communication strategy

In today’s world, a strong and reliable communication strategy is critical to overall business success. Having a comprehensive, holistic strategy redefines how your business interacts at an internal and external level with both customers and staff. It should be an integral part of your business focus, no matter the size of your company.

A communication strategy is designed to help your organisation communicate effectively and proactively to meet core business objectives.

Your communication strategy should be aligned to your business strategy, which in turn will be aligned to your business vision and mission statement.

An effective communication strategy is all about clarity. Think of your strategy as a roadmap. You know where to go, but you’re unsure how to get there – the strategy is your route.

You want to clarify your business goals and objectives, explain the relationship between your audience, messaging, channels, materials, and activities, and ensure there is consistency across all mediums within your business. This may include your company:

  • website
  • communication materials
  • media releases
  • intranet
  • literature
  • newsletters
  • signage
  • publications
  • advertisements.

In times of crisis, having a solid communication strategy may mean the difference between business disaster or success. At the very least, not having a strategy can lead to a lack of business direction and unclear brand messaging. The key to a great communication strategy is knowing that a simple document won’t cut it.

The process of developing a dynamic strategy must involve important conversations with meaningful staff and stakeholders, as well as engage key audiences including your clients, customers, donors, partners, and investors.

Your communication strategy should encompass both an internal and external approach. This allows you to analyse how you will tackle communicating from both inside and outside the organisation.

So, what are you waiting for?

Read on to learn why a communication strategy is more than just a simple document. It can spell the difference between a successful and not-so-successful business.

Table of Contents

What’s The Problem?

Is your company churning out media releases every week that get no press attention? Are your staff confused or unable to provide a consistent message about your business to customers?

This is likely due to a poorly written, poorly documented communication strategy. Or worse, no strategy at all.

Without a robust communication strategy, there is no formal structure for communication.  Important business information can easily get lost. Staff will naturally focus on what they believe is most important, giving an inconsistent view of your brand that may not align with your business objectives.

This results in a business with no clear direction, and with messaging and communications that are pivoting away from its key objectives. In turn, this may lead to lost opportunities despite the time, money, and resources that you have invested in your marketing.

Why Does This Matter?

An integral part of any communication strategy is having a plan in place. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “If we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail”. A simple assessment of potential threats to the business ensures staff are aware of what is required of them in any instance. It also helps define what steps they should take to ensure an issue or crisis is handled correctly.

“It’s not what happens, it’s how you handle it.” – Nicholas Evans

Take an important internal company event, for example. Without a clear strategy around what is to be promoted and when, you risk falling into the trap of miscommunication and confusion. A simple calendar of events and a communication plan around each event can simplify processes and avoid any potential issues.

A solid communication strategy ensures the business has:

  • clear, consistent, and tangible objectives
  • clarity of purpose
  • audience definition
  • staff and stakeholder alignment
  • smart use of resources, saving the business a great deal of time and money
  • a way to measure success
  • clear business structure
  • coherent communication flow
  • identified purpose and mission
  • integration with other areas of business, including media, marketing, and web strategies.

What’s The Solution?

The solution is developing the ultimate communication strategy. This allows you to fill any gaps in your business in order to successfully deliver your message to your stakeholders. It ties into your overall business objectives and forms a fundamental piece of your future success.

A communication strategy will help you deliver the right message to the right audience, meaning your goals and objectives are met from an internal and external, as well as organisational, perspective.

Let’s focus on the key components that make up a communication strategy below.

Your current Situation

To gain a better understanding of your business, it’s important to understand what its main functions are and where it operates. You should also look at your business’s communication strengths – what has been successful and what hasn’t worked well over the past quarter, one year, and five years.

Start by analysing your internal and external factors.

Consider these questions:

  • Have you run a PEST analysis for your business?
    A PEST analysis means listing the political, economic, social, and technological factors that may affect, or are affecting, your business. They can be both positive and negative. You should indicate how each factor will have an effect.
  • Have you run a SWOT analysis for your business?
    A SWOT analysis includes listing your business’s internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as your external opportunities and threats. Take a minute to think about what this means in relation to your communication’s priorities.

Competitor Breakdown

Do you know who your competitors are? If not, how can you ensure your product or service is of value to your market? Note that your competitors may not always be who you think they are. Run a simple Google search for your product name, your product category, and the problem your product is solving. Then compile a list of your closest competitors and begin to uncover their Unique Selling Points (USP), which is the key differentiator that a company is focusing on that drives their communication and other strategies.

For example, your business may sell eco-friendly mattresses. By searching “eco-friendly mattresses to help my back”, you will be able to collate a list of your top competitors, their position in the market, and their USP.

For example:

Brand Market Position Claimed USP
Ecosa High-quality Product quality
Back and Neck Quality and sustainability Product design / Environment
Ultimate Beds Innovation Product design
Quokka Beds Quality and sustainability Product design / Environment

Running a competitor breakdown or analysis against certain criteria will give you an overview of your closest competitors and allow you to fill in any gaps relevant to your business. Analyse and record your competitors’ market position and USP as well as other elements such as taglines, tone and personality, style, target market, weaknesses and strengths in their communications, how they are currently being perceived in the market, their Share Of Voice (SOV) in the industry, and what online and offline channels they are appearing in.

Doing this means you have gained enough data to allow you to successfully position your product or service in a way that your competitors do not. After all, who wants to fade into the background and be the same as everyone else?

Your Unique Selling Point

Define the USP that sets you apart from competitors and should be used consistently throughout all brand collateral and marketing.

Ask yourself:

  • What makes my business and its products and services different?
  • What do I have on offer that nobody else in the market does?
  • Do I have a lower price point? A higher quality product or service? Enhanced customer experience?

If you’re unsure, read reviews and testimonials for your business to pull out common threads. Ask your staff or your customers. Refer back to your competitor analysis and look for an opportunity to claim a USP that they aren’t capitalising on, or aren’t doing strongly enough.

Defining your own USP

It’s important to consider your USP from your customers’ perspective.

Ask yourself:

  • What is it my customer is searching for? What are they struggling with?
  • How does this service or product fulfill that need? Does it effectively solve their problem, or just partially?
  • Why would a customer choose my offering over a competitor?
  • What is it about my service or product that is better than my competitors’?

Another way to brainstorm is to think about the culture of your business. What makes your business unique and is the first thing you educate new employees about? Are there any details of your product or service that you have and your competitors don’t? This could be techniques, technology, or specific materials.

Brand Statement

Before you can communicate the value of your business, you need to understand who you are and how you promote your business to the audiences you wish to reach. A great way to do this is by developing a brand statement.

Creating your unique brand statement

Can you fill in the blanks for your business?

Our business exists to provide (benefit), (benefit), and (benefit) to (audience) through (product or service).

If not, it’s time to brainstorm and consider the value your product or service provides, the audience it reaches, and whether there is room for improvement.

Organisational and Communication Objectives

Objectives are essential for short- and long-term growth and maintaining a productivity plan for the sustainable success of your business.

If you do not know the objectives and goals you are reaching for, how do you know when or if they have been accomplished? How do you know if your business has been successful?

Just like any other objectives, it’s important to play it SMART:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Realistic
    • Timely

By setting SMART goals you can clarify your ideas, use your time and resources wisely, focus your efforts effectively, and ensure you meet the objectives you set for your business. An example of a SMART goal could be a 25% increase in the presence of external communications about the eco-friendliness of your mattresses within the next six months.

Living Online is not only Perth’s digital marketing experts, it also has in-house communication experts, with years of communications’ experience behind them.

Top tip: If it makes sense to do so, create different internal and external communication objectives.

Audience

Great communication starts with knowing and understanding your audience. Your next step is identifying to whom you wish to deliver your communications.

Ask yourself:

  • Who are my stakeholders? Are they employees, customers, shareholders, government authorities, sponsors, distributors, or someone else?
  • Am I communicating to all of them or only a select few?
  • How am I communicating to each stakeholder?
  • What groups are included in my stakeholder list?

When it comes to drilling down into the best communication channels to reach your audience, it pays to know who they are and where they can be reached.

Key Messages

Once you have identified your audience, your next step is to break down your objectives into relevant messages for each of those audiences. All of your stakeholder groups should understand what kind of business you are and the value of your product or service. Your messaging needs to be clear and link back to your key business objectives, mission, and values.

You may like to break it down so you know who your message is tailored to, what they need to know, and the personalised messaging to coincide with that audience, for example:

Audience What they need to know Key communication messages
Customers What we offer them

How to access our product/service

Where to go for advice/help

The largest range in Australia

Easy online ordering

We’re here to help


Key Communication Methods
Now your key audiences have been identified, the next step is to look at the most appropriate channels to communicate with them.

Ask yourself:

  • What channels do I have?
  • What channels am I lacking?
  • Is there any room to improve my communication channels?

Channels may include:

  • conferences
  • workshops
  • press releases
  • email
  • events
  • media
  • social media
  • digital marketing
  • print advertising
  • your company website
  • newsletters
  • proposals
  • media relations
  • blogging
  • media conferences.

Like the key messaging, you may like to break it down so you know who your message is tailored to and the key communications channels associated with that audience, for example:

Audience Key communications channels
Customers Social media

Blogs

Live chat

Email

Staff Intranet

Printed material

SMS/MMS

Email

Project management tools

Distributors Email

Telephone

Website

Text

You can use competitor analysis to identify potential communications channels. For example, Moz’s link explorer will show you what other websites are mentioning and referring traffic to your competitors. You can then determine if these will be relevant to your audiences and should be added to your channel mix.

Message House

A message house is a format used to help develop your messaging and positioning by placing focus on the Brand Statement that you wish to convey, which trickles down into your key messages and the evidence that supports these messages.

Developing a message house makes it easy to stay on track and in alignment when creating your communication materials. It provides a simple construct for all messaging surrounding your product or service. Dissimilar to a real house, a message house begins with building the roof first and working from the top down. Creating it this way allows you to define your Brand Statement or ‘roof’, followed by your key messages or the ‘walls’, and evidence or the ‘foundation’ to back these messages up.

Top tip: The crucial element when creating your message house is to ensure that all of your points are clear and concise.

See our example below: 
message house example

Work Plan, Budget, and Resources

Now your audience, objectives, and key communication channels have been identified, we’ve reached the fun bit! It’s time to indicate the key communication activities, associated budget, and resources allocated to delivering these strategies.

Your work plan will include timelines and specific milestones, allowing you to measure clear steps towards your end goals. You will more than likely have specific publications, projects, or events that are taking place in the future.

Creating a timetable of all of your key communication activities, whether they are an internal or external focus, your budget for each, and the associated resources will get your business on track to reaching its objectives.

Communication Toolkit

When you have a particularly large business with multiple sites, it can become easily convoluted. A consistent communications approach can be difficult. Not only should you have a communications toolkit available, but you should also be communicating it across the business on an ongoing, consistent basis.

Communication toolkits are an easily-adaptable group of resources that contain practical template materials. These may include text, layouts, images, suggested key messages for specific audiences, a terminology glossary, and a colour-within-the-lines approach to how the business should communicate across the board. They also provide consistent messaging adapted to the relevant channel, audience, and tool.

Your company’s communication toolkit may include a template for PowerPoint presentations, word documents for posters and flyers, and terminology guidelines for various long-term or ongoing projects.

You can start to see how these sorts of resources tie in with your strategy by aligning them with your overall business objectives and style guide.  This will give a clear, defined message from an internal and external perspective.

Top Tip: Consider including your communication toolkit in your induction for new staff members and listing it on your business intranet or app to make it easy to find.

Tracking The Success Of Your Communication Strategy

Once your strategy has been defined, tracking the results will be important in understanding if you are on track to meet your defined objectives, or if you need to make drastic changes.

You may wish to look at other metrics that are strong indicators to the overall success of your communication strategy. Analyse and document impressions, reach, clicks, and click through rate of specific components of your strategy. Also look at overarching metrics such as Share Of Voice for your own performance over time, and in comparison to your key competitors.

Be sure to regularly review the internal and external communications and confirm they align with the strategy and objectives. If you are starting to go off-course, you may wish to re-share the importance to key company communicators.

Benefits

Having all your business stakeholders on the same page is essential to a highly efficient workplace. From an internal perspective, staff will understand the bigger picture, how they fit in, and why they are so important. They will be more productive as there will be more meaning associated to their work. This is turn will produce stronger leaders – an excellent asset to any business. You will have vigilant managers who have an ear to the ground and create a culture of communication and collaboration.

By having a corporate communication strategy, you will create a standardised approach to interacting with all staff and with your current and potential customers. It spells out how staff should communicate, leaving less room for interpretation. This leads to increased staff morale, less turnover, more loyal staff, improved company image, and a consistent approach to information dispersal. In a nutshell, a culture of communication is an ongoing journey. Communication is not simply an event. It never sleeps.

Successful external communications is just as important. There are a plethora of benefits for pushing your message home with your external stakeholders, particularly from a financial point of view. If you have a succinct, clear message at every point of the consumer journey, this will reinforce your key messages, meaning the buyer is more likely to purchase your product or service. A solid strategy creates transparency and trustworthiness, which in turn increases your business reputation, shedding a positive light on what you have to offer.

Summary

Regardless of the size of your business, effective and ongoing communication can have a profound impact on productivity, staff satisfaction, buyer satisfaction, and revenue. In some cases, having a solid communication strategy may mean the difference between your company collapsing or staying afloat.

Not only is communication an important business practice, it’s one of the most significant drivers of profit. Don’t think of communications as a nice addition to your business; think of it as a primary resource for making money. Consistency in your messaging creates a trustworthy business that people are proud to be a part of.

If you would like to find out more information or want to know how we can help you in develop a solid communication strategy, get in touch with us today.

Important note: Having a rock-solid crisis communication plan is also an essential step in proactive communication practice. A crisis communication plan is a set of guidelines used to prepare your business for an unexpected emergency or event.  Having this plan in place ensures you know the necessary steps to take if or when a crisis arises, including how to communicate with the public, your staff members, and how to prevent the issue from occurring in future. Stay tuned for a future guide where we delve into crisis communication further, and share why having this plan in place is crucial for business success.

See how we worked with Zanda Architectural Hardware to strongly position this national manufacturer in their B2B market and add value for their distributors.