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Budget Planning

Be aware of the limits of the available budget. Consistency needs to exist between the communication budget and the objective of the communication plan.

It is surprising how frequently ambitious objectives are attempted with unreasonably small budgets. Poor budget management can lead to unexpected delays and postponement of key activities, which can lead to loss of stakeholder trust and confidence. Be realistic about resources and the timelines needed to create, implement, monitor and evaluate each part of the plan.

When costs are transferred to the communication budget, list each project and detail all associated costs. It is also helpful to consider adding a line item for contingencies. And, by allowing for unexpected expenses in advance, it will help prevent being forced to abandon part of the plan if its associated costs are more than anticipated.

In many organizations, budgets are pre-set and the communication budget is no exception. This can help focus efforts on the important components of a strategy, rather than on the items that seem attractive and exciting. When the budget is set, based on the implementation plan, avoid the temptation to divide it amongst the different strands of the plan before assessing their importance to its success.

For reactive, low-profile approaches to communications, a budget for the initiative may be low — limited to the costs of drafting a few written products. However, if adopting a high-profile strategy, costs may be significantly higher. Having a good idea of the available budget for a communication plan also gives guidance for how much use can be made of external consultants.

Generally, expect that the more intense the plan, the higher the costs. And if the development of videos and glossy pamphlets are required, they will add significant costs. Printing costs can be reduced by using social media for distribution, but design costs for attractive visuals should be kept in mind.

Evaluation is essential throughout the implementation of a communication strategy. It is important to see what is working and look for ways to improve. Evaluation also improves ongoing budget allocation, as experience indicates where money (plus staff time and resources) is most efficiently spent. Budget monitoring will help communications remain proactive, adjusting and accommodating to developing situations in the future, rather than being reactive to surprises and situations that may not have been originally budgeted.

Finally, consider offering multiple options for approaches in a communication plan. For example, describe low-, medium- and high-profile options, whilst denoting one as a preferred recommendation, to the budget holder. If so, offer cost estimates for each option. Also, consider:

  • Where will these funds come from?
  • Will it fit within your pre-determined communications budget or will extra funding be necessary?
  • If so, what approvals are needed?

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