What Is a Comms Campaign Decision Tree?

Have you ever drafted an internal communications piece and wondered whether it should be part of a broader comms campaign? If you have, you’re not alone. If you haven’t, this framework may still be helpful for your decision-making process going forward.

Let’s start off by defining comms campaigns and why they’re important. Communications campaigns use a series of planned messages and activities to generate specific outcomes over a defined time period. Campaigns can be adopted to deliver and reinforce important messages, such as improving mental health awareness in the workplace. Where there is a need for significant behavioral changes or meaningful calls-to-action for employees, comms campaigns are better placed than standalone comms to achieve desired objectives.

However, if all internal comms were part of a campaign, there’s a risk this would exacerbate problems of content fatigue among employees, leading to low engagement.

Decision trees are often used in business circles to visualize a series of sequential steps and arrive at some form of outcome or conclusion. The characteristics of comms campaigns can vary, but the below decision tree can be used to take a more strategic approach to your internal comms.

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We can break down the branches of the decision tree as follows:

1. Are there different phases to the comms?

2. Do the comms have the same end objective(s)?

3. Has a timescale been set for the comms?

1. Are there different phases to the comms?

What do we mean by phases in the context of internal communications? Two practical examples can be used to illustrate this. The first is sharing a news article with employees that references an industry award the company recently won. There is a single phase to this communication, which aims to increase awareness of the news article and could be described as the promotion phase.

In the second example, a company may want to plan a series of comms and events around Earth Day (celebrated on April 24). Here, there are multiple phases:

  1. The first would be to engage with employees on their ideas for different Earth Day initiatives (the exploration phase).
  2. Then, they would aim to maximize participation in the various initiatives through the promotion phase of their internal comms.
  3. Implementation is the final phase, which includes all employee comms during the running of the initiatives.
  4. Some companies also have a feedback phase that follows the implementation of an initiative or embedding of a new process.

Through these two examples, we can see that the news article only has one phase (promotion), which is also the second phase for the comms related to Earth Day. Different companies may have varying combinations of phases (or naming conventions), but the key takeaway is that internal comms with a single phase shouldn’t be regarded as a comms campaign.

2. Do the comms have the same end objective(s)?

Continuing with our Earth Day example, how do we know whether the various comms have the same end goal or goals? It could be that, within the different phases, there are distinct objectives. The goal of the exploration phase is to obtain ideas for initiatives from a certain number of employees, while the goal of the implementation phase is to achieve a certain level of participants across the events. Although important, these targets should be distinguished from the end goal, which in this example could be the amount donated by employees to environmental charities or the reduction/offsetting of their carbon footprint. If a series of comms has different end objectives, it would be beneficial to split these comms into separate campaigns, even if the topic is the same (e.g., corporate sustainability). In the decision tree, these are described as parallel campaigns.

3. Has a timescale been set for the comms?

Another key feature of comms campaigns is a timeframe that has been planned in advance. For the Earth Day campaign, the exploration phase could take place across January and February, the promotion phase during March and the first half of April, and the implementation phase in the second half of April. Many internal comms can be open-ended in their timeframe, and there’s nothing wrong with this. Diversity & Inclusion is critically important to companies, and the comms related to this topic don’t have an end date; however, there may be timescales for individual campaigns within D&I, so D&I should be considered a comms topic rather than an individual campaign. It’s also worth mentioning that timelines for campaigns can be moved if needed: taking an adaptable approach doesn’t mean you aren’t running a comms campaign.

Final Thoughts

There are many examples of important internal comms that aren’t part of a campaign, so taking a campaign-based approach to certain comms doesn’t necessarily make them more important than others. Comms campaigns should be thought of as one way of structuring internal comms, rather than the only way. (If you need some inspiration for your comms campaign, there are some great examples out there.)

Additional factors not covered in the above decision tree can be key determinants of success for a campaign, including the channel mix and frequency of comms. However, it’s first important to decide which comms should be grouped together as part of a campaign (and which shouldn’t), as this will make tracking your targets and evaluating the outcomes infinitely easier.

Let us know your thoughts and feedback on this decision tree framework! How do you determine which comms should be part of a campaign? (Leave a comment below.)

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