The ability to effectively and consistently keep your organization top-of-mind and visible to all of your stakeholders – including funders, donors, and service recipients – is a critical component of success. A strategic approach to all of your communication activities, both for internal and external audiences, is essential and will positively impact your “bottom line”.
What does it mean to be ‘strategic’ in your communications?
First of all, it is essential to define and understand your target audience. Next, identify and create key messages, and then communicate using a range of appropriate tactics. These are the foundations of a solid communications plan.
Whether you’re in the private, public or charitable sector, transparency and accountability are the currency of the day. Stakeholders expect greater transparency and accountability. It is no wonder that the three themes currently dominating communications in the 21st century are:
- reputation management
- crisis communications, and
Your strategic communications plan should enable your organization to be proactive and be prepared for any communications challenge or opportunities which may arise. Here are these elements in more detail.
1. Develop A “Living” Communications Plan.
A communications plan must be aligned to and encompass your organization’s vision, mission, core values, strategic plan and principal activities. Take the time to ensure that all-important communications to stakeholders, both within and outside of the organization, are aligned with its’ mission and values. Commit the infrastructure, budget and personnel to develop and deliver on the plan.
Be sure to also monitor and evaluate each of your activities within your overall communications plan. Ideally, the plan
should be an integrated portfolio of:
- public relations (building relationships and generating goodwill)
- marketing (building and maintaining markets); and
Where do you begin your plan? First ask yourself the “5 W’S” -
Who? What? Where? When? and Why?
WHO is it that we want to communicate with?; In other words, WHO is my audience? Who are we trying to reach?
WHY do we want to reach this target audience? and Why are we relevant to them?
WHAT is the message we want to communicate?
WHERE do we the best reach our target audience?
WHEN is the best timing to communicate?
2. Know your target audience.
The more you know about your target audience, the better your communication will be. For example, what are their demographics (e.g. age, residency) and psychographics (e.g. attitudes and habits)? The more you know about your audience’s needs, hopes, fears, habits, and attitudes, the better prepared and more effective you will be in engaging them in relevant and meaningful communications. Formal and informal surveys, focus groups, comment boxes, and website chat rooms are just a few examples of information-gathering methods for learning about your target audience.
3. Develop and Refine Clear and Compelling Key Messages.
Messages should establish or reinforce your “brand” and “unique selling proposition” (USP). The best messages about your brand are always simple, clear, and consistent. Look at the successful brands. Key messages should be delivered in a number of different ways and as frequently as possible. Establish the key words or phrases which best describes your core business. An effective mission statement, for example, should be easily recalled by stakeholders and be used in all key materials.
4. Choose Effective Communications Tactics.
Develop tactics that meet your organization’s objectives and are relevant to your target audience. Depending on your objectives, your target audience, your overall strategy and your budget, examples of tactics may be media relations, speaking engagements, events and promotions. Ideally, a multi-faceted, layered approach utilizing a range of tactics over a specified period of time is most effective.
5. Build Multi-Disciplinary, Multi-Sector Relationships And Strategic Alliances.
Develop relationships which enhance, extend and leverage your internal and external communications capacity. You may seek partners who have complementary client databases or can help you open up new markets. Develop relationships that offer ways to establish new or non-traditional communications channels to your existing target audience. The key is to establish relationships which enable your organization to achieve more than it could on its own.
Good Resources on Strategic Communications
Canada Newswire is Canada’s most frequently used and most widely accessed full-text news release site and a national leader in audio/video webcasting for real-time around the world. Provides innovative services to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your communications and to target key audiences. Also offers free subscription services.
IABC/Toronto Chapter is the largest chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators, providing access to products, services, workshops, professional development and networking opportunities in Toronto and around the world.
PR Canada provides news, information and commentary for Canadian communicators.
PR and Marketing provides the latest news and strategies on public relations and marketing, including case studies and web seminars. They are also publishers of PR News.
To contact Lynn Communications Inc. email: firstname.lastname@example.org