How To Build A Strategic Communications Capability
DO you have the confidence that every message and experience that customers have with your organisation rings true and leaves a positive impression? Developing an integrated communications capability within your organisation will give you just that. It will also enhance your reputation and the value of your brand. It’s essential to your business. But it’s not a simple task. The effort requires a combination of four things: 1. A strong strategic foundation: Many organisations view their communication teams as a service resource or as process enablers.
Instead, communications should be viewed as a strategic imperative for high performance and growth. Leaders need to set the stage for the importance of communications with a clear mission, a statement of purpose, and objectives that convey the benefits that an integrated communications capability will bring to your organisation.
The obvious benefits are that you will communicate more effectively, saving time and money. But it gets better than that. Within the first year of building out her communications capability with this mindset, one CEO said a less expected — yet most valued — benefit was alignment and improved decision making for her leadership team. Ultimately — better results.
Managing communications in an integrated or system-wide way will require a new set of behaviours at all levels of your organisation — behaviours that embrace a process and apply set standards for all communications efforts.
This discipline can be difficult, so you’ll need a strong foundation with executive-level alignment and endorsement to get where you hope to go.
2. The right set of tools: The next step is to develop a set of tools that guide the planning and creative efforts of your internal team and their external partners, using a What/How/Who model, described below. I recommend starting with a mapping tool and a model that defines the messages and experiences you want to create (What), the means of communication you use to create them (How), and the people you need to reach to successfully do business (Who). This What/How/Who Model might seem simple, but making it visible and mapping your initiatives against it shows how complex it can be, and builds the case for integration.
The What/How/Who Model requires that plans be developed at each of the following levels: The What of your communications requires Category Plans. This captures decisions about the nature of different corporate and product messages. Simply put, reasons why a consumer should buy your product, or information about your company. I recently worked with a CMO in a large organisation who wanted to challenge his team to create consistently-integrated branded content.
Category plans are the best way for this content to be made precise.
The How of your communications requires Channel Plans for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of alternative channels for delivering your message. For example, you might favour social media over traditional media if you’re hoping to reach a Generation Y audience.
The Who of your communications requires Audience Plans for the targeted audience you want to reach. This identifies specific objectives and strategies for a particular group — investors, for instance. It will allow you to plan and measure explicitly for them, while simultaneously ensuring integration with other audience initiatives.
Communications plans coupled with calendars that give an overview of corporate and marketing initiatives are vital to good coordination.
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