Are you spending too much time and resources on branding and visibility without gaining influence?
Are your stakeholders not acting in the way you want them to do whenever you reach out?
Are you wrestling with constant reputation issues?
Are your engagements with both internal and external audiences ad-hoc and your message inconsistent?
If one of the above situations describes you and your company, then it is time to consider developing a Communications Strategy to put a definitive plan of action for interaction between the company and your stakeholders.
Communication is a daily occurrence in any organisational setting where a company interacts with customers. For larger organisations, communications happens at different levels to create an interface between employees and management. It is vital for both the survival and potential thriving of the organisation.
Challenges often occur when organisations, in a bid to respond to an always-on digital media ecosystem, move from a uni-direction method of communication to a bi-direction or even multi-modal form of communications. Companies with dedicated communications teams often grapple with the need to balance accuracy and speed in their response to the demands of external stakeholders and the need to create internal communications mechanisms to boost employee morale, encourage an open and collaborative culture, and ensure the voice of employees is heard in decision making process especially in distributed organisations split among headquarters, district, and branch offices.
Hence, the need to guide this process with a deliberate strategy comes into play as ad-hoc efforts, mainly pushed on by the short-term political will of leaders in the organisation, lead to mixed results.
Like other company strategies, communication strategies require the buy-in of senior leadership, the participation of employees, and are grounded by the reality of managing reputation risk in the marketplace.
Unlike other strategic management efforts, they set the blueprint for a collaborative organisation that listens and responds (not reacts) to the demands of its stakeholders, accelerates relationships within and outside the organisation, and has a handle on political, social, economic, technological, competitive, and legal influences coming from its external environment.
The process of formulating a communications strategy happens in the following quick steps:
1. Understand: In a reflective process, ask the following questions of your organisation:
- How is communications happening now? Who is in charge of what?
- Who are the key audiences, both external and stakeholders?
- What kind of messaging is reaching these audiences?
- What platforms are we using to reach these audiences?
2. Diagnose: Using tools like Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT), address the key issues:
- What are the strengths of our current endeavor?
- What are the weaknesses of our current endeavor?
- What opportunities exist to do things better?
- What threats do we need to be aware of and address?
3. Treatment and Growth Plan: With the intention of growth, sound corporate health, stronger systems, and other corporate priorities, address the issues in (2). Put a reasonable level of priority against each of the issues raised and include your best understanding of how they can be dealt with.
4. Set targets with measurable outcomes: After completing the plan, set SMART (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) targets against each component of the plan with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Add timelines, scope, and budget columns to each plan component. Once done, put together a project management plan for tracking implementation and a Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL) plan for tracking progress, evaluating the strategy against outcome, and learning from implementation.
5. Present the Strategy: Present the strategy step-by-step to your sponsors. These will include department heads, your executive director or CEO, and then to your organisation’s board. Collect feedback at each step, improve the strategy, and proceed to the next until you have a strategy that is looked at and bought-in by the leadership.
6. Implement, Monitor, Evaluate, and Learn: Start with the implementation of the strategy in the steps outline in (3). Use the MEL plan outlined in (4) to monitor progress, evaluate outcomes, and integrate learning to improve implementation.
If you enjoyed reading this report and would like to find out how we can help you design better communications strategies and campaigns, please reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org to book an assessment of your communications.