By Brittany Straughn
Boston University ’16
Horan Communications Intern

The Problem: Many organizations begin marketing themselves prior to addressing questions whose answers end up shaping the best communication plans. The same questions apply to many organizations, from nonprofits to schools. Time spent looking inward at where an organization is and where you want it to go is a valuable investment toward effective communication.

Before spending time or money creating a marketing plan, tackle these questions:


These answers provide a baseline for your marketing plan. Use this information to ensure the content of your messaging is accurate and realistic. These answers will also aid in developing your approach to marketing, because you will discover what is manageable to take on and what may be too large an endeavor for your organization as it stands.

What is the present state of business?

What is our current reputation or image?

What about our organization is positive right now, and what needs a change?


Looking to the future with your answers to these questions will begin to flesh out the role communication can play in strategically reaching your organization’s goals. The language you use when writing and speaking about long-term goals will guide the content of your future messaging. How you speak about your organization should always work to push closer to attaining the organizational vision.

What are our organizational goals, both short-term and long-term? How do we define success?

What are measurable and achievable objectives needed to reach those goals?

What are strategies and tactics for realizing those objectives?


Understanding your position in the market will direct the marketing approach you choose, while also driving the messages you create. The answers to these questions will make clearer the context and environment surrounding your marketing efforts. Your messages do not exist in a vacuum; thinking critically about what this means for your individual communication plan will help you stand out from the crowd.

What is the state of the market in which our organization exists?

How do similar organizations communicate? What techniques do they use to market themselves?

Who are our competitors? How are we alike or different?

Who are our partners? How can we leverage those partnerships to our advantage?


In creating a marketing plan you must remain mindful of your audience. Adapting messages and approach to the habits, likes, dislikes, and demographics of those you aim to engage will increase the impact of any communication effort. Answering these questions and continually revisiting them during each stage of the marketing plan will increase the likelihood of success.

Who are our stakeholders, both current and prospective?

What are the demographics and psychographics of each of our stakeholders?

Have we tailored our messaging to resonate with those stakeholders?

How do our stakeholders receive news, information, and new ideas?


From advertising to inbound marketing to social media, there are many tools available for use in a marketing campaign. Choosing which are most useful for your organization is a difficult but necessary task. By answering the following questions about tools and strategies, your approach to marketing will become tailored to your organization’s strengths and needs.

Which social media platforms complement our brand or organization?

Which marketing tools and strategies are tailored to benefit our organization?

Is our website living up to its full potential?

Are we engaging current and prospective audiences on social media?


The Take Away: In answering the above questions, your organization will be ready to assess how and when to communicate. It will become more evident how your communications work will advance your larger organizational goals. In understanding where you are, where you seek to be, your market, your audiences, and the tools available, you are ready to recognize what creating and disseminating high-impact messages means for your organization.