A communications strategy can take several forms. It can be a short-term plan for promoting a specific event or product launch. It can also be a plan for a long-term project or can focus on the overall needs of your company or organization.
No matter the purpose of the strategy, a successful one usually has several common features: measurable objectives, a clear definition of target audiences and a compelling message.
Know Your Objectives and Goals
Simply put, you can’t have a strategy without having a goal, since a strategy is defined as a “plan of action designed to achieve an . . . overall aim” or goal. Without that aim, or goal, you just have a plan that might not lead anywhere.
A goal is usually a big picture item or the main outcome you’d like your strategy to bring about. For example, your overarching business goal might be increase awareness of your brand or to make your company a leader in its field by a certain date.
Once you have the big picture goal, you can focus on the objectives that will help you put the strategy into practice and allow your company to realize its goal. While goals are broad, objectives are narrow. They should also be SMART, meaning they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
If your goal is to increase awareness of your brand, an objective might to be produce an ad that runs on a major network during primetime. Another objective might be to create a customer referral program to give current customers credits or points for referring others.
Know Your Audience
It’s important to understand the current relationship you have with your audience or intended audience(s), as that will determine the angle and tools you use to reach them. For example, you’d use different tactics to reach and communicate with current customers who plan on working with you in the future than you would to reach people who aren’t your customers and who aren’t sure that they will ever be.
You also want to consider who you use to deliver your company’s message and what relationship that person might have to the audience. For example, an authority figure or leader in your industry might be particularly helpful if your goal is to persuade more people to use your product, or if you want to reach people who might be skeptical about what your company has to offer.
Find Your Story
A story is a crucial part of any communications strategy. The human brain reacts differently to a story than it does to pure data or facts. As the New York Times reported, the same areas of the brain are stimulated when a person reads about someone’s experience as are stimulated when experiencing something directly.
As this infographic from OneSpot shows, 92 percent of people prefer ads that tell a story or that feel like a story. Figure out what your company’s story is, then make putting together a narrative a key part of your communications strategy.
Pick Relevant Tools for Connecting
Once you know the why, the who, and the what of your strategy, you need to pick the how.
You don’t have to choose just one tool or method for communicating, but it helps to choose methods that will actually reach your target audiences. For example, if you’re going to use social media to connect with people, Facebook might be the social network of choice. According to a study from Pew Research Center, 68 percent of Americans use the site.
It can also be worth pursuing earned media opportunities – i.e., achieving product publicity in a trade magazine — over paid media. Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising study found that earned media was viewed as the most credible and trustworthy.
Once your strategy is in place, you can take stock of it to see if it is living up to your expectations. You can conduct surveys of the customers you wanted to reach to ask them what they think, or if there are ways you can improve. You can also use analytics and statistics to measure response to certain tools. For example, you can see if your Facebook posts are getting people to click, or referral codes are actually bringing in new customers.