Communication Management Plans and Tools

A businessperson gestures during a video call with colleagues.

The world’s difficult health, social and economic climate in recent years has shifted how employees and customers work and communicate. From sharing the latest project details to announcing new business plans, communication — and developing clear plans to manage it — is critical.

Communication management coordinates the flow of information within a company and to its stakeholders. A plan for managing clear and consistent messaging through various forms of communication can improve:

  • Brand awareness
  • Customer service
  • Productivity
  • Innovation
  • Crisis management

Building a communication management plan that takes into account the latest trends and techniques is vital to business success. Earning a master’s degree in communication management can equip professionals in this field with the knowledge and tools they need to develop plans for strong messaging in changing times.

What Is a Communication Management Plan?

A communication management plan outlines how the following groups will exchange information:

  • Internal staff
  • Customers
  • Other companies
  • Vendors

Communication might include an email updating employees who are working on a project, for example, or a social media post informing customers about a new product. A communication management plan details the objective of efforts to exchange information — and the actions, such as sending that email or creating that social media post — that aim to achieve that objective.

The plan can outline tactics, including communication channels like public relations or social media, or it can note specific communications, such as videos or an infographic.

Elements of Communication Management Plans

The elements of a communication management plan address the who, what, where, when, why and how of a project:

  • Overall objective — Why is this communication necessary?
  • Audiences — Who and where are the people the communication aims to reach?
  • Communication objectives — Why is each type of communication in the plan?
  • Message — What information does each activity in the plan share?
  • Tactics — How will communicators share the information?
  • Timing — When and where will each activity occur?

Importance of Communication Management Tools

Key to successful communication management planning are the tools that can streamline the work. To plan and execute communication efforts, teams often rely on these tools for activities such as:

  • Content review
  • Email distribution
  • File sharing
  • Graphic design
  • Instant messaging
  • Project management
  • Team collaboration
  • Videoconferencing

What Is the Role of the Basic Communication Model?

The basic communication model describes the process of sending and receiving messages. It can be an important resource for building communication management plans guiding messages that connect with audiences.

Elements of the Basic Communication Model

Using the basic communication model means understanding how its elements might affect how a message is shared and received. The components of the model are:

Sender and Receiver

Communication requires someone to send a message and someone to receive that message. The sender uses words, pictures or sounds to encode a message, and the receiver interprets — or decodes — those messages.

Being aware of differences between the sender and receiver, as well other potential impediments to clear messaging, is important in communication planning. Avoiding these barriers helps to ensure successful messaging.

Some characteristics of senders and receivers that can affect clear communication are:

  • Different beliefs, personalities and standards, which shape people’s reaction to a message
  • Communication barriers — including language and grammar, as well as the relationship between the sender and receiver — which can change how each party interprets a message


The channel, or medium, for communication can be verbal, written or visual. Examples include:

  • Verbal — Face-to-face or phone conversations
  • Written — Letters or emails
  • Visual — Videos or photos

A variety of factors can dictate the channel that’s best for delivering specific information. For example, critical information typically calls for a face-to-face conversation, but the location of the sender and receiver may require the use of video as the method of communication. Factors to consider when selecting a communication channel include:

  • Message importance — Important information calls for in-person delivery, while less critical information can be transmitted through a more casual channel, such as instant messaging.
  • Geographic and space considerations — Cost and space limitations play a role in selecting the appropriate communication channel, although generally, video communication makes more sense when interacting with individuals in distant locations.
  • Feedback capabilities — For communication that calls for immediate feedback, verbal communication often is most effective, while video messaging can be a good choice for one-way messages.
  • Personal preferences — Organizational standards and individual preferences should play a role in determining which communication channel will most effectively convey a message.


From the look on someone’s face to the noise in the room, the environment surrounding the sharing of information can affect the effectiveness of communication. Some considerations related to context that can affect communication management planning include:

  • Environment — This context can refer to the noise level of the surroundings, as well as how formal the setting is and the physical proximity between the sender and receiver.
  • Body language — When communicating verbally, factors such as facial expression, body language and posture can affect how a message is understood.
  • Timing — The amount of time an individual has to devote attention to a message can affect the way they receive and react to the messaging.


Message is another component in the basic communication model. It refers to the purpose, or the “why,” behind sharing information. The message should have one of the following purposes:

  • Conveying important information
  • Motivating the receiver to act
  • Encouraging discussion of an issue
  • Persuading the receiver to agree or disagree with a belief or action
  • Entertaining the receiver


Feedback can occur during or after the sender conveys the message. It can be positive, indicating the receiver has heard, read or seen the message and understands it. Feedback also can be negative, which means that the message wasn’t received or understood.

Feedback that occurs as the sender is sharing the message can help shape the communication to address the receiver’s concerns. After the sender provides the information, feedback can facilitate discussion and clarification.

How the Basic Communication Model Shapes Planning

Communicators should be familiar with the characteristics of those they’re targeting with their messages. Factors such as the receiver’s age, location and decision-making power can dictate how to deliver a message in a way that will make the greatest impact.

If experience and research indicate that social media is most likely to garner positive feedback from a target audience, for example, then the communication management plan should reflect tactics that employ the appropriate social media platforms.

What Does a Project Management Communication Plan Include?

Clearly identifying the elements of project management communication has always been critical to a project’s success. Establishing a plan for this work upfront is especially important as teams increasingly are located in various workplace settings that rely on different communication channels. In 2021, the commercial real estate firm CBRE found that 87% of companies with 10,000 or more employees were shifting to hybrid work arrangements for their employees.

A project management communication plan helps to streamline communication by setting expectations for the project. As part of the overall project management plan, the communication plan spells out:

  • What the project’s purpose is
  • Who is involved in the project
  • What role each team member plays in the project
  • What information the project manager will share
  • How and when the project manager will provide the information
  • How stakeholders can respond to the project manager’s messaging

Project Management Communication Plan Categories

Each project manager can tweak their communication plan according to the needs of stakeholders. Project management communication plans generally include the following categories, which outline how the group will receive important messages about the project:

  • Target audience for each communication
  • Type of information to share
  • Frequency of each communication
  • Person responsible for each communication
  • Channel for providing the information
  • Time to allow for sharing the information
  • Goal of each message
  • Timing of the communications

How to Create a Project Management Communication Plan

To establish a plan for project management communication, project leaders should identify some key aspects of the work to guide which messages to convey and how to convey them. Once they create a plan, they should expect to adjust it as changes to the project occur. Following are some steps in building a project management communication plan:

1. Determine a Platform

Select a template, spreadsheet or online management tool to share the elements of the plan with stakeholders. The platform should be easy for everyone on the project team to access.

2. Identify the Stakeholders

Determine the parties that have an interest in the project and the impact that these individuals will have. Project managers can rely on these stakeholders for valuable information about what they would like the project to achieve.

3. Establish Goals

Select a goal for communicating about the project. The goals should be specific to the messages the communication will aim to convey, such as sharing news about the project with corporate leaders.

4. Select Channels for Communication

Choose the channel for sharing each project management planned, such as an email update or team meeting. The channel should be appropriate for the message to convey and the individuals the information targets.

5. Schedule Communications

Plan for each announcement according to when the information will be relevant. Regular communication helps to ensure that each team member is in the loop on plans and up to date on any changes that occur.             

How to Use a Project Management Communication Plan

After identifying the key elements of the plan and how to communicate them, project managers can help ensure the plan’s successful implementation by:

  • Sharing the plan with stakeholders, to get feedback and buy-in and to determine necessary adjustments
  • Sharing the plan with team members, to ensure they know their roles and how they’ll receive updates
  • Alerting shareholders and team members to changes, to keep everyone up to date on the latest plans for project communications

How Do You Design a Change Management Communication Plan?

Communication is also critical when implementing changes, such as building awareness of new programs or seeking support for new leadership. Like communicating about project management, change management messaging is even more crucial in today’s world. In 2021, for example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that individuals are wary of change after years of COVID-19-related uncertainty.

A change management communication plan can prepare businesses — and those who work with and for them — to navigate new scenarios. As one component of overall change management, the communication plan notes the methods and timing for sharing information about what’s happening. It also indicates how corporate leaders will address the issue. It outlines efforts to mitigate concerns from change-weary individuals by clearly identifying why, how and when a change occurred and the ways it affects them.

Elements of a Change Management Communication Plan

As with other types of communication management plans, documentation of plans for change management communication should address some key elements for sharing messages. Among those elements are:

  • Stakeholders whom the change will affect
  • Channels for communicating with those the change affects
  • Timing of messages to audiences
  • Reasons for each message the plan calls for sharing
  • Measurement methods for evaluating the success of the communication

Steps for Designing a Change Management Communication Plan

Planning for change management communication calls for careful assessment of the people who will be affected by the change and how to address their concerns. It also requires preparing leaders who will serve as ambassadors for new approaches. Following are the steps in developing and implementing a change management communication plan:

1. Evaluate the Situation and Its Effects

Consider which people the change will affect — and the impact it will have on them. Make note of the reasons for the change and the improvements that individuals are likely to see as a result.

2. Determine Effective Communication Channels

Identify which approaches to communication will be most effective with the audiences affected by the change. Take advantage of any regular contact that organizational leaders have with those audiences to reinforce messages about changes and their impact on the business and its employees, partners and customers.

3. Draft the Plan

Create a plan that uses the communication channels identified to reach the targeted audiences. Make note of the goals of the messaging and the timing of each communication, as well as the methods for evaluating the success of the work. Surveys and measurements of the use of online information are among the key performance indicators (KPIs) communicators can use.

4. Prepare Influencers

Select and prepare corporate leaders and others who can effectively share messages related to the change and its purpose. For employees learning about corporate changes, for example, senior leaders should speak to the overall goals for the organization, and direct supervisors should address effects for individual employees.

Best Practices for Implementing a Change Management Communication Plan

Following some basic rules for effective change management communication can lead to successful implementation of plans:

  • Provide clear, honest and detailed information.
  • Allow for feedback from audiences, and answer questions candidly.
  • Build messaging around values that are most important to the audience.
  • Use communication channels that best fit the needs of the message sender and receiver.
  • Adjust plans according to evaluations of effectiveness and questions that employees, partners and customers ask.

Which Tools Can Best Help in Efficient Communication Management?

Tools that can best help in efficient communication and management are ones that streamline processes — especially when working with people from various locations. Which tools can best help in efficient communication management? Following are some software options for the work related to communication management planning:

Content Review

A variety of tools are available to make collecting and providing feedback on communication materials easier. Among the options are:

  • Google Docs
  • Filestage
  • InVision
  • Notism
  • Wipster

Email Distribution

Email campaigns can be a valuable part of communication planning, as well as outreach to employees, partners and customers. Following are some tools that assist with email distribution:

  • Campaign Monitor
  • Constant Contact
  • ConvertKit
  • HubSpot
  • Mailchimp

File Sharing

Developing plans and creating materials for communicating about projects and corporate changes typically require exchanging and tracking multiple documents. Some tools that can assist with this process are:

  • ai
  • Dropbox
  • io
  • MediaFire
  • OneDrive

Graphic Design

Whether creating designs or collaborating about changes, designing the graphics that often are part of communication campaigns is easier with the assistance of digital tools. Among the options for graphic design planning and development are:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Canva
  • InVision
  • Pastel
  • Vectr

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging apps provide an easy way for project managers and communication professionals to quickly reach team members and stakeholders. Some instant messaging apps are:

  • Facebook Messenger
  • LINE
  • Telegram
  • WeChat
  • WhatsApp

Project Management

From planning in-person meetings to scheduling content reviews, a variety of work related to coordinating communication can be more streamlined with the assistance of project management tools. Some of those tools are:

  • Asana
  • ClickUp
  • com
  • ProofHub
  • TeamGantt

Team Collaboration

Working with others to manage communication can be a complex process. A variety of tools are available to help keep team members connected and up to date, including:

  • Chanty
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Ryver
  • Slack
  • Yammer


When in-person meetings are most appropriate, but those receiving communications are in remote locations, videoconferencing can be a good option. Some tools to facilitate videoconferencing include:

  • BlueJeans
  • GoToMeeting
  • Intermedia AnyMeeting
  • Webex
  • Zoom

Advance Your Communication Management Skills

Communication management plans and tools are vital for businesses seeking effective ways to reach employees, partners and customers during challenging times. Leading communication for project coordination, change management or any other corporate activity requires a keen understanding of the best ways to identify and connect with key audiences.

USC’s Master of Communication Management degree program offers focus areas in marketing communication, strategic and organizational communication and market research and analytics — all important aspects of planning and implementing strong communication campaigns. The program provides insight on the latest communication trends and tools, with 100% online learning that gives students from all over the world the opportunity to build high-level knowledge and skills.

Discover how a USC Master of Communication Management degree can help you excel in your communication career.


Recommended Readings

Crisis Communications: 2021 and Beyond

Is a Master of Communication Management Worth the Cost?

Master of Communication Management Salary and Job Outlook



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