Nicole Leedham is a recent discovery, she’s a smart communications type, with a passion for marketing, public relations, branding and any business communication. Here she answers a question I’ve muttered many times myself, ‘what is a communications strategy and how do I create one?
In my line of work, I get a lot of businesses coming to me wanting a flyer or a press release or a new landing page for their website.
And more often than not, they complain that their current flyer, press release or landing page is “not working” and they want me to reassure them that my writing will improve their sales.
Then, when I have a look over all their marketing material, I immediately see the problem – there is no strategy behind their messages. Sure, they have their logo whacked on each piece of material, but nothing else is consistent and there is no clarity as to the purpose of each piece of communication.
I like to call this strategy “I’ve tried nothing and I’m out of ideas”.
So what is a communication strategy and why is it important to your business?
Put simply – the strategy is the “who, what, where, why, when and how” behind every piece of business communication – marketing, public relations, stakeholder information, internal newsletters, policies, procedures and more.
In larger business, men (and women) in suits sit in boardrooms for hours (nay, days) mapping out the strategy behind how to communicate things such as price hikes, product launches, regulatory changes and more. And all these smaller project-based communications strategies fit into a broader, organisation-wide strategy.
For small – and micro – businesses which don’t have the time or resources to go into such depth, this planning often ends up in the too-hard basket. But if you skip the planning, your issue might be that your message is not being heard at all – let alone by the right people.
So, what are the basics that you need to include in your communications strategy.
I’m glad you asked.
The following will help you put together a quick and dirty – but awesome – communication strategy.
This is where you really need to identify your target audience for a particular strategy – or campaign. And it’s not enough to say “mums of preschool children”. It needs to be far more specific. “Mums of preschool children with a median family income of XXX who live no more than 5 kms away from a major shopping centre and use daycare regularly.” You then need to get into the brains of this audience to figure out what would motivate them to buy your product or service (and, remember, you might have more than one audience, each needing a different strategy).
This is where the objective of your strategy comes in. Perhaps it is to increase sales, or exposure, or to get more people to sign up to your workshops. Whatever it is, objectives need to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound). So, instead of “increase sales”, the objective would be “to increase sales by 5 percent by June 30, measured through surveying each person who makes a purchase to determine what prompted their decision”.
These are the tools you will use – press releases, blog posts, an e-newsletter, social media, flyers, sales letters and so on.
This is the overarching message of the campaign – the call to action if you will. And it needs to be the same (or similar) for each of the above tools.
If you are targeting a certain audience, you should already know where they hang out. Do you leave flyers at the local butcher or the local playgroup? Are they on Linked-In or Twitter? Will a letter-box drop work, or is a targeted direct mail campaign better?
What is the timing of each component of the campaign? For example, three blogs posts a month, one flyer distributed midway through the campaign, two press releases a quarter. This is far better than the haphazard approach I often see that goes something like “Business is slow, let’s do another letterbox drop.”
So what next?
Now it’s time to put it on paper. It doesn’t need to be pretty. Across the top write the objective (the Why), then have headings for the How, What, Where, Who and When. And don’t forget to finish it off by noting how you intend to evaluate the strategy – otherwise how can you measure the success or otherwise. I find a spreadsheet can help (we communication professionals love our spreadsheets – and worship the Gantt Chart).
Voila – you now have a communication strategy.
Nicole Leedham is a corporate refugee who now runs her own boutique marketing communications agency Black Coffee Communication. When not hunched over the computer, you can find her chasing small children at the park – usually her own – or enjoying a good book accompanied by a glass of red.
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