Having a strategic communications plan is essential for modern organisations, but it’s something that many businesses struggle with. What is the best way to reach your stakeholders? How do you develop compelling content? And what about social media?
Creating a comprehensive plan is the key to finding success in your communications. Ideally, a strategy should be decided upon and content created at least a month in advance; a “make it up as you go along” approach won’t be effective. Creating a strategic plan allows you to factor in your goals as an organisation; for example, if you’re launching a new system, you can begin to inform stakeholders of this ahead of time. Creating a communications plan and sticking to it also ensure that your content is varied and interesting, so you avoid presenting the same messaging over and over.
The best communications plans share three main attributes: one, they are comprehensive, including as much detail as possible; two, they cover a range of communications channels, such as email, phone, and social media; and three, they ensure that every piece of communications, from an article to a tweet, has a clear objective.
Creating campaigns surrounding different business objectives adds a strategic edge to your communications; instead of trying to just create as much content as possible, ask yourself questions such as ‘what action do I want people to take from this?’ or ‘what message am I sending about my company?’
Proactive vs. reactive
A proactive communications strategy involves preparing your content ahead of time to achieve an objective. A reactive strategy is creating and distributing content in response to circumstances or events. Both are crucial to effective communications; organisations must plan and execute strategically, but also appreciate the context that they are operating in. For example, if there is a major policy announcement affecting your industry, it would look strange for none of your communications to address this - stakeholders want to see that you are aware of what’s going on and reacting according.
Trial and error
Is your communications strategy not getting the results you hoped for? Now more than ever, organisations have the ability to analyse their stakeholder’s engagement. It’s important to use analytics to your advantage, and a great way to do this is A/B testing. For example, sending one test group of stakeholders an email on a particular subject, and another test group a different email - both with the same objective, but different approaches in terms of subject line and body text. Use your analytics to determine which has the better response, and adjust your plan according to what approach proves more successful.
Social media can feel like a minefield, but it is a great way to reach your audience without having to gather a lot of stakeholder data such as email addresses. Social media platforms also make it very easy to analyse engagement and track the success of campaigns.
Your communications strategy should include at least one social platform: remember to keep written content short and concise and use eye-catching visuals. Social media relies on frequency for effectiveness, so make sure you’re planning to produce and post content at regular intervals. Social media is also entirely accessible - it doesn’t cost anything to create and manage an account, and you can have as many accounts on as many platforms as you’d like.
It is worth remembering that social media was designed as a way to connect people and build online communities - not as a place for companies to advertise. Businesses who do social best are ones who create the sense that they are contributing to their wider community. They can do this by sharing information, offering advice, and providing light-hearted content; the key is that none of this explicitly asks viewers to purchase the company’s goods or services. Many businesses are beginning to build ‘funnel’ accounts, or accounts on topics relevant to their sector, to achieve this community feel. For example, a business that makes school uniforms may have their main account where they showcase their products, and a second account that focuses on school life, with posts related to homework, school lunches, and advice for parents. This second account would then link back to their main branded account, thus drawing in social traffic without viewers feeling they are being given a sales pitch.