chance of going smoothly.
By letting the client know early in the project process what they can expect, you set the tone for the entire project, starting from the project proposal process. It’s also helpful for stakeholders to know in advance what you need from them so they can be prepared when the time comes.
Throughout a project, successful communication to align on a goal and milestones, and then subsequent realignment as the project evolves, is crucial to gain stakeholder buy-in and achieve transparency regarding project status.
Communication is critical to maintaining a positive client relationship. A project communication plan fosters a shared understanding of the comms workflow so you know what is and what should be happening throughout your project.
Communication Plan = Success
Having a strategic communications plan gives you the tools to communicate effectively and watch out for potential issues that may arise. A plan also allows you to reevaluate your approach based on your client’s communication needs and determine whether communication through other methods may be more effective.
Regardless of how formal or informal your project communication plan might be, it can be the difference between a highly successful, efficient project, and a project that is merely skating by without a solid plan in place.
Think of it as another way to set and check expectations throughout a project—and a way to facilitate meaningful, successful collaboration.
10 Useful Project Communication Tools
As you develop your project communication plan, consider whether you’re using—or could make use of—communication software. Here are 10 examples of communication software that you, your teams, and your clients can use to stay in sync:
- 1. Wrike — Best communication tool for teams of all sizes
- 2. monday.com — Best communication tool for project management
- 3. ClickUp — Centralize your team’s comms and collaborate through comments, documents and dashboards.
- 4. Homebase — Best team-based communication tool for file sharing
- 5. Troop Messenger — Best communication tool with unlimited search history
- 6. Livestorm — Best communication tool for hosting online events
- 7. Flock — Best for organizing communication using channels
- 8. Microsoft Teams — Best communication tool for Microsoft users
- 9. Zoho Cliq — Best for small enterprises
- 10. Hive — Best communication tool with email integration
Find more project management software here.
What Do You Think?
How essential is a project communication plan to the success of a project? Should project managers craft a communication plan for their projects, irrespective of size? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment!