WHY A COMMUNICATION STRATEGY IS ONE OF THE KEY CORNERSTONES OF LEADING BRANDS

A key common denominator of top companies around the world is the fact that their communication is informed by fully integrated communication strategies that are revised and updated on a continuous basis. Simply put, an integrated communication strategy is a clear blueprint for what, where, how, with whom and when to communicate, to achieve the business objectives and goals.

As opposed to a ‘spray and pray’ approach, having such a clear blueprint, ensures that all communication initiatives are strategically driven, focused and targeted and that optimal results are achieved at minimal cost, with maximum ROI.

Many make the mistake of thinking such a strategic exercise is only necessary when a business is established. But because the business landscape is ever changing, most companies are constantly forced to change their strategic direction as well. Those who don’t revisit their strategy frequently, often find that there is substantial disconnect between the company’s strategic intent and its communication. Join us as we delve into the communication strategy development process and the spin-offs that are achieved along the way.

It begins with sound thinking that revolves around the company goals.

A communication strategy must kick off with a strategic workshop that involves the business’ executive team, and key stakeholders. The main purpose of such a workshop should be to explore the current business strategy and to revisit the vision, mission, values, goals and objectives together. At the end of the workshop, the executive team should unanimously agree on all these elements.

At the same time, a complete picture must be obtained of the most current context within which the business operates. To this end, tactical building blocks that should also form part of this exercise, are a comprehensive PLEST scan, a competitor and SWOT analysis, as well as audience mapping.

Conducting such a workshop right at inception, will ensure that sound thinking underpins the development process and that the business’ goals and objectives always remain at the centre of the communication strategy.

Ensure that the strategy is informed by cold, hard facts.

The next critical phase of the strategy development process, is to conduct extensive research, including desktop research and online surveys, as well as face to face interviews with key stakeholders.

The main goals of this research stage, are to uncover the real facts and issues that impact the behaviour and attitude of all the relevant stakeholders and to base the strategy on actual facts, rather than assumptions.

It is especially constructive if these surveys are coordinated by a third party and conducted anonymously, as it enables stakeholders to provide honest feedback without fearing possible consequences.

Take a look at the ‘as is’, to plan the ‘where we want to be.’

As soon as all the background research has been completed, it is critical to compile a completely objective ‘as is’ report that summarizes the outcomes of the research and to share this with the executive team.

This part of the exercise is typically a massive wakeup call, as it uncovers the true thinking and feeling of all the stakeholders involved and highlights actual issues that exist. During this stage, companies more often than not also realize that there is a notable difference in how they wish to be perceived by their various audiences, and how they are perceived in reality.

The next step will then be to design a set of key messages and communication interventions that actively bridge the gaps and challenges that exist and that counteracts whatever it is that prohibits the business from reaching its goals. When doing so, the following questions must also be asked:

  • Are we building a positive and credible reputation?

Are we enabling the company to speak in one, unified tongue?

Are our messages consistent and repetitive enough to achieve top of mind status?

Are we providing for both quick wins and long-term goals?

  • Are we leveraging our company strengths to counteract our weaknesses?

 

Are we actively pursuing our opportunities? Are we in a state of readiness to navigate through the potential threats?

Make sure you can implement it.

Finally, any communication strategy must be concluded with a detailed implementation plan, that outlines the nature of each intervention, what it will cost, by when it must be executed, and which resources are required for it.

Most importantly, each intervention must be attached to clear outcomes and deliverables, and it must be specified upfront which tools will be used to measure and evaluate the success of it.

For information or assistance with the development of integrated communication strategies, feel free to contact Bongani Gosa at BWD Advertising (BWD), at bgosa@bwd.co.za.