For many small and medium projects, status reports and status meetings may be all that is required for formal communication. However, on a large project, all communication should take place within the context of an overall Communications Plan.
When you build a Communication Plan, you need to determine who your stakeholders are and then determine what information they need to know.
The most interesting part of the Communications Plan involves marketing communication that is targeted toward people that you want to influence. Typically, marketing communication is used to build excitement and interest in your project. The rationale for marketing communication is that it is much easier to implement a solution when the people that are impacted are excited, rather than when they are confused, frightened, or ambivalent. If the project is controversial, requires culture change or is political, the positive aspects of marketing communication become more and more critical.
Marketing communication is used to build enthusiasm. Here are some examples. You may have been on a project that utilized these techniques and you know how effective they can be if done right.
- Project newsletters. This should make sense. Have you ever seen a newsletter that contained bad news? Not usually. These are meant for marketing purposes so they always focus on positive news.
- Traveling road shows to various locations and departments to explain the project and benefits.
- Testimonials from others that describe how the project deliverables provided value. People like to hear successes from other "real" employees. It gives your project more credibility.
- Contests with simple prizes to build excitement. The contests could even be about the project name. Yes, they are a little corny, but they can be very effective in building interest if they are done right.
- Project acronyms and slogans to portray a positive image of the project. For example, it might be better to call your project a proactive name like "MarketForce" instead of the more mundane "Marketing Department Database Project."
- Project countdown-until-live date. If you have done other things right, people will be anticipating your live date--not dreading it.
- Informal (but purposeful) walking around to initiate discussions about all the good things the project is accomplishing.
- Celebrations to bring visibility to the completion of major milestones. People like to celebrate as long as you don't go overboard.
- Project memorabilia with project name or image portrayed, such as pins, pencils, Frisbees, cups, T-shirts, etc.
- Publicizing accomplishments. Make sure people know when you do good things.
These examples show that project communication can take many shapes and forms. For large projects especially, the project team should be creative in determining how, what, to whom, where,and how frequently the communication takes place.