All too often, I talk with someone in need of communication support and they are thinking very tactically. That is, they know they want social media posts or they know they want a video or blog post, but they are not stepping back to look at the bigger picture first.
Effective communication is so much more than just the message or just the medium for delivery. The best communication starts with a plan. Knowing what you want to say and to whom your message is directed are some of the most important considerations. Are you ultimately addressing several audiences with similar, but tailored messages? Is social media the only and/or best channel for the message? Or are there ways to incorporate several layers of communication to have even greater reach?
Beginning the process by considering the right questions will help to inform your best strategy and, from there, the tactics that will support a campaign’s success.
That is not to suggest that you shouldn’t experiment along the way. Some of the best examples of effective communication have come from brave professionals (or amateurs) who took a risk that paid off. But to try and synthesize the next great viral post should really not be the goal. Your time, talents and energy are best spent rooted in the fundamentals of a solid plan.
Think of it as the blueprints for a house. Considerations for quality materials and adherence to code come first. A solid foundation should support the structure. What color you paint the walls or what furniture you use to decorate are expressions of your personal taste and preferences – and they are the visible results (the tactics, if you will) – but your house actually started with a plan that specifically detailed how the materials would come together.
Define the goal
How will you know if your business objectives are being met if you haven’t defined them in a plan? Whether you’re trying to increase awareness, generate investor interest, inform a specific audience, or drive business, it’s important to be fully aware of the desired outcome.
Craft the message
I often find the process of discovery that is involved in planning is also where you begin to see a storyline come to life. The context of a project, especially when working as a consultant, helps to frame the message and gives a real sense of purpose to a plan. Deciding what to say and how to make content compelling for its intended purpose is equal parts science and art.
Know your audience
Who are the influencers and how do you reach them? Does your business rely on referrals, or is it a direct marketplace where consumers make the choice? Business communication can be inward facing or external and the message content and tactics need to take all these factors into consideration while building the plan.
A blog post can be a really effective tool way to tell the story, but if your business objectives are to increase market share then one blog post may not be the best tactic in isolation. How will you know its reach? And how can you connect that tactic with your desired outcome?
It’s important to know what tactics worked or didn’t (and why) if your business is looking for long term success. When you think about measurement as part of the planning process, you are putting yourself in the best position to understand the return.
Work the plan
Staying the course is sometimes the hardest discipline once a communication plan has been created. Course corrections are expected, but you should not abandon the plan if its grounded in sound business logic.
A multifaceted plan that includes several supporting tactics and clearly defined milestones over time is much more likely to draw the results to support a business. It may take some time in development, but the rewards are often that much richer.