For 25 years, I worked at the sharp end of national newspapers. The hurly burly of a newsroom is a frenetic environment and putting together a newspaper from scratch every day, then distributing it to the nation’s breakfast tables by the following morning, is no mean feat.
But it doesn’t allow much time for strategic thought. Life becomes a series of short-term decisions, made under huge time pressure. It is all about tactics, not strategy. Get the job done and worry about the consequences later. Does that sound like your business?
Five years ago, I left journalism and began advising companies on strategic communications. Though there is a great deal to be said for being nimble and making decisions quickly, every business needs an underlying vision. As a business, you should be able to communicate that vision clearly and succinctly. Yet too many seem to regard the communications aspect as an optional extra, not an essential element.
Here are the key points to consider when framing your communications strategy:
- What is your why? This should be the golden thread that informs all your communications. Whether you can distil it into a single phrase, or a sentence, or you need a whole paragraph to express it, you need to know why you exist and what makes your business distinctive.
- Don’t confuse the strategy with the tactics you need to deploy to achieve your strategic goals. Strategy comes first, tactics are the means to that end.
- Is your strategy informed by hard evidence or are you going on gut instinct? Your instinct is often spot-on, but do the research and find the data that supports it.
- What are the key messages you are trying to convey about your business?
- What audiences are you trying to reach? You may need to segment the messages for different audiences – for example, one campaign strand might focus on your consumers while another is directed at a B2B audience.
- What types of media do you need to target to reach these audiences? You will need to segment media outlets into different tiers and decide on your priorities; for example, coverage in a national newspaper might give you the greatest reach but a trade magazine read by those most engaged with your product might offer a better ROI.
- How will you deploy your owned channels to communicate your messages? Are they fit for purpose? How can you extend their reach and make your content more engaging?
- What KPIs will you set for your strategy and how will you measure success? Answering those questions demands that achievable outcomes are embedded into the strategy.
- Have you communicated your strategy to everyone in the business? Don’t go out and tell the world about your new campaign but forget to tell your colleagues first.
Your communications strategy will not be set in stone – you might be blown off course by a crisis. But, with a strategy in place and a clear understanding of the messages you are trying to convey, your business will have a much better chance of weathering the storm.
Tim Jotischky is Head of Consultancy at the PHA Group