The 9-step approach

Employee communications

Developing your (change) communications plan

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been assigned the task of communicating some important information within DSM.

Perhaps it’s a new change project; or maybe you’re introducing something new to a particular DSM audience. Whatever the case, this 9-step approach is here to help you.

Simply follow the flow and complete each step along the way to create a well thought-out, executable communication plan. For most steps, you can use this audience analysis & planning document. And if you need to present your plan to others, you can capture your thoughts in this slide-deck framework.

We’ve tried to make this as practical as possible. This means that for almost every step we refer you to a template or working document that you can download to put that step into action. These are our best practice suggestions, but please feel free to use your own ones to develop your plan.

Good luck and please do let us know how useful you found this information – along with any points for improvement. We will gladly consider your suggestions in our periodic review and update the document accordingly where needed.

Step 1: Clarify your communication needs


Try to formulate this as an elevator pitch.

  • What needs to change? Why is it important to communicate right now? What do you ultimately want to achieve with your communication?
  • If you have difficulty formulating a response, then answer this question: "What does success look like?" 
  • Try completing this sentence: "It’s important/we want …[stakeholders] to …  [know/feel/do] so that … [wished outcome], in order to…  [link to bigger picture]."

We need everyone at the Grenzach site to understand the impact that a small hand injury can have on your life and know how to avoid them through following the hand safety guidelines. That way, our number of hand injuries declines – which contributes to our ambition of zero safety incidents.


In general, is this relevant for all employees; function-specific; for particular sites; or parts of a Business Group?

All employees at my site.


  • What do you want your audience to remember after receiving your message?
  • What do you want them to know and feel?
  • Keep this at the highest level. You can expand this further (especially if you have more than one audience group) in the next step.

Hand safety is one of the most underestimated injuries with a very high impact on personal lives. We can avoid them if we follow the instructions.


  • What actions (if anything) does your audience need to take as a result? 
  • Keep this at the highest level. You can expand this further (especially if you have more than one audience group) in the next step. 

Everyone needs to act in accordance with the new hand safety guidelines.


  • Is there a specific deadline for when your communication should be ready?
  • Or is this perhaps part of a bigger program or project, with deadlines you need to meet? 


  • You may need external support (for example, with design work, copywriting, editing video material, etc). If so, always clarify upfront the budget you have available.


Step 2: Understanding your internal audience segments

It all starts with your audience. Are there different segments you need to reach? You can work this out in a team using an audience analysis session. Think about the best way to reach each audience segment and how they think about your topic. The questions below will hopefully help trigger you to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. 

Audience analysis overview

Audience analysis matrix


Step 3. Developing your key messages

Now it’s time to start developing your key message (and sub-messages).

  • What do you want to say?
  • In what order do you need to say it?
  • How do you say it?

For each audience segment you can develop a simple Message Matrix to guide you – any others communicating on this topic. The simpler the better. People should be able to easily understand, remember and repeat your message.


StakeholderUsers of the DoIT IT system
Main objectiveTo ensure that users understand and use the new features

Message #1

We’ve upgraded DoIT!

- It has a new intuitive user interface to make your life easier.
- A new module has been added that enables you to connect with third parties.
- We’ve simplified the log-in process.

Message #2

Check out the new, improved DoIT.- Visit the home page.
- Check out the short video on the new features.

Message #3

Better for you and your fellow users.

- This new system will save you time and effort.
- It’s based on direct feedback from our pilot group.
- Spread the word to fellow users!

In general, we advise you to stay within a maximum of three key messages. It’s a bit like juggling… throw someone five balls, they’ll drop them all. Throw them one or two (…maximum three), they will catch!


Step 4: What’s your communication strategy?

  • Before choosing your channels, first decide your overall communication needs.
  • Is there an obvious format or approach that springs to mind?
  • This step doesn’t need to be difficult; it can be as simple as a one-liner…
For example …Ideal for …
We want to do this via as many regular meetings as possible (so we need to provide our managers with the right support/materials to embed the change).strategy update communication.
We’ll use team of ambassadors to spread the communication.
We will stimulate engagement with our message by asking questions of the audience (encouraging them to get the right results).a reorganization or an upcoming process change.
We can best engage through co-development (perhaps facilitated via multiple group working sessions).an internal ideation campaign.
We don’t want this to be perceived as slick and big budget.a cost-cutting communication.
We want this to be mainly a digital IT upgrade where users can clickthrough.

Defining these things upfront will help you when choosing the right channels, tools and methods in the next step…

Step 5: The high-level plan

  • What is the timeline for your project or program?
  • What are the key dates you need to communicate on? Make an overview of your communication milestone moments and plot them in your project or change plan.
  • For each milestone, indicate what the relevant audience segments need to understand and do. What’s the priority?
  • Finally, work this out in a detailed step-by-step plan by choosing the tools and channels that best serve your objectives.

Trust us, this always takes longer than anticipated: so, remember to leave yourself plenty of time!


Step 6a: Choose your Channel & Tool mix

Now it’s time to choose your Tool & Channel mix. Return to your audience analysis (from step 2) and look at which tools and channels you have selected for each segment.


  • Start by considering which tools would help you best tell your story to each specific audience. For example, a personal story, a catchy image with a slogan or a video? Then identify the best channel to reach your audience. 
  • Or you could go the other way. Which channel works best for a specific audience? For example, do they have weekly meetings you could tap into? What content should you then develop for that channel? Perhaps a powerful, personal story followed up by an email.

Whatever you develop, always follow our latest brand guidelines.

Step 6b: (Optional) Use an activation network

  • Map out the network: plot your ambassadors or functional experts in the center. They are your key communicators and go-to people (eyes and ears) for reaching the end-audience, or line managers - to help them communicate.
  • Do a check together: Are you reaching everyone you need to via your network? (every individual or audience can only be included once!)
  • Discuss and agree responsibility for cascading and feedback-loop communication.
  • Check what they need to execute the plan and then support them with the right material to achieve it! 


Step 7: Your activation plan

This is where we bring together all the previous steps, into a single view of your campaign to help you activate your plan.

Communication Action Plan
Audience segmentMessageContent provisionCommunicatorScheduleDelivery method: Channels and Tools StatusComments
Who will you communicate to? (Recipients of your message)What is the topic of the message?Who is responsible for developing the content? Who will the communication
be from?
(In who's name)
When will it happen and how often?How will the communication be delivered? What is
the status?
Other important


Step 8: Measurement & evaluation

Before you start executing your plan, have you thought about ‘what success looks like’? How can you tell if you’ve reached your communication objectives? And how can you determine which communication activity worked well (or maybe not so well)?

Of course, no-one should measure purely for the sake of measuring. But on the other hand, it’s a great way to learn and improve.

First, look at the tools & channels you’ve used for each of your communications milestones. Is there an obvious way to collect relevant information? If so, you can create a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for each tool & channel.

Measurement can be qualitative or quantitative. Here are some ideas for measuring your communication effectiveness:

  • Collects statistics from online channels (visits, clicks, views, downloads…).
  • Follow-up with a survey for your audience after the initial communication.
  • Conduct quizzes to test knowledge (maybe during or after a townhall).
  • Track the feedback loop via managers.
  • Reach out to individuals (ideal if communicating to small numbers).

The Quick Guides we’ve created for every channel and every tool will give you some more ideas on measurement.


Step 9: Budget overview

If you need external support to execute your plan this will cost money. 

Make sure you use DSM preferred suppliers. They know our company and brand requirements. Avoid nasty surprises by clarifying costs in detail by asking for quotes from your vendors. If you are not the budget owner yourself, arrange formal approval with the appropriate budget owner before you start work.

Measurement ideas
Milestone momentKPIObjectiveBenchmark (if available)What does this tell us?


And if you still need help, you can always contact us via email.

Read more

  • Tools


    Once you’ve established your communications objectives, audience and key messages, it’s time to create your message using the various internal communications tools available.

  • Channels


    Once you’ve decided on the communications tools needed to create your message, it’s then time to identify the best channels to reach your audience.

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