This is the third of three posts to help guide you as you plan and budget for an effective corporate communication strategy. In this post, we’ll explore the final, perhaps most essential step: getting your budget right. In case you missed it:
Perhaps the most critical step in building your corporate communications plan is to create a budget.
As a communications executive, you’re responsible for a number of initiatives that, in the end, boost the bottom line. Those include
- Media partnerships and engagement
- Internal communications
- Crisis communications
- Event management and speaking opportunities
These, and other initiatives, all help you improve and maintain the most important thing you’re responsible for: your reputation with your stakeholders.
It’s tough to think of something as intangible as reputation actually affecting a business’s bottom line, but it does. In fact, according to Reputation Institute’s Global ReptrakⓇ, the most reputable companies outperform financial markets in the U.S., France, and the U.K.
Every budget varies, but the bullet points above are the top areas on a typical Corporate Communication department budget.
To get an idea of how much you should be spending in each area, consider your key stakeholders: employees, investors, customers, regulators, influencers. How might you reach these groups through each of those major areas? What is it that matters most to each of your stakeholders?
All of these should funnel into a bigger reputation line item. The reputation line item could include global corporate perceptions by target markets, leadership, employees, and risk, as well.
Build Your Budget with Stakeholders in Mind
Once you’ve determined the important line items for your budget, it’s time to map them out on paper. That can be as simple as creating a Google Spreadsheet or as comprehensive as using budgeting software.
If you’re not sure where to start, Reputation Institute has created a budgeting template to help you get your planning off the ground.
Across the top, break up your vertical columns into quarters, then break up those quarters into months. Along the side, list your most important line items in each row. Our template reflects Media, Reputation, Internal Comms, Risk, and Enterprise. You may have other major line items to consider, but those are often the most common to Corp Comms teams.
Underneath each major line item, list the specific initiatives you intend to implement each quarter. Start placing costs against each one, based on how much they will have an impact on your brand purpose and your stakeholders.
Here’s an example. Of course, each company will have different priorities, but this can get you started.
Don’t Forget the Rainy Day Fund
In any budget, it’s critical to leave room for an emergency, but it's perhaps even more crucial for Corporate Communication department budgets. Corp Comms teams need to be especially proactive.
For example, there are tools like RepTrak that will help you measure and manage the impact of a potential risk before it happens. That way, you can put plans in place (and money aside) to prevent those risks and work to build up reputation equity to mitigate them when they occur.
When creating your Corp Comms budget, it’s tempting to start with the budget. But there’s so much work to do before you start putting dollars to initiatives.
Your budget and your team resources will be better spent if they’re allocated to the places that will be most impactful on your stakeholders, your brand purpose, and ultimately your reputation.
Take the time to identify your stakeholders and define your brand purpose before you start budgeting. Use the tools provided by RepTrak. Your return on reputation will thank you.
For a worksheet to help you, download Reputation Institute’s Corporate Communications Planning & Budgeting Template.