Adding water to the OASIS

Post by David Cooke, Assistant Director of Internal Communications and Engagement and the Home Office

Friday 13 October 2017

Image depicting a note pad denoting planning

In the 8 years that I’ve been working in government communications, the OASIS framework has become firmly established as the tool for communications planning, not just in Internal Communications, but increasingly for our customers out in the business. That’s undoubtedly a good thing, bringing a helpful structure and rigour to our approach.

Yet this success in driving a consistent approach doesn’t always translate into high-quality communication plans. I still frequently come across communication plans (based on OASIS) that are 15-20 pages long, light on insight, featuring 10-12 ‘key’ messages, with a ‘strategy’ that amounts to little more than ‘using a multichannel approach’. Once ‘signed-off’ by the project lead, these plans are often filed away and never looked at again. Instead, everyone focuses on the tactical implementation grid, ticking off items in the weekly project catch-up.

What’s the point of investing all that time in developing an OASIS plan if it doesn’t continue to be used during the project?

Here are my top tips for keeping your OASIS plan relevant and useful:

  1. Keep it short. Just because you’re using OASIS doesn’t mean that your communication plan has to be a lengthy tome. Aim for 2 sides of A4.
  2. Keep it updated. John Maynard Keynes is often quoted as saying, “When the facts change, I change my mind.” For your communications plan to be useful, it has to be a living document so don’t feel you can’t update after it’s been signed off!
  3. Include some proper insight. I suspect the reason that the Strategy section of OASIS plans is often a bit light on detail is because there is minimal or no insight to inform the strategy. Maybe it’s because there’s no ‘I’ for Insight in OASIS?! Try and include at least one killer fact about your audience, e.g. communication preferences, that helps to explain the strategy that you’re adopting.
  4. ‘Key messages’ are just that! We’ve all read strategy documents that contain 12 ‘key’ objectives. There may be 12 objectives, but they can’t all be key. Messages are no different. What is the one message that you want your audience to take away from your communication?
  5. The ‘Implementation’ section is not a separate plan! Too often, the rest of the plan is jettisoned once implementation begins. Take the whole plan to each check-in meeting and keep referring back to objectives to make sure that implementation of your plan is consistent.
  6. Link your ‘Scoring’ back to your ‘Objectives’. Often, a lot of time is spent on developing really crunchy objectives, only for the ‘Scoring’ section to be populated with the usual suspects, e.g. hits to a web page. Your evaluation approach needs to measure your objectives effectively. The ‘Scoring’ section should also be filled in before implementation begins, not after the project has been completed. Scoring shouldn’t be about trying to retrofit outcomes to your objectives!