What Is a Communications Strategy?
A communications strategy is a plan detailing the entirety of your organisation’s internal and external communication efforts. That includes the way the organisation interacts with investors, leadership, employees, customers, the press, and competitors.
This strategy should focus on high-level coordination, with communication tactics left to the owners of the individual messaging campaigns.
The communications strategy provides these campaign owners with key messaging concepts and metrics they need to define success.
That way, the goals of all communication campaigns are aligned without stifling communication ideas and innovations.
Why Do You Need a Communications Strategy?
Your organisation’s communication strategy serves to align your internal and external communications.
When all of your communications are based on coherent, well-defined strategies, they complement and reinforce one another. A well-implemented strategy also avoids redundancies, maximising the ROI of all your communications.
Without an organisation-wide communication strategy, your communications are likely to become disjointed.
In the best case, this will confuse your internal and external stakeholders. Worst, you may lose the trust of customers, employees, or shareholders if they feel that the conflicting messages indicate you are not being open or truthful with them.
What Should a Communications Strategy Include?
Statement of purpose
Assessment of current state
Organisational and communication objectives
List of internal and external audiences
Key messages for each audience
List of communication channels
Success metrics and milestones
How to Develop a Communications Strategy
1. Determine Your Communications Strategy Goals
Before anything else, you need clear, concise, explicit goals for your organisation’s communications.
Typically, you will include both long-term and short-term goals, and the timelines of these goals should be clearly defined in your strategy document.
Communications based on non-existent, conflicting, or confusing goals will immediately be apparent to the audience. At best, they’ll be uncertain what your message is.
At worst, they’ll read a message that is at odds with your vision.
2. Define Your Target Audiences
Make a list of every group your messages need to reach, both internally and externally.
Some of these categories may be as broad as “customers”, but you can split those groups into smaller sets if the subsets often require different communication tactics.
For example, enterprise customers and small business customers often require different frequencies or modes of communication.
It’s helpful to identify each audience as either external (e.g., customers) or internal (e.g., employees).
The strategies for internal communications vs external communications, as well as the available communication channels, will be significantly different in most cases.
3. Assess Your Current State of Affairs
With your goals in mind, prepare an honest assessment of the current state of your company’s communications. A common tool for this is SWOT Analysis, in which you write out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Other tools you can use for this step include:
- PEST Analysis: Looking at political, economic, social, and technological impacts on your efforts.
- Competitor Analysis: Assess your competitors’ current strengths and weaknesses as a comparison to your own.
As part of this assessment, you should gather information and opinions from a wide range of stakeholders. The most important stakeholders should be talked to directly, but communication surveys are an excellent way to include a wider range of opinions as to the current state of communications in your organisation.
4. Create Your Key Messages
The next step is to decide what key messages you need to get across to each audience.
For each audience, ask yourself the following questions based on your current state and your goals.
- What do they already know?
- What do they want to know?
- What do you want them to know?
- What is their level of influence/power?
- What level of effort would it take to reach them?
Audiences that will have a larger impact on whether you reach your goals should be prioritised, particularly if your message is likely to have a significant impact on them.
Starting with these highest-priority audiences, create key messages designed to bridge the gap between what they know and what you want them to know.
Consider the appropriate audience for each message.
Even when a single message seems to be right for multiple audiences, the tone or information content may not be identical.
It’s best to treat messages to different audiences completely uniquely.
5. Decide on Metrics and Milestones
For each of your key messages, you need to define what success means. While overarching goals can be vague, these message-level metrics should be specific, measurable, and time-limited.
Ideally, each of your metrics should have designated milestones. This ensures that you can assess progress quickly and, if necessary, pivot the messaging to something more effective.
For example, let’s say that your goal is to get users to switch from your desktop app to your web app and one of the messages is about the new features in your web app.
Your metric could be the number of users that try one or more of the new features. A first milestone could be “100 more users trying Feature A by November 30th”.
6. Identify Your Communications Channels
Every organisation uses multiple communication channels. Some common examples include:
- E-mail newsletters
- Press releases
- Workshops and events
- Website blogs
- Social media
You’ll want to compile a list of all of your communication channels. In that list, be sure to note any limitations of the channels (timeliness, reach, length limit, cost, etc.).
You’ll also want to determine which audiences can be reached by each channel and which channels would be preferred by each audience.
7. Assign Message Owners
Every message in your strategy needs a designated owner, responsible for delivery and measurement.
Often, the owner will be an individual who is familiar with the given audience. For instance, a message intended for employees would likely fall on a Human Resources team member rather than a Marketing Manager.
8. Create a Work Plan
Finally, the communications strategy needs a work plan.
For each messaging campaign, this plan will outline the budget, timeline, key activities, and a list of available resources. If there are any essential events in the campaign, these should be included in the work plan as well.
For instance, a brand awareness campaign could require one or more press releases.
Use Powerful Marketing Automation Software For Your Internal Communications
Do you need help with the creation and automation of your internal and external communications?
Here at Swift Digital, we can help get you started with your communications our useful internal communications template.
To find out how your business can get the best out of Swift Digital’s platform, contact our team today on 02 9929 7001.