Underestimate the power of strategic communications at your peril. Whether you’re running major events, creating a brand, or looking to build a social media audience, a coherent strategy can keep your messaging consistent, ensure everyone is focussed on the task at hand, and maximise your return on investment.
Here are the basics for developing a communications or marketing strategy. Work them into your next project and see how taking the time to set your strategy helps you reap the rewards of good planning.
Know your purpose
Knowing what you’re trying to achieve is a great place to start. If you’re looking to run an advocacy campaign, your communications tactics and channels will likely be very different to the ones used to sell products or maximise event registrations.
Setting clear objectives with measurable targets will enable you to create a strategy that includes the right tactics for the job.
Know your background
Recognising the background and history of what you are communicating is important.
Did your event first originate in 1957? Great, it has a venerable history. Or did it just start this year? It could the latest and greatest, with earth shaking potential. Share this in your messaging to let your audience know what they are getting into.
Checking the background can also help you understand the environment you’re working in. Be aware of potential pitfalls and decide whether it’s better to take a targeted approach or shout your message from the proverbial rooftops. For example, if you’re discussing a sensitive issue, taking the time to plan can help you act appropriately to avoid uproar rather than respond to it.
Know your messages
Set four or five key messages to shine through in all communications related to the subject of your strategy. Consider how your messages will be presented based on your existing business identity or brand. This will raise awareness of what you’re all about, and give you quick, meaningful answers if your approach is questioned.
Knowing your audience is also important. Tactics like identifying key stakeholders to share your messages with can amplify your efforts. The simple step of mentioning them in your plan with a hyperlink to their website and a note about the ideal time to reach out to them can save a desperate scramble to engage stakeholders at the last minute.
Know how to work as a team
If you’re working with others, a solid strategy can help everyone keep focussed on a common goal using common language and a shared vision. A good plan provides consistency, which in turn shows people you are professional.
Getting input and agreement from those who are in it together can help a team work like clockwork. If everyone knows where they fit in the big picture, they will know where to go if a question arises, and be better able to take a unified approach.
If everyone presents a consistent message, it demonstrates good organisation. If you have a set spokesperson, news media are more likely to ask them for their expert perspective. If you have a recognisable tagline, this can speak volumes about your brand. And if you’re selling products, everyone needs to be clear about the benefits for the people who use them.
Know the time to act
Allowing enough time to do things properly is hugely important, and a solid strategy should timeline tactics. This is vital when tasks with long lead times are involved, or when responsibilities need to be known ahead of time. As an example, if you are looking to reach out to magazines with an article or advert, it might be months before the edition is published.
Scheduling tactics also means you don’t have to overthink things. If you have set timings for news items or social media posts related to the task at hand, you don’t have to second guess yourself. They are in the plan for a reason, and as long as you stay aware of any changes to the situation, they should serve you in good stead.
Know when to stick to the plan
One of the main benefits of having a plan is that it helps you to maximise return on the time and resources you are investing. It’s not just about operating within a set budget, it’s about prioritising which tasks will bring you the best bang for your buck.
Sometimes good ideas come along halfway through a campaign. But it’s good to know when there isn’t scope to work on optional extras. A communications strategy should provide a coherent plan that can evolve based on opportunities and ideas – within a set budget.
By obtaining agreement from colleagues before getting hands-on, you also ensure plans can't be easily disrupted by half-baked ideas. Having enough flexibility to build on opportunities when they come up is a hallmark of a good strategy, but if the latest ‘great idea’ just doesn’t match up with the resources you have available, your plan will help you understand when enough is enough.
Know how to measure success
Knowing how to follow up and measure success is the final part of a good plan. If you run an awesome annual event, schedule a delegate survey to make it even better next year. Build reporting targets into your plan so you can understand what has worked and why. This can save you time if you ever need to repeat the activity you have been planning for.
With the aid of a good communications plan I have seen events boost registrations exponentially, product sales skyrocket, organisations increase their membership, new awareness campaigns take off and social media audiences double within a year.
When a consistent plan is developed and used to inform your activities, good things will happen. Events will get more delegates, organisations will find more recognition, and brands will be presented with increased consistency.
In the long run, a good communications strategy will save you time and money. It may take a bit of initial outlay, but the returns are worth it.
Thanks for reading! There are many techniques you can use to develop a good communications strategy. If you would like a hand with your communications efforts, or to build a marketing and PR strategy, why not contact us for a consultation?