How to write a communications strategy: 7 steps for success

  • A communications strategy is an essential tool for keeping your marketing and communications efforts focused and intentional. It keeps everyone on track, accountable, and ensures that you’re taking the right steps forward to grow your business. But, if you’re wondering where you start in writing a communications (or comms) strategy? There’s no real right or wrong way. What I can give you though is my tried and tested formula that’s worked for me. For the last 20 years, whether working on strategies for large change management programs or helping position CEOs as experts in their field, I always follow these 7 essential steps to get results…

    1. Objectives: The very first thing you need to look at is: what are your business goals and how would you like your marketing and PR to help you achieve them. For example…

    • Would you like to increase your turnover?
    • Position yourself as an expert?
    • Launch a service or product?
    • Or perhaps pivot your business?

    These objectives should be at the heart of your communications strategy.

    Establishing what’s important for your business growth will ensure your activity is intentional and aligned with your overall goals. Being able to show others how your marketing and PR activities are aligned with your business objective will also help you present a convincing case for getting buy-in from Board Directors and other members of your team – ensuring that the proper resources are allocated.

    Being clear on your objectives at the outset will also enable you to see how well your communications have worked and if you achieve what you set out to do.

    2. Audiences: If your objective is the heart of your campaign, then your audience is the lungs. Another crucial step to help you deliver a successful strategy is knowing your audience and who to target…

    • Who are they?
    • How can you help them / what problems can you solve for them?
    • What is the best way to reach them?

    In my previous blog I talked about ‘stakeholder mapping’ – a great tool for listing everyone who shares a vested interest in your business (see here). You may have listed 10+ groups or you may have a handful. But your comms strategy should identify the key audiences with whom you need to communicate to achieve your business objectives.

    3. Messages: What messages do you want to communicate about your brand, product, or service? What makes you different from your competitors? Think about your audience: what needs can you meet and what language do they use?

    For example, if you’re talking to a group who uses technical language day in and day out then it’s fine to use. But if your audience is also their support staff, stick to Plain English to ensure your messages can be understood by all.

    Pick 3-5 key messages that are core to your organisation/product/service and what you want your audience to know – and use them consistently. Remember to consider include benefits for your audiences – these are what will sell your products rather than the features.

    4. Tools and Activities: The next step is to consider how you’re going to communicate these key messages to your target audience – whether that’s through:

    • PR activities
    • Social media
    • Events
    • Internal comms
    • Direct marketing
    • Advertising…etc

    With so many communications tools it’s sometimes hard to know what will work best, but if you are unsure – just ask them! There’s no point planning your strategy on a hunch – be clear on how your audience would like to consume your messages and where they hang out.

    For example, if you’re in manufacturing and looking to attract more business, consider writing a feature for a particular trade publication read by your audience – rather than setting your sights on a national glossy.

    Just always ensure you consider your…

    5. Resources and timescales: There’s no point creating an all-singing, all-dancing comms strategy if you don’t have the time or man/ woman power to get things done. Be realistic about what (and who) you have at your disposal and consider other factors such as national holidays that may affect this.

    6. Evaluate and tweak: Unless your comms strategy is for an ad hoc project, there is rarely an end – ongoing evaluation is crucial to ensure that your activities are working and are aligned with your audience and business goals.

    No matter how brilliant or experienced you are in communications strategies, you’ll find yourself tweaking your plans along the way – and this is all part of the process of learning about your audience and making your strategy better, which in turn will get you closer to your objectives.

    Keeping close tabs on how your communications are working makes great business sense as you can quickly tweak your tactics to ensure the best outcomes. One great way to do this to carry out a communications audit as they’re super useful for identifying what’s working and what isn’t. Getting someone who isn’t part of the project will achieve more impartial results, but if you don’t have the resource you could always carry out some research yourself with your target audience to see if it’s working.

    7. Use it: Sounds obvious, but the most important thing about a comms strategy is that you use it!

    There’s no point in creating a masterpiece and locking it in your drawer. Consider including regular meetings with your team to keep you on track, or if you’re flying solo on this pop key dates in your calendar so you know what’s coming up.

    If you need any help with your strategy and would like to benefit from my 20+ years of experience, please do get in touch or book a free discovery call

    Photo credit: Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

    Other articles in this series you may find interesting 

    How a strategy can provide the key to your PR success

     

    Research: A crucial component of your communications strategy