It’s hard to find your way to a destination without a road map of some sort—a document that tells you where you’re starting from, where you want to end up, and the best way to get there.
A communications strategy—whether for your entire company or for a specific media interview or public event—serves the same objective. You don’t need an atlas as a communications document; a simple list of objectives can suffice. But whatever form your strategic communications document takes, it should be a “living” document, focused on the essentials, that you can refer to and adapt as your circumstances and goals change, so that you can remain relevant within your sector and to your clients.
Raise Visibility & Value
The deeper purpose of a communications strategy is to raise the visibility and value of your company within your key audiences—shareholders, stakeholders, clients, employees, sometimes the general public. It should enhance your relevance and visibility within your sector space. It is linked directly to your business strategy.
Your communications strategy contains the tools you need to achieve all this. Most important are “key messages.” These are essentially, bullet points that represent your vision. Overloading the audience with too many facts and figures will turn them off, whereas key messages will let them know what you’re about. Three key messages should be enough, delivered with a “KISS” (Keep Is Short and Simple).
Put another way, key messages create the song sheet from which everyone in your company should be singing. Brevity and consistency are key to making key messages memorable!
Don’t forget visuals. In today’s world of mobile technology and video, your logo may need tweaking to align with your communications strategy. For example, does it display on a smartphone? Are your video messages (commercial or otherwise) adapted to hand-held devices or social web sites? Are your own social media outlets carrying the same words, images, and messages as the rest of the organization?
Remember, too, that “visuals” aren’t limited to graphics. You can paint a word picture to make your point. For example, saying, “Our new building will be twice the size of the Eiffel Tower” is easier for an audience to imagine than: ”Our new building will be XXX meters high.”
Be sure you’re aware of trends—both positive and negative—that may be affecting your sector. You want to stand out, of course, but not completely buck a trend that may overpower your efforts. For example, if the prevailing atmosphere about your sector is that prices are too high, anything you do to attack that assumption head-on could be received as “fake news,” whereas focusing on the benefits of responsible production (albeit costly) may help assuage public sentiment.
How will you disseminate your communications? And how often? Today, thanks to technology and social media, we can reach our customers and the public directly as well as through the intermediaries of journalists and broadcasters. Your key messages will remain constant, but they will need to be outfitted differently depending upon the distribution channel. Press release language doesn’t translate into a public speech; a key message needs different words to be “heard” by different audiences.
If your strategy is aimed at a specific event or media interview, be sure you know and understand the audience — whether that’s a live audience in a conference or the readers of a newspaper. What angle is the journalist pursuing? What has she or he written or produced on the subject previously? Prepare some key figures and “soundbites” to support your position and be prepared to repeat them to make your point. Again, avoid an overabundance of detailed information (you can always provide a handout for journalists with additional facts and figures).
How To Measure Success?
Finally, your communications strategy should have a measurable component in order to judge its efficacy. Is the aim to increase sales, expand the customer base, spread the word about a new direction for the company? What will you measure, when, and how often?
To recap, here’s the short list of questions to ask yourself when creating your communications strategy:
1. What are your goals?
2. Who is your audience?
3. What are your key messages?
4. How will you distribute them (channels & influencers)?
5. How and when will you implement your strategy?
6. How will you measure its progress?
Developing a communications strategy is indeed your roadmap to your goals. And in creating one, you will find you obtain a deeper understanding of who you are as a company and what your true purpose is. There is a side benefit to this exercise of creating a communications strategy: it can help you identify and focus on areas where you want to create change or foster growth.