Communication Strategy vs. Communication Plan: What’s the Difference?

Effective communication is essential for any organization But it can be easy to confuse communication strategies and plans While related, these serve different purposes in an organization’s overall communications approach. Understanding when you need a high-level strategy versus a tactical plan can help ensure your organization communicates effectively both internally and externally.

Defining Communication Strategies and Plans

A communication strategy defines the overall objectives and approach for communications in support of broader organizational goals. It provides an overarching framework for what how when and to whom the organization will communicate.

In contrast, a communication plan outlines the practical details and steps needed to implement strategic communication goals. It specifies key messaging, channels, responsibilities and timeframes for completing communications activities. Plans help activate the high-level strategy.

Think of the communication strategy as the destination you want to reach, while plans map out different routes to arrive there.

Key Differences Between Strategies and Plans

While a strategy sets the direction and a plan defines actions to get there, some other key differences include:


  • Strategy: Long-term outlook, often 3-5 years.

  • Plan: Short-term timeframe, usually 1 year.


  • Strategy: Organization-wide, high-level approach.

  • Plan: Focused on specific initiatives and audiences.


  • Strategy: Defines overall goals and objectives.

  • Plan: Details practical steps for implementation.


  • Strategy: Allows room for adjusting approaches as needed.

  • Plan: More defined steps with less room for deviation.

Level of Detail

  • Strategy: Broad guidelines and principles.

  • Plan: Highly detailed with specifics.

Elements of a Communication Strategy

A communication strategy is a high-level plan that outlines an overall vision and usually includes:

  • Organizational objectives – What are the overall goals of the organization that communications will support? These could relate to business growth, culture, customer relations, etc.

  • Target audiences – Who are the key stakeholder groups, both internal and external, that communications need to reach and influence?

  • Key messaging – What are the main ideas, themes and narratives that communications should convey?

  • Desired outcomes – What changes in awareness, attitudes, behaviors or results are you aiming to achieve through communications?

  • Channels and tools – What communication channels and tools will you use to deliver messaging and engage audiences? This might include social media, events, email, intranet, etc.

  • Success metrics – How will you define and measure success? This might involve metrics like message reach, engagement, sentiment, lead generation, etc.

  • Timeframes and budget – What is the overall timeline and budget for communications?

  • Governance – What team roles and processes are involved in overseeing and executing communications?

  • Risks and challenges – What risks or obstacles could impact the communications strategy and how can they be mitigated?

  • Adaptability – How will the strategy evolve in response to changes over time? What factors might necessitate adjusting the approach?

Elements of a Communication Plan

While a communication strategy defines the broad vision, a communication plan provides the specifics needed for execution, including:

  • Goals and objectives – The high-level goals from the strategy are broken down into specific, measurable objectives.

  • Target audiences – Defining detailed audience segments and personas.

  • Key messages – Finalizing exact messaging tailored to each audience and goal.

  • Communication channels – Which specific channels will reach each audience segment?

  • Content types and tactics – What content formats and communication tactics will you use? Tactics could include email newsletters, social posts, events, etc.

  • Responsibilities – Defining owners and team members involved in creating, approving and distributing communications.

  • Production timeline – A calendar or workplan of dates for drafting, reviewing, approving and publishing communications deliverables.

  • Metrics and KPIs – The precise metrics that will be tracked to assess performance for each activity.

  • Risk management – Mitigation steps for any potential risks or roadblocks to successfully completing communications.

  • Budget – Detailed budget breakdown by activity, channels, production costs etc.

  • Approvals – Process for reviewing and signing off on communications materials internally before release.

Relationship Between Communication Strategies and Plans

The communication strategy provides the guiding framework and high-level plan. The communication plan represents one or more actionable plans to activate the strategy:

![Communication Strategy vs Plan][]

  • The communication strategy sets long-term objectives and defines audiences, messaging, channels and success metrics at a high-level.
  • Many specific communication plans can be derived from the overall strategy to execute communication activities.
  • Plans offer detailed steps tailored to each initiative, while supporting the broader strategic goals.
  • Regular reporting on plan results provides data to evaluate and evolve the strategy over time.

Think of the communication strategy as the guiding compass for the destination. Communication plans are the roadmaps that outline specific routes to take at different points in the journey.

Communication Strategy vs. Plan Examples

Some examples that illustrate communication strategies vs. plans:


Increase awareness and favorable sentiment toward our brand by promoting our commitment to sustainable manufacturing among key stakeholder groups over the next 3 years.


  • Goals: – Increase social media followers by 15% among target demographics – Achieve 2 million video views for our sustainability campaign – Improve brand perception survey scores by 10%
  • Audiences: – Demographic profiles of target social media and YouTube users – Email subscribers in our customer and investor databases
  • Messages: – Our new eco-friendly packaging – How we prioritize water conservation in our factories – Profiles of our sustainability initiatives
  • Channels: – YouTube video series – Blog content – Social media posts – Email newsletters
  • Timeline: – Content production schedule over a 3-month period
  • Budget: – Breakdown of costs for video production, social ad spend, etc.


Improve employee engagement and internal communications by promoting transparency, accessibility and company culture.


  • Goals: – Increase intranet traffic by 30% – Boost employee net promoter score by 5 points
  • Audiences: – Employee personas across offices, roles and seniority levels
  • Messages: – Executive Q&A video series – Employee feature stories – Intranet content highlighting culture and values
  • Channels: – Monthly CEO video updates – Revamped intranet – Slack discussions
  • Timeline: – Phased launch schedule over a 6-month period
  • Budget: – Production costs, platform licenses, etc.

When is Each Needed?

Develop a communication strategy when:

  • Defining the overall role of communications in achieving organizational goals
  • Target audiences, messages and channels need to align closely with business objectives
  • Fundamental changes are occurring in organizational direction or external environment
  • There is a need to tie communication goals with metrics and expected outcomes

Develop a communication plan when:

  • Executing specific communications initiatives like campaigns, projects or programs
  • Key details are needed to coordinate communications activities across teams
  • Timeframes, budgets and responsibilities must be defined to manage initiatives
  • Precise messaging and content tailored to each audience segment is required
  • There is a need to track performance and ROI of communications tactics

Getting the relationship right between high-level strategies and detailed plans ensures your organization has the fundamentals in place to communicate effectively and consistently. With a thoughtful strategy guiding targeted plans, you can convey the right messages through the optimal channels to ultimately help propel your business goals.

communication strategy vs communication plan

Strategic Plan, Marketing Plan, Communications Plan: What’s the difference?

A plan is vital for an organization to evolve from an entity made up of individuals completing tasks to an organization that works together to achieve common goals and objectives. There are three types of plans typically created by organizations: a strategic plan, a marketing plan, and a communications plan. But, what’s the difference, and what plan is best for your organization?

A strategic plan describes an organization’s overall vision and goals; strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; and provides direction for the organization’s executives and administration to move the organization forward. A strategic plan is regularly revisited by leadership and evaluated. A strategic plan defines the organization, sets organization-wide goals, and serves as a foundation for marketing and communications plans.

A marketing plan further defines an organization by identifying key differentiating factors and describes research-based approaches to meeting the needs of customers and stakeholders. A marketing plan builds on the strategic plan by detailing the organization’s audience or ideal customer. The description of the organization’s target audience in a marketing plan is based on market research, focus groups, surveys, and other detailed analysis of the organization’s customer such as their needs and desires related to the organization’s product or service. It also describes where the customer is most likely found and what organizational messages will most likely garner appeal. Most importantly, market research reveals gaps in products or services that could serve as opportunities for an organization to gain a competitive edge. As a result, organizations often develop new products, services, and programs identified in market research. In a university setting, marketing plans can inform the development of new academic programs for students or identify research areas that may differentiate the university from other competing universities.

A communications plan describes how organizations plan to get their message out to the world. A communications plan typically comes after a marketing plan and integrates all forms of communications into one plan.

Class Takeaways — Essentials of Strategic Communication


What’s the difference between communication strategy and communication plan?

A strategy broadly outlines goals and objectives, whereas plans may be more detailed and focus on specific actions and deliverables.

What is the difference between content strategy and communication plan?

In organisational terms, the content strategy is like the strategic plan – providing long-term strategy and structure, and clear direction. The communication strategy is like the operational plan – providing short-term goals and activities.

What do you mean by communication strategy?

Simply put, a communication strategy is a plan for delivering a message to your previously identified target audience. Every proper communication plan should clearly identify three crucial factors that directly impact the success of the strategy.

What is in a communication plan?

Communication plans define what information should be communicated, who should receive that information, when that information should be delivered, where (e.g., email, social media, mail) communication will be shared, and how those communications will be tracked and analyzed.

What is a communications strategy?

A communications strategy is a plan for communicating with your target audience. It includes who you are talking to, why you are talking to them, how and when you will talk to them, what form of communication the content should take and what channels you should use to share it. 1. What Is The Purpose Of Your Communications Plan?

What is a communication plan?

A communication plan is a document that uses your strategy to create detailed and actionable steps your team can take to achieve your goals. When you create this plan, you can think about how to implement your strategy and review parameters you have to work within, like deadlines or budgets.

What should be included in a communication strategy?

In a typical communication strategy, you might include details that help your team understand your goals for your area of communications and elements that influence how you can implement your strategy. Some common sections are goals and objectives, your target audience and the purpose of your communication effort.

What is the difference between a communication strategy and a plan?

A communication strategy is a long-term approach to how an organization communicates with their target audience, and a communication plan is the specific steps used to execute that strategy. A strategy gives the overall vision and direction for communication, while the plan breaks that down into smaller, manageable pieces.

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