Good Communications Guide


Chapter 9



Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.
Joe Biden
President of the United States




Building our new pensions world is an investment in delivering effective social and digital ways of communicating on pensions to empower people to save now, for their future beyond their working lives.

Matthew Doyle
Non-Executive Director, consultant on responsible investment and stewardship


Communications budgeting is becoming harder. The range of media options is growing exponentially – some channels will be relatively low cost while others require significant investment. It’s not uncommon to have a budget range from £2,000, £20,000 or even £200,000, because of the range and scale of media which could be used. At the same time, there’s pressure to maximise return on the investment and show that with hard numbers as well as save costs.

One way to consider what communication channels or materials are right for your project is to examine the cost of the communication and its effectiveness. The grid below gives a quick view of cost versus impact for a range of typical pension communications. This is not an exhaustive list, and the actual cost of the deliverables will depend on the specific requirements agreed with your suppliers.

Here are our ten tips to obtaining an accurate and realistic budget for your communication project.

1. Itemise everything

When defining strategy your strategy you will start to identify the communication channels and media which might be required. Start to list everything at this stage, and when you agree your communication plan, you should be able to set out each anticipated deliverable and project management step and resource. From this list, you can determine in house resources and specialist external resources.

2. Engage early

Engage with external suppliers and resources early on in your thinking process. The earlier in the process you begin a conversation, the better the result they will gain a better understanding of your requirements and the challenges to be overcome.

3. Ask for a creative pitch

Many agencies are happy to create concepts and visuals to a brief. But don’t be surprised if they choose not to. If they agree, this will give you an opportunity to work with them before committing resources as well as give you some great initial ideas to take forward. Don’t be afraid of using the ideas from the pitch process if they fit the bill. But equally, don’t always expect the ideas presented to be the final designs.

4. Write a short brief

Write a clear brief that outlines the challenge and the requirements. Setting out the context for the project, insights and perspectives as well as channels and media anticipated. All too often pitches go wrong because an important aspect is left unsaid. You may not know the channels at the outset, but it is always good to share early thoughts and what’s worked and not worked from previous communication projects.

5. Share previous work

Share communications created previously, share them and explain why it’s relevant to the current project. Maybe it’s an example of what didn’t work or something that worked but is out of date.

6. Be clear on timescales

There’s always a dichotomy when people ask for amazing but only have time to implement ‘good enough’. Being clear on the timescales and priorities will ensure that resources, whether in house or external, understand the amount of effort or time required. Clarity will make sure that costs are realistic and reflect the right level of resource and commitment.

7. Agree on version controls and responsibilities

Cost overruns with agencies or freelancers are often due to multiple or conflicting comments and revisions from key stakeholders. Discuss at the outset a process for management of these will make for a smooth running project and ensure that costs don’t creep up unnecessarily.

8. Size does matter

The length of the communication is critical to gauging cost. For example, the time it takes to script and storyboard a 90-second animation will be considerably less than a three-minute animation. It's the same for almost all communications, the more ‘pages’ or longer the content, the more costly it will be.

9. Be clear on your budget constraints

If you have a clear budget constraint, don’t be tempted to keep it a secret. By sharing this information, external suppliers can do the hard work of identifying the right channel for maximum impact with a small budget.

10. Invest in real conversations

External resources will almost certainly want to discuss your project in some detail. Making time to answer questions and discuss ideas can is a good way to ensure that the help you need can be done at the price you can afford.




Useful tools







Get notified when we update the Good Communications Guide.