The nature of communication planning has changed significantly because of the increased speed of business in general amidst the technological revolution. Long-term planning is a challenge since a company has to have the flexibility to change strategy in sync with a rapidly changing market. Nevertheless, we still have to do the groundwork before arriving at an effective strategy.
Typically, the groundwork involves the examination and development of the following:
This involves research and understanding of the basic business opportunity. This information generally comes from a business, market or product plan with detailed information on the product (or issue), business and marketing objectives, the market itself, stakeholders and competitive threats. The information in this portion is the nucleus of a communication plan. The more we know the better-equipped we are to succeed in reaching your objectives.
Marketing objectives should be established before communication planning begins. Communications is not a solution for business problems and opportunities, but rather a mechanism to support and achieve the marketing goals. Marketing objectives should be attainable and measurable as they represent the ultimate goal of a communication strategy.
Rarely will you have a single audience. Communications are often designed to sway opinions, or position products and companies and therefore requires an integrated strategy involving stakeholders (i.e. investors and enablers), opinion leaders (i.e. executives and the media) and the target audience itself (primary, secondary and tertiary). Perhaps one of the most important aspects of communication planning, we have to pinpoint decision makers and influencers and determine where and how they are most likely to be receptive to our messages. Audience research is critical and proper budget should be allocated to the task to ensure we really understand the audience’s attitudes and behaviours.
Once we fully understand the business or product opportunity, and the people involved, measurable communication objectives are set and designed to support the overall marketing effort. These objectives focus on the audiences both internal and external defining exactly what we want to achieve.
From our objectives, we boil the strategy down into concise statements. These “sound-bites” are the messages we want the audience to receive and the fundamental principle of communications is to convey these key messages often and consistently.
Creative Strategy (more info)
This is where we establish a method for delivering our key messages. Will it be conservative and professional, or unique and alluring? How do we make our audience take notice of what we have to say?
For example: a networking company was providing critical security features as an inherent part of their business yet their customers had no idea that a threat even existed because this “fraud protection” was so solid. The objectives were positioning-based: the client wanted to demonstrate an added benefit for staying loyal. Had we simply told customers they were being protected, their reaction would have been ho-hum since they didn’t even perceive the threat. Our strategy, therefore, was to make the threat an issue and at the same time reinforce the message that customers of this particular supplier were indeed safe.
The simplified strategy:
- Position the threat as an immediate and critical risk
- Customers will feel compelled to act
- Give the salesforce the tools and knowledge to leverage this “new need”
- Essentially we stimulated an existing need for which a solution was already in place
- Customers saw greater value in the client’s value-add protection, as well as their products and services
Strategy also involves branding and the determination if branding/trademarking is even required. If it is deemed necessary, research and legal issues come into play and this process should be contracted out to industry experts once the creative aspects are established.
This is where we develop the tactics to achieve the objectives and can involve any of the following techniques:
This stage of the process also involves putting a production team together. Will we use in-house or external resources? When will we implement specific portions of the plan, and in what order?
There are no guidelines and the nature and level of activity is dependent on the client’s investment. Budget must be established before a plan can be developed since the dollars available dictates what we can and cannot do.
This is extremely important but often overlooked. You plan to be in business for a long time and we must measure and evaluate our successes and shortcomings and modify our activities based on the results.
I can help you develop a solid plan so you'll know exactly where you are going. firstname.lastname@example.org