Effective communication is central to running a business. Whatever you sell and whoever you deliver services to, you won’t do very well if you can’t communicate with them. So, having a communication strategy is an excellent way to ensure your message gets across effectively.
Read on to learn what a communication strategy is. You’ll also gain tips on planning your communications effectively and seeing the impact of ill-judged communications.
What Is A Communication Strategy?
A communication strategy is your plan for communicating with your target audience. It’s a plan that pinpoints:
- Who you are talking to
- Why you are talking to them
- How you speak to them
- When you talk to them
- What you are talking to them about
Your communication strategy must have SMART goals:
You must identify your communication objectives and be able to measure them – be specific. For example:
- What communication channels are you going to use?
- What are you putting in place to mitigate any negative feedback?
- What resources will be used?
- Why are you doing this and what do you want out of it?
- What timeframe are you working to?
All of these questions and more must be answered in your communication plan.
Why is a Communications Strategy Plan Necessary?
Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.
Your communication plan acts as a guide. It details everything from what you want to say to your desired tone and core values. Having a plan makes it easier for all stakeholders to refer to, ensuring they stay on the right track.
Like with all plans, it can be adjusted when necessary. Once a project has ended, you can use it to understand what worked and what didn’t.
Epic Corporate Communication Fails
Getting communications wrong can lead to a PR disaster. Poor judgement can and does harm all companies. But the larger and more recognised the company, the worse the impact.
Here are some examples of epic communication failures by some of the world’s largest companies. They show why having a plan for what you communicate is essential.
- BP – In 2010, BP’s oil drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and sank, causing 11 deaths and the biggest oil spill in history. Their communication strategy included airing expensive ‘apology’ commercials.
These ads were criticised by several news outlets and then US President Obama, who said the money spent on them could have been used in the clean-up.
To make matters worse, BP’s CEO made an unforgivable blunder live on TV by saying he wanted his life back. In other words, he was tired of dealing with the matter. Not something to say when people have lost their lives.
- Philip Morris – This American tobacco company commissioned a 1999 study on the economic effects of smoking in the Czech Republic. They published their results, concluding that premature deaths caused by smoking were a good thing! Why? Because it saved the government money on pensions and health care.
Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go down well.
These examples show why effective and targeted communications are vital. Having a well-thought-out plan is an excellent way to mitigate such communication failures.
Five Tips on Creating A Winning Communications Plan
When you start to plan, get the right people in the room. Throw ideas around and take note of what’s being said. What works and what doesn’t. Then, decide on the following:
1. What’s Your Purpose?
Your purpose must be clear. It’s what you want your audience to do with the information received.
When your target audience is your customers or clients, you want them to buy your products or services. But before they even purchase, you may want to build a community to sell to. Tantalise them with what they can expect from you.
When communicating with employees, your purpose may be to get them on board with upcoming changes, new ways of working or new initiatives being introduced.
If you need to communicate with the media, consider what information you can and can’t share. Remember how things can go wrong if you don’t communicate effectively!
Ultimately, why are you doing this and what do you want?
2. Who Is Your Target Audience?
Research who your target audience is so you understand their wants and needs. It also helps when defining the tone of your communications.
You may need to adjust how you communicate the same thing to different target audiences.
Research how tech companies target different age groups when marketing a particular smartphone model.
And just like during learning, people receive information in different ways. Does your target audience want to receive communications verbally, via videos, audio or text? Which leads nicely onto the next power tip.
3. Getting Your Message Across?
How you communicate with your target audience depends on your business type and available resources. Consider your communication channels, which may be:
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Videos and podcasts
- SMS marketing
Use them effectively. You don’t have to stick to just one. Use as many as you feel necessary, but be consistent. Hopping from one form to another without warning can confuse audiences.
4. Timing Is Key
Announcing that the new CEO is getting a brand spanking new office after you have recently made employees redundant will not go down well. You have to schedule your communications at the right time. This makes them more effective. This is a strategy, after all.
Think about what else is going on. Consider whether releasing information will conflict with other projects or even previous communication plans that haven’t yet run their course. Can what you need to say be broken up into chunks?
Your plan should include an agreed timeline. Don’t forget to plan for the unforeseen, too. If there are dramatic internal changes, even major world events, your comms may need to be held back until the situation quietens down.
5. Pick the Right People to Communicate the Message
Many companies have a Communication Team. They put together comms and deliver them when necessary. It’s best to keep the responsibility of outgoing communications to them. After all, they are the professionals.
This isn’t to say that others can’t contribute to messages shared with your audiences.
For example, the IT Team may need to send comms about service issues. But are they the best team to deliver this message? It’s the job of the Communications Team to ensure messages are sent out in the right way and at the best time and to target those who need to hear them.
Need Some Help with How You Communicate?
Effective communication maintains relationships by building trust. It can even increase sales. It’s a significant reason why customers remain loyal to companies. If you need help with communicating, why not take our communication skills training course?
You’ll gain skills to help you improve your delivery, learn how to retain more information through active listening and understand different communication methods. These skills can be used in your personal life as well. So, what are you waiting for?