A communications strategy is a business tool. It helps an organization align their business goals with a marketing plan that focuses on reaching a set of predetermined results. Surprisingly many organizations and businesses don’t have a business plan. You can’t win without scoring, and you can’t score without goals. Goals are the focus that make you successful—whatever your goals may be: more clients, more members, breaking into new markets, broaden audience scope, higher profit etc. A communications strategy is your playbook to reach those goals.
A smart business is one that is focussed, and especially, goal oriented. Disorganized unfocused actions are the greatest downfall of many organizations. Unfocussed actions are often the cause of wasted investments or communications activities without any eye on the return on investment. Having goals doesn’t mean you need an exhaustive 50 page document with a table of contents (some may though). It can be as simple as a list of things you want to achieve—things that have statistics attached, what you want more of. For example more projects valued at $50,000 and above. Then punctuate this goal with a tactic(s) to achieve it.
See our recent work samples and how they use communication tactics to support organizational goals.
Where to focus your goals
Through on‐going experiences as a business owner myself and a marketing professional advising businesses, there is one truly overriding reality—business is about selling, even for a “not‐for‐profit”. Everyone is selling something! People buy or buy‐into your benefit.
What is your value? Are you relevant? Who cares—and, why should they?
To get it right, you need to get strategic! Strategic about your value to your audiences—it’s not about you, but how relevant you are to your stakeholders, shareholders, clients, customers, members etc.
Your goals should be crafted to that end: your value.
How to align your goals with your marketing
It’s important to note that a communications strategy is a ‘living document’ that should be reviewed periodically (monthly, quarterly, semi‐annually or annually — depending on the size of the business and the activities) to see what worked, what didn’t, what you should do more of, or less of. It may need to be reviewed more often depending on circumstances — i.e. huge crash in the market, a new product that shadows yours, regulations underpinning your value.
Following is a step‐by‐step sample of how the foundation of strategies are built. Once you have a solid strategy you can update it along the way as your organization grows.
1. Research Phase
An environmental analysis is the first step. This is done by conducting an in‐depth review of all your existing communication activities, processes and brand assets keeping in mind your business goals. To create a roadmap to reach where you’re starting from, where you’ve been and what’s worked or hasn’t.
The activities at the research phase may include some, or all, of the following activities:
- review the business plan and if you have one, the existing communication strategy. What is it that you want to achieve and how have you been doing it?
- analyze key messages, how you demonstrate value and benefit and does it align with your business goals?
- brand audit, what image do you project, what tone of voice are you using?
- interviews regarding perceptions, what/how do others see you, both internally and externally?
- engagement; how you interact and connect with your audiences, including staff, and they in turn, with you?
- competitor analysis, who is doing what for whom and how do you compare—are there gaps?
Depending on what research activities are conducted they will result in various reports. These reports will clarify such things as your value proposition, your identity/image, your audiences and stakeholders, your existing outreach activities, your competition’s brand compared to yours, and audiences perceptions of you/your brand (internal and external) as well as a S.W.O.T. analysis. If you are not conducting this stage internally, an authority from your organization should be actively involved at all steps of the research providing the necessary information needed to assess your environment.
2. Content Development Phase
Establishing meaningful key messages—that represent your vision from phase one is the second critical step. “Key messages” is a term used to describe how you communicate ‘who you are’ and ‘why you exist’ as an organization. This is the cornerstone of a good strategy. Everyone needs to be saying the same thing, the same way consistently to establish your relevancy and influence in the space you occupy.
Well‐crafted messages will highlight your unique benefits, target your audiences, support your mission and highlight your value. Key messages are crafted as a set of short, standard sentences or phrases or paragraphs that describe your organization, programs and/or services. As you reach out to more specific audiences, implement material, these key message form the standard language ready to tailor to each purpose.
3. Visual Brand Phase
The research and content development stages may reveal areas of your brand that require attention to ensure you are aligned well with your goals and audiences. Brand refreshes are common at these junctures. They may include but are not limited to:
- new colour palette and/or font sets for a modernization of existing brand assets
- creating a suite of brand elements to create a strong look and feel
- adding taglines on all communication products in a consistent visual manner
4. Strategy Phase
The strategy phase will provide you with a practical and measurable list of communication tactics that will help you achieve your corporate goals. These tactics are identified to help raise the visibility and value of your organization with your audiences. It will be a toolbox of suggested activities/products to support sales, relationships and brand awareness, positioning you as current, relevant and influential within your space. Ultimately the strategy will assist you in focusing efforts where you want to foster change or growth. The tactics will be concrete and pertinent to your corporate vision. They will have a measurable component.
- A business goal is to have 20% more attendees at your conference—tactics will be created for this purpose. The number of attendees over the previous year is a measurable metric to compare against the number of attendees after applying the tactics.
- A business goal is to have more quality visits to your website that convert to an interaction. Tactics will be created to raise traffic, have visitors stay longer and respond to a call to action on the site. Using previous analytics to measure against you will see bounce rates, time spent and number of calls/emails/sign ups happen.
5. Strategy Deployment Phase
Based on the recommendations of the strategy you will choose what is ‘most‐to‐least’ critical. A calendar of activities with budgets, person(s) responsible and timeframes are then mapped out. Please note that not all recommendations will result in an expense (example: streamlining how everyone answers the phone, consistent email signatures, blogs, etc. can be done internally by identified staff members). All tactics you identify from the strategy phase will be included in the calendar. This working calendar will serve as your communications GPS taking you through the next year or two, as you implement the tactics and re‐adjust the activities based on results and evolving business goals.
If you are in business, profit or non‐profit, you need to promote your value. Perception of what you do, or don’t do, can be holding you back. Communicating your value with well thought out strategic moves, punctuated with vision and purpose, will go a long way in carving out your benefit.
As a full service agency Accurate can join your team anywhere along the steps of a strategy. Give us a call—we’d love to hear from you.