Key Steps in Developing Communications Strategy
Any organization will benefit from having a well-crafted corporate communications strategy. It enables companies to effectively communicate with their internal and external publics, from employees, customers, suppliers, and the general public. When implemented effectively, it can enhance the visibility and reputation of a company and consequently have a positive effect on its bottom line.
Developing communications strategy may seem to be solely the responsibility of the PR head. However, the corporate communications group can work together with other units in determining how to plan and execute a communications campaign.
Regardless of which department or individual is assigned to craft a communications plan, here are some of the key steps in developing communications strategy to keep in mind:
1. Setting goals/objectives.
Developing communications strategy starts by setting key goals and objectives. These goals should be aligned with the organization’s objectives. Simply put, corporate communications executives should ask themselves what the campaign they are about to launch can do to help the company in achieving its core objectives.
Aligning the communications campaign goals with the company’s core objectives can also underline the importance and relevance of communications. This could convince the top management to devote enough resources that will ensure the success of the communications campaign.
2. Crafting key messages.
In developing communications strategy, it is critical to identify the target audiences. By doing so, it becomes easier to craft key messages that can effectively speak to the target audience. The messages should be designed to resonate with the target audiences.
To maximize the impact of the communications campaign, the messages should be summarized in two to three points. These messages will be consistently repeated or stressed in the campaign. Since communications is all about storytelling, the use of interesting narrative, imagery, and human interest stories are highly recommended.
3. Identifying relevant communication channels.
The third step in developing communications strategy is to determine communication channels, tools, and techniques that can effectively relay the messages. There are different channels that corporate communicators can tap, from interpersonal channels or one-on-one contact, community-oriented such as social networks (Twitter and Facebook), and media channels such as TV and radio. They should identify which of these channels are most likely to reach their target audiences.
For example, a corporate newsletter is best suited for communicating to an internal audience. On the other hand, an annual report is more ideal for relaying a company’s financial performance in the past fiscal year to its external stakeholders such as shareholders, clients, and industry regulators.
4. Preparing a communications strategy document.
This is a document that clearly defines the identified goals, key messages, and communications channels of the campaign. It also sets and monitors timelines, milestones, and indicators. Aside from providing a step-by-step guide on the conduct of the campaign, this written document can also be shared with other individuals or units involved so that everyone will be on the same page, so to speak.
5. Evaluation and amendment.
A communications audit should be performed at the end of the campaign to assess the effectiveness of the communications strategy. The use of open questions with applicable prompts and benchmarks is highly recommended. Moreover, the communications audit should be conducted by a third party. The latter will then discus the results with the communications team, which can use the findings to amend their strategy.
Employees, clients, partners, and media are some of the example audiences that the third party auditor can approach to survey regarding the effectiveness of the communications program.
In drawing up a communications strategy or program, the communications department should involve the entire organization on a smaller scale. Aligning the communications strategy into the organizational plan can ensure the success of the campaign.