The importance of a communication strategy

It is astounding the number of times I have met with potential clients that expect immediate activations from our consultancy with no regard to any goals and objectives that have to be met. Many have been the times that they “need an event” but do not know what they want to achieve other than a “get together”.

Strategic planning should form the basis of any activation that is implemented and must support the company’s overall business plan, inclusive of the company’s goals and objectives. Public relations and communication efforts should support and align with a company’s vision, mission, goals and objectives. It is a foundation from which to monitor progress, assess results and develop new programmes and activations.

Strategic communication and public relations planning has a reputation for complexity and difficulty as questions such as where to start, how to measure and clarity surrounding return of investment are raised. In reality strategic planning encompasses many of the management practices we already follow on a daily basis. When compiling your communication strategy you can follow these guidelines as a framework for success.

Define the current situation of your company. Do a comprehensive SWOT analysis and try and understand where the company stands at present. Analysing the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats while considering the internal and external environments and factors influencing it, will help you determine the present situation.

Deliberate and establish your communication objectives. Outline what you want to achieve with your communication strategy. Remember that you have to align your objectives with the organisation’s goals! Communication objectives are either informational or motivational. Do you want to inform stakeholders about something? Educate them about a new product or service? Or do you want to motivate them to buy the product or attend an event. Objectives must be SMART; specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.

Identify your stakeholders. Remember your internal (e.g. employees) and external stakeholders. External stakeholders can include the government, media, community and clients. Stakeholders are people that are affected by decisions organisations make or, whose decisions can affect the organisation. Stakeholders can be grouped into the level of influence they hold.

Formulate your messages. What are the messages you want to convey to your stakeholders? Messages influence the perception of stakeholders, it is therefore imperative that they are written in such a way that the focus is not only on what is said, but also on the possible interpretation thereof.

Your activation plan. Your activation plan will include th e broad range of public relations techniques to be implemented to communicate a specific message to a specific group of stakeholders, or publics, in order to meet the identified objectives.

Activities must be clear and can be outlined as follows: What the activity is, at whom is it aimed, why it will be done, where will it happen, when will it happen and how will it be done. Remember to ensure that these activities fall within your budget and plan ahead how you will evaluate them. Communication and public relations efforts should be planned keeping measurable results in mind.

By Simoné Louw, CPRP