The start of any year can resemble a river of shifting priorities. This year is special, however; the river better resembles rapids, defying any attempt to stem its flow, to hold fast to an idea before it slips away. For new businesses or businesses exploring new markets, this hampers strategy efforts. Normal times lend a measure of predictability. In unpredictable times, meanwhile, communication strategy is formed half through what is known – the lessons inscribed in data and statistics – and half exploration buttressed by guesswork.
Markets have changed in ways not yet clear. We are all, to some degree, navigating unchartered territory, blindly searching forth for milestones and markers. We try to bridge what we knew with what we now do not know, the approaches that work, the pitfalls that may lie hidden. As an agency that helps organisations create and drive impactful communication strategies, we’ve faced this reality first-hand. Many know something must be done – and that change, compromise and experimentation may be required – but do not know where to begin.
In this article, we’ll provide a map, of sorts, to help you get started, and begin to shape a new communication strategy through the scaffolding of priorities.
In the past, we’ve discussed the value of connecting better with your audience. A significant part of this is to do with purpose – the perceived reason for your organisation or product. It also means being purposeful in strategy, taking time to understand the messages your audience wants to hear, the lack they’re trying to satisfy, the pain points they’re looking to address.
Meaning and purpose are necessary for emotional investment. Benefits and products may excite, but purpose converts, producing evangelism within buyers. A powerful message aligns your target audiences; it creates a banner under which they – and your employees – can march, understanding better what you’re trying to do, and the significance of the role they play.
Take time to address purpose. The purpose of your product, organisation and, to communicate each of these, your strategy. Too often, organisations look outside their window to understand their own strategy, to know what should be done. As an inevitable result, their strategy lacks purpose and falters. It hasn’t critically considered what it intends to do, nor the messages and value points it wants to communicate. Begin with the basics: what do you want to say? Then, what do you want to achieve in saying it?
Inspection and introspection
To know something begins with an examination. When developing a new digital communication strategy, understanding comes from inspection – of your audience, your market, the trends – and introspection: how are your brand and organisation currently positioned, and what’s the best way to grow and evolve that position? What have you been doing right, and what have you been doing wrong?
This may begin with a SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – analysis, or a PEST – political, social, social and technological – analysis. But frameworks are just containers to organise critical thought. It’s the thought that counts, the time taken to consider the variables, the strengths and weaknesses of your brand and the messages and methods that will help grow it.
It might also mean realising that the means of communication you’ve relied on – or assumed you would rely on – are no longer effective. Most jump into digital communication strategies with some assumption of the importance of SEO. They’re read it in articles. Heard it touted over dinner and namedropped in marketing meetings. But many still rely on a pre-2013 knowledge of SEO: the vague supposition that there are certain keywords that your communications should be using, and that the frequency of their use correlates to your organisation’s ranking. A priority in creating a successful communication strategy is inspecting and scrutinising assumptions, challenging ideas and, before the path is set, surveying the terrain.
Schedules and tactics
In past years, organisations have found it difficult to adopt digital trends, to surrender and transform legacy processes celebrated more for their reliability than efficiency. Somewhat luckily, the past year has created a do-or-die urgency for digital transformation. There’s been little time to hesitate at the cliff’s edge; for the boulder careening rampant behind, lessons had to be learnt quickly, and positions of flexibility – and a fair amount of bravery – adopted.
The point being, it’s likely you’re already familiar with a quick pace of ideation and iteration. A priority of communication strategies is the tactics used. This can either be the selected communication channels and priority platforms, or the individual tactics that are best for your product and brand: paid search, paid social, PPC, pitched articles versus paid-for coverage.
Schedules, on the other hand, set the cadence of your content releases, for easier KPI monitoring. A new team may opt for four pieces a month. Then, after a few months, using the stats as a guide, increase the number to six. Some brands can afford to be louder than others. What you can get away with depends on your brand’s existing foundations, and how your products are received by existing and new customers. It’s always better to start at the lower end – a tweet a day – and increase until returns diminish, or engagement with individual content pieces falls. Or, as is often the case, your audience provides direct feedback. Audiences are wary of a too-loud brand, especially when quantity is prioritised over quality, and the resulting content is interpreted as noise.
Prepare to run
The new is strange. It requires us to take baby steps, to review foundations before we build the structure. With these priorities examined, however, as essential strategy ingredients, you’ll be well on your way to understanding what it is you’re trying to do. The end may still be far, but you’ll at least have a pathway. Human history is full of stories that communicate the same idea: at first, it can be better to walk than run, and races aren’t always won through speed. In the meantime, we’re here to help. For help with your digital communication strategy – to get going or accelerate existing efforts – contact us today.