Recently, I saw a query come through a communications professionals’ Whatsapp group asking peers to share samples of their strategy.
I found it odd that communicators needed to refer to another organization’s strategy to construct their own. While reference documents can be handy, what works in one company will not fly in another. Likewise, what works in one industry, may not come close to the needs of another.
That got me wondering. One of the key expectations of communicators is strategic thinking and the ability to create and implement a strategy. If this skill needs honing, how could one go about it? What must one consider while framing a strategy? How will you know it is fit for purpose?
Not every strategy needs to begin from scratch. The strategy may already exist or it may need a refresh depending on the business environment or circumstances. Here are a few tips that can probably help communicators devise their organization’s communications strategy.
· Goal: Every strategy attempts to solve a business problem or overcome challenges the organization faces. Explain this issue in real terms. Describe the need for the strategy and what it aims to overcome. It is helpful to explain the current state and the future state. The caveat is that the strategy will work when the organization is ready to back it fully.
· Context: Before getting into the details, it helps articulate the broader business context and the audiences for whom the strategy is relevant. Back it with insights from research. How far behind (or ahead) is the organization in comparison to the rest. In addition, how is this strategy going to bring about lasting, positive change?
· Principles: Define and detail the framework for your communication strategy. These principles will guide how you will engage with audiences, which channels to use, what behaviors we want from audiences to exhibit, among others. All principles need to link to the objectives.
· Research: Successful communication strategies are built on the back of strong research – primary and secondary. You can look up studies already done about the state of communication or conduct more to identify the core issues at hand.
· Simplicity: Just because it is a strategy, does not mean you need to include industry jargon and complex models. The simpler the strategy, the easier it is for your stakeholders to ‘get’ it and therefore support you in implementing the plan. There is no use of a strategy, which cannot be executed. Even better if it can be explained on a single page or slide.
· Resources: Time, effort, funds, infrastructure and people are needed to make communication strategies come alive. Clarify if the budgets you need are for the short or long term and how it can be made to go the extra mile. Discuss ways to offset the spend by balancing internal resources. Timing is crucial for communication strategies. Documents tactics for each strategy objective.
· Agreements and hand-offs: Every strategy will have several stakeholders who will have oversight and views. Including the step of sign-offs in your plans can help you get the most of your strategy document. To shape your strategy get your stakeholders on board ahead of time so that they can share timely inputs.
· Measurement: Indicate how you plan to measure the effectiveness of your strategy’s plan and tactics. Share approaches to validate your strategy. Include metrics to gauge your success. Also, if your audiences perceive the strategy as credible, relevant, accessible and timely. Do note that these measures must be done in partnership with your stakeholders.
In summary, every communication strategy is unique and there is no one size fits all. Communication is one of the factors that will increase awareness, influence behaviors or alter attitudes. Your strategy needs to acknowledge this limitation and build on the strengths of what makes communication drive change.
Have other perspectives? Please do share them here. Do also look up other similar posts on my Linkedin page (https://www.linkedin.com/in/aniisu/).