Define your media organisation and its unique role
The corporate plan is the most important tool in a media chief executive’s toolbox. Without it the media organisation can become lost and directionless. But with a strong corporate plan, staff and management are brought together, become a positive focus for change, and drive the media business forward. So it’s important to get it right. This is how to do it.
Writing a corporate plan should make running your media operation easier not more complicated, so don’t make the process complex.
The corporate plan should set out the vision for the media organisation, identify the target audience and its information needs, clarify who does what and why they do it, and set clear objectives that are cascaded down through every department and unit and which include every individual.
Corporate plans should be for a specified time period – too short and they don’t allow you to identify core and long-term value; too long and, over time, they become outdated and irrelevant. Five years is a realistic time-frame.
The more comprehensive and inclusive the discussion about the corporate plan is, the more likely it is that it will be realistic and achievable.
However, it’s not possible to include every member of your staff in the drafting process, so make sure the people you invite to discuss and draft the corporate plan are representative of a wide variety of views in your news organisation.
Select a moderator for the process who is a friend of the organisation, but does not have a vested interest in one part of it or another.
Note: See our training module on vision, accountability and transparency
A corporate plan sets out your unique differential
Start by doing a realistic market scan so you know who your audiences are, what competition you have, the values your staff and mangers need to demonstrate, and what your unique market differential is.
Then distil all of that into one readily-understood, easy to communicate sentence which you can use as the basis of your corporate plan.
This sentence or phrase is essentially a mission statement, so make sure every word merits a place in it, and that the mission statement covers everything you do or would like to do.
Make sure the mission statement is ambitious enough to be challenging, but realistic enough to be potentially achieved.
An example of such a statement might be “To make appealing content for the people with a well-trained, well managed staff using a variety of funding sources”.
Next, expand each part of the phrase and explain what it means in practice.
In the example above, describe what “making appealing content for the people” actually means in bullet points. Identify targets for each of the bullet points which can be measured with a time frame.
At the end of this process, you will have established what you hope to achieve over the lifetime of your corporate plan and a framework for how to measure your progress against it.
Making your corporate plan relevant and useful
Now you have a corporate plan it needs to be translated into an action plan.
Your senior management team should identify the resources (human, material etc.) they need in order to deliver the corporate plan on a divisional or directorate level.
This document should also contain a more detailed description of the major activity to be carried out in the first year to support the corporate plan, and an outline for the second and third years. Each director now has an individual work plan.
The document should also describe what each of the units plans to do along with measurable targets for each unit and the resources needed. Each unit manager now has an individual work plan.
Note: Please see our training module on managing people and setting objectives.
You now have a divisional plan. Each unit manager now discusses with each member of staff a work plan with measurable targets and objectives for the year ahead. This can also be linked to performance related pay if required.
Each member of staff now has an individual work plan which is directly related to the corporate plan with individual, unit, divisional and corporate objectives
Note: Please see our training module on investing in your staff.
Jaldeep Katwala has been a journalist since 1985. He has worked for the BBC, Channel 4 News and Radio Netherlands as a broadcaster. He has also taught journalism and run several media development projects and training courses around the world.