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Crafting Your 2020 Digital Communications Plan

Christina Crawley

Managing Director, Marketing, Forum One

Kassandra Swenson

Marketing Operations Specialist, Forum One

We’ve reached the end of our five-part blog series following our “Finishing 2019 Strong” webinar. Over the past four weeks, we’ve focused on tackling your challenges and priorities across three key areas to have a strong Q4 and set yourself up for success in 2020: content strategy, outreach strategy, and reporting strategy. Now it’s time to start looking ahead to your 2020 digital communications plan. 

As you look towards 2020, some of the most common planning challenges include: 

  • What to include: You’re unsure of what should be included in your 2020 plan
  • How to link 2019 data to 2020 plans: You’re not sure how to effectively link 2019 data to next year’s activities
  • How to get approval: You’re uncertain of how to present your plan to decision-makers and budget keepers
  • How to make the time: There is so much to do in Q4, you are struggling to find the time to even think about this

Let’s dive into each of these four challenges to see where we can find both clarity and efficiencies.

What to include in your 2020 plan

Let’s start with your plan! There are lots of elements to a strategic plan, so what makes the most for your situation and leadership might be a challenge. Points you will want to make sure to include are:

  • Organization-wide mission: reiterate for which purpose your organization was created
  • Organization-wide goals: map to broader 2020 plans OR to general goals year over year
  • Digital communications goals and tactics: develop your digital communications goals and tactics in-line with organizational goals

At a most basic level, you want to outline some very key points that relate to your overall mission, because in the end, your communications efforts are only effective if they can be clearly connected to the global mission of your organization. This may feel like you’re presenting or reiterating something that everyone already knows, but it’s really important to reiterate it so that it’s clear what you’re mapping to.

This is also where your organization-wide goals should also be included. These may exist in a larger strategic document from your leadership. If you don’t have this kind of documentation, outline what you as the communications team see as the goals. This is an important point of agreement for whoever is going to be reviewing and eventually approving your plan and budget.

Outline your digital communications goals and how your team will contribute to your organization’s overall mission. Once you’ve brainstormed and outlined your communications goal, start listing out the tactics that will get you there. Again, time is certainly tight as you’re getting started, so don’t get bogged down in the nitty-gritty. An outline is the right start for a more detailed plan that you complete in January.

And if you have time, including some competitive research of similarly-sized organizations will benefit your team to make room for creative, new ideas.

How to link 2019 data to 2020 plans

As much as 2019 is still running, you do have a lot to work from already from the first three quarters of the year, so you’re in good shape! You also have your Q4 2018 data that you will want to incorporate into your planning. Make sure to include qualitative data, beyond analytics dashboards, as well. Ask yourself, “what is my audience saying?” Other examples of non-web data include feedback from events, specific social commentary, and emails from supporters.

In terms of setting goals, there can be a feeling that you should simply “do more” next year, i.e., multiplying your KPIs from 2019 to say what you’re going to even better in 2020. If you go down this path, be sure to connect the investment to the goal. You may not have the resources to simply multiply and that may not be feasible. A successful plan is a realistic plan.

How to get approval 

Similar to reporting, you may not be feeling 100% sure what format is going to be the right fit for your leadership to respond to positively. It’s likely your leadership won’t sign off on your plan and final budget until late December or early January; however, prepare to get something on their calendars now to discuss it. Carve out the time over the next few weeks and develop (at least) an outline of your 2020 plan before Thanksgiving. 

How to make the time

Yes, it’s the busiest time of the year, which means you don’t know when you’re going to have the time to get all of this planning on the priority list. #Pro-tip: Incorporate your 2020 planning into what you are already doing this fall. From content to outreach to reporting, make notes about ideas you have for next year: things you’ll want to keep doing, stop doing, change, try for the first time, etc. Then compile those notes together when it’s time to delve into the details.

Now that we have covered all of the strategy clusters, keep in mind that the most important thing across all of these areas of focus is prioritization. You’re not going to be successful if you try to do everything that is thrown at you this quarter, so be strategic in how you prioritize your time and your to-do list. As much as this is a stressful time of year, it can also be the most rewarding one with big, positive results. 

Get started already: watch the webinar!

Pull up your second screen and follow along with our webinar “Finish 2019 Strong, and Set Yourself Up for Success in 2020.” Complete the below form to get your free recording today.

Written By

Christina Crawley

Managing Director, Marketing, Forum One

Kassandra Swenson

Marketing Operations Specialist, Forum One