November 14, 2022

Planning for Spontaneity: The importance of Communications Planning in the Customer Experience

Kimberly Emrick-Bryan

VP Strategy

Genuine’s head of Strategy Kimberly Emrick-Bryan unpacks the importance of communications planning around any digital experience, and why it matters more than you think.

“If you build it, they will come”

That earworm might have worked in Field of Dreams, but for any brand trying to influence their customers’ experience irl, this approach leaves a lot up to chance.  What is incentivizing people to come? What will their experience be like when they get there, and how will we know if it was effective enough to encourage them to return?

Cue the communications plan.

At Genuine, we do a lot of communications planning because we recognize how integral it is to the customer experience. One without the other is only half as effective as it could be.  

A good communications plan bridges the divide between expectation and experience. Done well, it can yield insights into what audiences need at various points of their journey, in addition to helping us reach them via  their preferred channels at key moments with messaging that will resonate.

What does comms planning solve for clients?

What - What does the audience need to know about? What actions do we want them to take?

When - Are there important milestones to align with? Does something need to happen before the comms can be sent? How long do we give users before following up?

Who  - Who are we talking to? Are there segments or sub-segments that require different messaging? Are there legal or compliance requirements?

How - How is the communication being sent? How are lists being segmented? How is the communication being triggered? How is it being tracked?

From Siloed to Seamless

Many companies can relate to the frustrations of needing to translate how they operate internally to a frictionless customer experience.  Earlier this year a client approached us to help them mitigate public-facing risks that come with an acquisition  —two  large, well-established health insurance companies were merging  and wanted to ensure that customers from each heritage system felt that they were reaping the benefits from the new combined entity, rather than missing how things used to be, as they onboarded to the new plan.

First,  we conducted an anecdotal assessment and quantitative analysis of the current customer journeys and related communications touchpoints.  From there, we looked for patterns to identify a framework to help the client make sense of  which types of communications were being sent and by whom, through which segments and channels, along with relevant calls to action. We created visual maps to illustrate the journeys with these details and added a layer of data insights to evaluate effectiveness of each communication that would inform our recommendations for the future state. 

In the end, we provided a strategic roadmap for the client that included two versions of the new communications plan: a visual snapshot that provided key milestones and channels featuring existing, adapted and new content and any overlaps for the three primary audience cohorts; along with a requirements matrix to identify automated triggers, CTAs, and internal support needed for the tactical implementation.  Even though the client originally came to us to develop a plan to reduce their members’ pain points, they were surprised at how relieved and empowered their internal team felt as a result of having the clarity they needed to support their customers with confidence.

Enabling a hybrid experience 

In a post-COVID reality, hybrid events are another area where thoughtful communications planning can significantly impact the customer experience. 

Late last year, a large, global fast food chain engaged our sister agency, Jack Morton Worldwide, to produce the company’s biennial convention – the first after a 2-year COVID-mandated hiatus. Jack Morton’s charge was to ensure that the convention was an inclusive, safe, and multichannel event that was relevant and accessible for ALL attendees – recognizing that some of the audience would be yearning to come together after a pandemic-induced hiatus, while others might prefer to stay remote. 

As such, we were asked to develop an end-to-end digital experience to keep participants informed and engaged from anywhere; pre, during and post Convention. So, in addition to bringing in Genuine to help develop the digital experience, we collaborated on a supporting MarCom plan to ensure the experience felt unified.

There was a robust list of information to provide participants, including reminders about travel, Covid safety, registration information, and so on; so we needed to be careful to not overwhelm or inundate attendees to the point in which their enthusiasm would wane. The client and our agency partners had created an exciting theme around a ‘family reunion’ concept that was generating a lot of buzz, and the last thing we wanted to do was dilute the excitement with too many details, regardless of how necessary they were.

Again, understanding the live and remote audience needs, and where they might overlap allowed us to orchestrate how content was pushed to the website blog, app notifications or alerts, and in weekly emails in a way that supported a cohesive experience; leaving no one to feel left out.

All of our planning paid off.  With over 90,000 website visits, 13,000 app downloads, and 32,000 on-demand video views around the world, the fully hybrid event was a first of its kind for this company, and reached far beyond the impact of any convention in history.  Our social efforts exceeded all benchmarks, with a reach of >20.7M+ for all social content, and on-demand video extended the impact, with 37% of VOD content consumption occurring after the event. I think we can safely say that it wouldn’t have gone that way had we just built it and assumed they would come.


Bottom line — if you are actively planning a digital experience of any kind, please keep your audiences in mind and communicate with them in a way that they want to hear from you.  By leveraging what you know about their preferences, you can simplify and enhance their experience. turning customers into loyalists. And, if you need help, call us.  We know what to do.