A communications strategy is a combination of coordinated, collaborative thinking and action that is devised to support the communication needs of an organisation. It enables organisations to respond quickly and effectively to changing markets, connect with their target audiences more efficiently, and increase brand awareness.
A well-developed communications strategy is essential for any organisation. It should set out clear objectives, outline the best practises for communication so that employees know how to address customers in all contexts, as well as provide guidelines for measuring its success over time.
This article discusses the key components of a successful communications strategy, key considerations when planning, and suggestions for implementation.
Why is Having a Communications Strategy Important?
A well-executed communications strategy can benefit an organisation in a number of ways. Establishing protocols for communications is essential for effectively reaching the right consumers in the right place, in order to achieve specific goals. This can also have a direct effect on sales, with 68% of customers saying they would choose a business that offers convenient means of communication.
A communications strategy can also help to improve marketing efforts by ensuring that all communications are aligned with one clear message and vision. This can help to create a more unified brand identity and make it easier for customers to understand what the organisation represents. 74% of consumers have stopped dealing with a company and switched to a competitor as a result of feeling that the company was disorganised; since communication is such an important factor in organisation, having a strategy for it is essential.
When a business does not have a communications strategy in place, it can cause a lot of confusion not only for customers, but also for employees. Thus, a strategy establishes a set of core principles for how an organisation will communicate, helping employees to understand their role in the overall communications process. A communications strategy also helps to eliminate any miscommunications or, even worse, misleading information that could ultimately hurt the brand.
Establishing clear goals and objectives and aligning all communications accordingly can help to ensure that everyone in the organisation is working towards the same goals. This can lead to improved clarity, cohesion and productivity.
The Essential Elements of a Communications Strategy
A communications strategy is built on a foundation of key components:
- The overall strategy: The business goals and how effective communications can help to achieve them.
- The target market and its segments
- The brand strategy: How the values the brand stands for and the promises and experiences it will deliver can be communicated to customers.
- Messaging: The words used to communicate with customers, considering any variations among segments.
- The media mix: The communication channels and how the messaging will need to be adapted on each.
Key Considerations for External Communications
When developing a communications strategy, there are a number of key considerations to keep in mind.
The core of a communications strategy is understanding the target market and their pain points. From there, a strategy can be built to targets those pain points and show them that their needs can be fulfilled.
It is important to clearly identify the target market and its segments. From there, objectives relevant to each segment can be defined so that the right people can be targeted with the right messaging. This will ensure that all communications are properly tailored to meet the needs and expectations of each segment. In fact, marketers that segment campaigns are known to see an increase in revenue of up to 760%.
It is also important to consider the various channels through which the communications will be delivered. This includes everything from traditional media such as TV and print, to digital channels such as social media, press releases, advertisements, website blogs, and email. By carefully considering all of these factors, it is possible to develop a communication plan that is tailored to the specific needs of each segment.
It is important to establish clear objectives for the strategy in order to design the appropriate communications and measure their success. Reviewing the overarching organisational goals will provide insights on how external communications can support them.
Analyse the current situation and any problems that are present. Are customers aware of the vision and mission or is there a disconnect? Does the customer understand the organisation’s values? A thorough analysis that considers question such as these will help to provide a comprehensive overview of the state of existing communications and areas that need to improve.
Also consider the current messaging and customer impressions of the brand, compared to the desired state they could evolve into. Things to consider include the current brand identity and consumer perception of it, the current message and tone and how it may improve, and the overall strengths and weaknesses of the existing strategy.
All communications should align with the brand’s messaging in order to create a consistent image for the company and make it easier for people to understand what it represents. A few key points to keep in mind when expressing brand messaging are as follows:
- Keep it simple: The message should be easy to understand and digest. It should not be overly complicated or technical, but direct and to the point. There should be no room for interpretation.
- Use visuals and storytelling: Both of these methods help to clarify the message and strengthen its impact.
- Be consistent: The message should be consistent across all channels; this means using the same language, tone, and style in all communications.
- Be relevant: Messaging should be framed in a way that is relevant to how the target market segment benefits.
- Consider the emotional response: A communication plan should not only detail aspects such as the visuals and tone of voice, but also the emotional impact that the brand’s messaging should have on the audience.
Based on the objectives, planning can begin. Messaging types to consider include customer engagement, loyalty, conversions, up-selling, as well as simple alerts.
To increase customer engagement, the focus may be on creating a positive customer experience by satisfying customer needs and resolving issues quickly. Creating content that resonates with the audience, fulfils their needs, and creates an emotional connection between them and the brand would be another consideration.
To build trust, ensure communication is frequent and transparent. Always keeping your word, deliver on promises, and resolve issues to the customers’ satisfaction.
When messaging for the purpose of lead generation, the message needs to be in front of the right people at the right time. It must communicate the value proposition, provide incentives for signing up for mailing lists, and make it easy to do so.
To develop loyalty and improve customer lifetime value, it is important to build relationships and provide ongoing value, as well as foster an emotional connection. Relationships with customers can be improved through using empathy, patience, providing timely responses, and ensuring customer service agents are knowledgeable and understanding.
Simple alerts and automated messages should still reinforce brand messaging. While they may not involve much content, any communication is an opportunity to express the message. It may be as simple as crafting a suitable subject line or ensuring the tone of voice in these messages matches that of more in-depth content. Push notifications, through the choice of words used, are yet another way to communicate the brand’s messaging and identity.
To increase conversion rates, a strong, powerful message that speaks directly to the customers’ values is a necessity. Copywriters involved in any messaging that aims to convert must know how to address the core drives that attract a customer to the brand on an emotional or instinctive level.
Newsletters are a helpful means to address various objectives; they can increase brand recognition (assuming that the visuals are consistent with the overall branding), build trust, and increase engagement through providing customers with valuable information.
A communication plan should also detail where to distribute which types of messaging. Of course, each platform can serve various purposes, but some are more suited for distinct goals.
More people are using SMS, WhatsApp and in-app messaging than ever before. The advantage of this is that users will most likely have their notifications switched on, which improves visibility. This option is therefore important for time-sensitive messages such as those relating to promotions. WhatsApp and other messaging apps provide the scope for more engaging, visual content compared to SMS.
Although use of direct messaging is increasing, email is still relevant. In fact, SMS and email are the most popular communication channels among consumers, so it is wise to use a combination of both in order to cater to as much of the customer base as possible. Email serves many purposes, such as moving customers along the sales funnel, retargeting, and long-form content.
Key Performance Indicators
There are a number of KPIs can be used to measure the success of a communications strategy. Firstly, it is important to track the number of people that are exposed to the communications through measures such as reach and impressions. For in-person events, foot traffic can be measured. Engagement with communications is another vital KPI and can be measured through metrics such as clicks, shares and comments.
It is also important to track any changes in behaviour that may result from changes in communications, such as an increase or decrease in sales or brand awareness.
By tracking these KPIs, it is possible to get a clear understanding of the effectiveness of the communications strategy. Finally, always ensure the metrics chosen are relevant to the strategy’s success.
There are a number of best practises to keep in mind when implementing a communications strategy:
- Ensure that all communications are consistent with the overall message and vision of the organisation. This includes both internal communications and marketing materials.
- Make sure data is the basis for decisions, where possible.
- Ensure that all communications are properly targeted at the intended audience. This means tailoring messages and delivery channels to meet the specific needs and expectations of this group.
- Regularly review and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy in order to identify any areas for improvement.
- Consider how timing can be leveraged in order to get the most form communications, such as selecting the optimal time to launch a new product or PR initiative
- Define which stakeholders are responsible for implementing and monitoring each facet of the strategy.
- Ensure that everyone is on the same page about how success is defined, and which metrics are being monitored. It is natural for efforts to become compartmentalised, with individuals working from the perspective of their own area of expertise and losing sight of the bigger picture.
A communications strategy provides a number of benefits, from improved sales to improved customer perceptions of a brand. Internally, it ensures all departments are aligned with strategic objectives and that they know the standards for communicating with customers.
By clearly defining the target market segments and objectives, the foundations for a communications strategy can be built so that all consumers are able to understand the organisation’s vision, mission and values. Monitoring the relevant KPIs is essential for both internal and external communications, providing insights on areas that need to improve.
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