Communications Strategy vs Communications Plan: What’s the difference and do you need both?

June 30, 2023


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This is a question we get asked a lot. Is there a difference between a communications strategy and a communications plan? The short answer is yes. Do you need both? Read on to understand which applies to you.

So what’s the difference?

A communications strategy is an essential element of any organisation’s success, as it provides a roadmap for effectively communicating with key stakeholders, including employees, customers, partners, and the public. A well-designed communications strategy can help organisations to build trust, establish credibility, and promote their brand, story or cause.

A communications plan on the other hand, is a detailed outline on specific steps and activities that will be taken to achieve the objectives of a communications strategy. A communications plan should include:

  • A detailed timeline for implementing the communications activities
  • A clearly defined budget for said communications activities 
  • Adequate resources to implement the communications activities, including personnel and technology
  • Methods or parameters for evaluating the effectiveness of the communications activities

So, your communications strategy comes before the communications plan. If you don’t have a strategy, it may not be the best idea to start with a plan. Not convinced? Allow us to elaborate further.


Why you should start with a strategy


  1. Builds trust and credibility

A clear and consistent communications strategy can help organisations build trust and establish credibility with their stakeholders. It enables organisations to communicate much more effectively and truthfully, thereby fostering trust and reliability among key stakeholders. 

  1. Aligns goals and objectives

A communications strategy helps organisations to align their communications activities with their goals and objectives. By having a clear understanding of what they want to achieve, organisations can tailor their messages and activities to support their goals and objectives (i.e. with a communications plan).

  1. Improves stakeholder relationships

Effective communication is essential for building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders. A communications strategy can help organisations to build strong, strategic relationships with stakeholders by providing a roadmap for regular and consistent communication. 

  1. Promotes the organisation’s brand and vision

A strong and consistent communications strategy can help organisations to promote their brand and vision, and differentiate them from competitors. By using well crafted messaging and tone, organisations can create a positive influence and impact in the minds of their stakeholders.

  1. Enhances reputation

Effective communication can enhance an organisation’s reputation by promoting transparency, reliability, and credibility. A communications strategy can help organisations to manage their reputational risks and opportunities by providing a clear framework for communicating with stakeholders and audiences, and managing communications during crisis situations.

  1. Ensures messaging reaches the right audience

A well-developed communications strategy keeps you focused and aligned. It also ensures that you are more efficient in relaying important information to the right people, through internal and external communication. A good strategy respects your target audiences’ differences, is precise, convincing and persuasive. 


Okay, I’m convinced. What does a communications strategy look like?

To get started, your strategy should include the following basic components:

  1. Key Objectives

The objectives of the communications strategy should align with your organisation’s overall goals and objectives.

  1. Target Audiences

The target audience of the communications strategy should be clearly defined, including the specific stakeholders that your organisation wants to communicate with.

  1. Messaging

The messaging of the communications strategy should be clear, consistent and aligned with your organisation’s brand.

  1. Output Channels

The channels for communicating with stakeholders should be identified and selected based on the target audience and the goals of the communications strategy.

  1. Impact Measurement

The communications strategy should include a plan for measuring the effectiveness and impact of the communications activities, including metrics and evaluation methods.


Once this is in place, you can start thinking about a communications plan to implement your strategy.


Bringing It All Together


A communications strategy and plan are both needed in organisations. It’s important to get the order of business right first – starting with strategy, followed by a plan. Crack this, and you will have a clear, consistent, solid framework to communicate your organisation’s overall objectives and vision.

Illuminairre specialises in strategic communications development. We’ve worked with companies of all sizes to co-create impact-focused, people-centric communication strategies that are aligned to business and sustainability goals. Our approach is consultative, ensuring each organisation’s unique dynamic and needs are thoroughly understood and considered in the development process. 


Explore your communications strategy with us.

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