This quote and scene from John Hughes’ 1980s classic Planes, Trains & Automobiles is one of my favorite examples of how miscommunication can create more problems than resolutions when everyone is not on the same page.
I was recently reminded of this scene when I had lunch with a friend and he was sharing some of his frustrations with his current job. Relatively new to the position, he was stressed out that his bosses were asking him to do more and more tasks that were outside the original scope of what his job responsibilities were. More stressful for my friend was the issue that these new requests were delaying the chance to achieve the original goals.
As I listened more and more, I asked him one simple question – “Did you create a communication and marketing plan for the organization?” To this, he said he didn’t.
To me, this was the root of his frustration and stress. Without sitting down and taking the time to develop a comprehensive communication plan for at least the first quarter, if not whole year, the organization could be easily driven off course and distracted from the original goals that were set forth with his hire.
A communication plan includes, but isn’t limited to, a situation analysis, audiences, key messages, goals, objectives, strategies, tactics and a timeline. This document is always dynamic and can be adjusted at any time according to the needs arise.
The beauty of it for my friend would be that as his bosses create new duties, he can cite the communication plan that everyone would have agreed upon and use that as leverage to have a clear course in accomplishing what needs to be done.
The communication plan is the foundation of any true successful publicity campaign. You have to start at the beginning by knowing what has worked and failed in the past. That perspective will quickly allow you to identify what direction your path should take.
Otherwise, if you don’t have a direction, there is a good chance you might have to pass through two trucks coming right at you.