Instead of sucking them out of your thumb, follow these tips to populate your communicate budget with meaningful numbers.

Communicators love words, not numbers. But numbers are a cornerstone of our job, whether we like them or not. Here’s how to make budgeting easier and how to use numbers to help you reach your goals:

  1. Do the work throughout the year. A solid communication plan followed by measurement and evaluation will show you how and on what you had spent your money previously and, most importantly, what it achieved. Use this information as the starting point for your new budget.
  2. Whether or not you have previous information to work with, you MUST invest in a proper planning session before you do your budget. Use Lester R. Potter’ book, The Communication Plan (available from the IABC website), to guide you through the planning session. It has useful explanations and a question-based template for each of the steps. Set aside a full day for planning, and spend 45 minutes on each of the 8 steps in the process. Yes, you can invest that much time in your future results and the budget to fund them.
  3. Keep a file in your office with past quotations from and brochures of service providers. These will give you ballpark figures to work with, without the admin effort. Add 10% for each year that has passed since the quote was issued.
  4. Phone a friend. Peers can offer advice when you are stuck on a particular item.
  5. Allocate 10% of your budget to research, measurement and evaluation. Make sure you have a strong motivation and business case to back-up this expenditure.
  6. Use information already available in other parts of the business. If the marketing or the HR departments have statistics, numbers and figures that can add substance to your budget, make an appointment and ask for it. Be sincere: explain how you will use the information and how the total business benefits when communication succeeds.
  7. Do the words first, then add the numbers. Once you are clear about your communication plan, including its tactics and responsibilities, it will be easy to link numbers to it.
  8. Transform the words into numbers. Present your communication plan as a balance sheet. List the communication assets you have, followed by the expenses and finally the return or income generated. Trust me: your boss and his boss and his boss will notice, understand and relate to the numbers far better than to a document full of communication buzzwords.

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