Marketing your club resembles storytelling and if you want to ensure your message is well crafted and delivered to the right audience, you must build a communication plan. A communication plan is an end-to-end plan for delivering strategic messages to key audiences to drive positive outcomes.
To help you achieve your objectives, your communication plan should answer the following questions:
Who are you trying to reach?
What is the message you need to send?
How will you reach your audience?
Your plan can be an overarching one for the year, say for example gaining new members. Or it can be directed at a smaller audience or to deliver breaking or important information. For example, when COVID-19 hit all teams needed to adjust how they conducted to practice and competitions. A well-thought-out plan (even if a simple one) ensures the message is/was delivered to all audiences in various ways and is repeated enough to ensure the message has been received.
How Will Your Club Benefit from a Communication Plan?
A well-prepared communication plan includes:
The Goal, Objective, or Message
The target audience
Which channels will be used
Timeframe or even specific delivery dates per channel
Budget required, who approves and if approved
Who is responsible for the delivery of the messaging
How success will be measured
Not all organizations can have a dedicated marketing person to create and enforce a communication plan for them. Nonetheless, smaller clubs can do so by covering these basics so they can still reap the benefits of a well-crafted communication plan:
Identify Your Objectives
The objectives of your communication plan will depend on factors such as the projects you are undertaking, and the scope and the duration covered by the plan. Whether you are planning for a particular event or the organization in general, objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART).
To be able to tailor your messages properly, it is essential to identify the people your organization is trying to reach. Whether you are communicating internally to your members, or externally to other stakeholders (such as the media, sponsors, potential members) make sure to identify certain characteristics, behaviors, and preferences in them that will be key to forming a message that will foster a connection.
Do your research
While it is easier for the leadership of smaller organizations to get to know their members personally, the club can also benefit from undertaking online surveys and social media research to learn more about its audience. Tools such as SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can help gather data through the use of demographic-style questions in their applications.
Create a database
A documented and categorized listing of contacts will help determine the recipients of a particular email, newsletter, or announcement, especially if these are handled by different point persons. Consolidate this information and keep personal data secure so it can only be accessed by the appropriate persons as needed.
Plan Your Message
Depending on the organization's objectives and target audience, messages should be crafted to fulfill a need or address a problem area. If your leadership group is building a long-term communication plan, consider both recurring themes that you can use throughout the year and seasonal messages that are fit for a particular time frame.
Determine Your Communication Channels
Your communication channels will also be largely based on what your target audience is using. Because most people are now digital-savvy, reaching your members may be possible through email, group messaging, social media, or SMS marketing. On the other hand, there are instances, especially if you are communicating with people outside the organization, wherein blog posts, press releases, advertising collaterals, and even traditional mail can be more appropriate.
Create a Communication Structure
To maintain an effective response plan, it's important to identify the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Your communication plan should also include an escalation framework that determines the flow of information and the persons responsible for making decisions, should problems be arising in the regular operations.
Develop a Timeline of Activities
A timeline of activities will ensure that each team member knows when a particular task should be accomplished. This is especially important in order not to miss deadlines or meetings with people outside your organization, and if you are following a chain of approval within your club. It is also helpful in tracking relevant sporting events and holidays throughout the year.
For a more comprehensive plan, a marketing calendar would be more suitable to organize and execute your communications strategy.
Develop a Budget (if needed)
Based on the above, you might need a budget to market on social media or in any desired publications. You may already have an approved overall marketing budget, so you will need to ensure that you stay within those limits. If you need funding, pulling this plan together will help to inform a budget that you can take to the Board for approval.
Measure Your Results
Based on the timeline of activities, you would then be able to measure the results of your activities by determining the aspects that went well, and the areas for improvement. For on-going strategies, this will allow decision-makers the ability to take corrective actions.
Depending on your objectives, the metrics that you should look out for include social media engagement, membership sign-ups, club attendance, sponsorship approvals, or even product sales.
Create Your Communication Plan Today
Building a communication plan may seem overwhelming at first, but regardless of the size of your club, it can be achieved by breaking down the tasks based on the points discussed above. In doing so, the organization will be able to achieve its objectives and effectively communicate with its stakeholders.