Keeping your audience aware and engaged with your academy is crucial to the success of your training programme, and its business objectives. If you’re not in marketing or communications, creating a communication plan can seem like a daunting task. In this article, we share a simple 8-step process to create an effective communication plan.
Creating a communication plan for your academy is important for both its launch and its continuity. If your audience is not aware it exists, of its benefits, its new content and updates, and how it can help them be better at what they need to do, your academy will end up being under-used and not fulfill its purpose.
So, if you are responsible for your training’s ROI and its impact on your business – whether your metrics are related to customers, partners or sales teams or other stakeholders – it’s important to create and execute a good communications plan. So, if you don’t have one already, or you would like to revise it, check out the following ten steps. We’re keeping it simple so, even if you are not a marketing guru, you’ll be able to create an effective communication plan for your academy.
How to create a Communication plan?
These 8 steps are divided into W’s and R’s that are the basis for an effective result.
The W’s are: Who, Why, Where, What and When. And the R’s are three: Report, Revise and Repeat. Let’s get to it, then!
Step 1: Segmenting your audience (WHO)
When you create your training programme you know who you are creating it for. Even if you have a very global audience, such as customers, partners, sales team, and so on. Yet, it’s important to divide these global audiences into segments.
Let’s use a Sales Training Academy as an example. Within a sales team you have different groups that can be divided according to different criteria: seniority, geography, product, type of clients, and so on. This means, you have different training needs, different challenges and different knowledge gaps to deal with, and to train for.
The same applies to communication. So, your first step is to write down the different segments of your audience, considering the same criteria you have defined to create your training programme.
Step 2: Defining the relevance (Why)
For each segment of your audience there is a “why” – why they need your academy and how your academy can help them specifically.
For example, if you are offering regulatory training, the audience segments regarding geography will need different training. So, if you’re communicating a course on a new regulation for the APAC region that impacts a specific product, this will be relevant for your APAC audience segment that works with that particular product. Yet, for other segments, not so much.
Step 3: Deciding the placement (Where)
There are different ways and channels to communicate. This step is all about making sure the message you need to convey reaches the audience where they need it, and where it will have the most impact.
You may think of this step as “we’ll just send an email to that audience segment”. And that’s OK. But is it enough? What if you communicate a course regarding a specific feature, in the feature itself, with a button that links to the respective content in your academy? This way, your customers will know you have a course on this feature because you sent them an email but also because it will be accessible exactly where they’ll need it.
So, step three is to identify and write down all the different channels and placements you can use to communicate with each audience segment.
Step 4: Determine the message (What)
It’s easy to understand that you need to adapt the message you want to convey to each segment and placement and always consider the “why” in the message itself.
Let’s use the example of the course regarding a new regulation for the APAC region that impacts a specific product, again, and break it down: we already know who is the audience segment that needs to take this course. There are different placements where you can communicate this course to this specific audience (e.g. email, intranet, CRM). It’s also easy to identify why this training is important to them: as they need to communicate with customers that are covered by that regulation, so they need to know about and how it relates to your product. With all this information, you now need to create the message, whether it’s the email you are sending, the button or link where they can find the course in the CRM, and so on.
When determining the message, it’s important that you clearly state the benefits for your audience, how taking this course will help them be better at what they need to do.
Step 5: Creating a calendar (When)
Every plan needs a calendar or a timeline. This way, you have a commitment to when you (or someone on your team) need to do a specific action.
To make this work for your academy in a more effective way, create specific template plans within your global communication plan, for each type of Academy activity. For example, when there’s a new course, when a course is updated, and so on.
This way, when there’s a new course, you can easily take the new course template plan, and assign dates based on the course’s publish date.
Step 6: Reporting
Whenever you do a specific activity, it’s important to measure its impact and its success. The same way you will be reporting on your training, it’s important to keep track of what’s working in your communication plan, and what may need improvement. To do this, make sure you cross reference your communication activities with your training results.
Step 7: Revising
Make sure you take the information you gathered through reporting to understand what can be improved and what activities you can test to understand what works better. It’s that simple. If you’re not analysing the impact of your communication in your training goals, you end up stagnated instead of improving and growing. Don’t forget that what impacts your training goals will also impact, by consequence, the business objectives you want to accomplish from your training.
Step 8: Repeating
Make sure you repeat this process every year, and that you have a new communication plan in place that has into account the revisions from step seven. It’s important you keep an updated record of your audience segments and needs, as well as new opportunities and channels to communicate with your audience, and what messages and timings work best.
And that’s it! As you can see, you don’t have to be a marketing guru to create a communication plan. If you follow these eight simple steps, you can make it happen.
If you want to learn more about this topic, download the guide “How to create a communication plan – the easy guide for non-marketing folks” here.
You may also find interesting:
7 ways to make your training truly learner-focused (article)
How to increase your audience's engagement with your courses (article)
How to get more ROI from your training (article)
10 tips to make training more engaging and effective (article)
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