Create your comms strategy in seven steps

Golden seven on a stone background

Many organisations know where they need to get to, but having a great communications strategy is crucial to helping them reach that destination.

Without a solid communications strategy, teams will struggle to reach their target audience and achieve their goals. Sometimes they may not even know if their communications is helping them to move forward.

In the words from Sun Tzu’s Art of War: Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. In other words, if you’re communicating without purpose or direction, you’re probably wasting your time. 

This is where a good communications strategy can help. Great strategies are easy to read and understand – but that doesn’t mean they are simple to nail down. We’ve created a seven step process to structure strategies in a way which drives action and helps you meet your goals. Spoiler alert: you will notice that prioritisation plays an important role here!

1. Identify the problem

Whilst not wanting to start on a negative note, let’s be honest, problems drive the need for solutions and will shape your strategy.

The first step to overcoming challenges you are facing is to fully understand them. Whether it’s facing a financial loss with subsequent redundancies, or a failure to connect successfully with new customers. Data will ensure what you feel is backed up by reality.

2. Isolate your objectives

Whether it’s increasing brand engagement, building community support or winning new clients, it’s important that you agree what you want communications to achieve at the outset.

This is not the same as what you want to do – for example, achieve more media coverage. That comes later. The key thing here is to consider what you want your communications to achieve. Your approach and how you measure success flows from this.

Bringing your team together to decide on what those outcomes should be is crucial. Select up to three within your plan. These are essential in shaping what you do, how and with whom you do it.

3. Know your audience – and go to where they are

From our experience, we know that there are multiple audiences which organisations want to reach. Whilst some may overlap, each will have their own set of wants, needs and worries that you need to understand and respond to. 

Get in the heads of your audience to understand what it is they are interested in hearing. Using research, undertaking interviews or speaking with colleagues who work in the field can all help you to understand your audiences better. Think about the media they listen to, read and watch. Your communication needs to go to these places, rather than expecting them to come to you.

We find it helpful to focus on three priority audiences. Be specific as possible. The general public, for example, doesn’t count! Focusing means you will direct your efforts in the most important directions. This is an approach we used as part of our work on Business West’s strategy.

4. Tell you story - drive home your message

Projects are multi-faceted and there will be plenty to say. Prioritisation is therefore key. Learning from step 2, consider your audience. What causes are close to their heart? What problems can your approach can address?

Instagram post of Luke Reddish on a shoot with the BBC in Gloucester

Up to five messages work best for this phase, with a core narrative that binds everything together. To ensure consistency across outward conversations and comms, communicate this core narrative internally – and make it memorable.

Now – to bring it to life. Our CHATS storytelling approach can help you to identify the story angles that will engage the right people and generate enthusiasm for what you do. At the heart of the method is considering the human impact of your project. Who is benefitting? Who is involved in the development towards something great?

We recently worked with our client, Reef Group, for The Forum development in Gloucester, to do just this. Crane operator on site, Luke Reddish, shared his birds-eye view of the project. It provided a refreshing approach to communicating positively about the project, and worked to support multiple messages:

  • Enthusiasm for the development – and its place in. Gloucester’s future
  • Progress being made on site – from a unique angle, and a local resident.
  • Local jobs and a boost to local economy.

The story ran across the BBC and online and performed brilliantly on social media (see right).

5. Create your toolkit

Stories will form an integral part of your approach, but how you tell them will form how you connect with the audiences you’ve identified in step 2.  

Photos, video, straplines, elevator pitches and branding all feature here. You should consider the communication tools – or channels, to use marketing language – that your audiences use too. Where are they reading, listening to or absorbing their news? Targeting these channels strategically will be your best route to telling your story in the right places. 

Ensure your content is accessible to as many people as possible. Use alternative text for images where possible and subtitles on videos. Consider the font you use and the spacing on your website to help with legibility. 

Speak to us about how design and bespoke content writing can help you.

6. Resource and plan

Money, people and time are all valuable, and finite, resources. Getting organised will help maximise each of these and enable you to make the case for additional budget if you need it.

You should set out a timeline of activity to keep your communication regular and keep teams thinking about the upcoming opportunities, whilst working on what you need to do today. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. We use a simple planning tool that guides a strategic approach. You can download a free planner here.

We suggest booking in regular meetings to keep on track and maintain enthusiasm and momentum.

7. Measure your success

You are allocating resource, dedicating time and communicating across multiple channels, but how will you know that what you are doing is working? 

Whether it is keeping track of social media engagement and follower growth, monitoring enquiries via your website (and where these are coming from) or keeping an eye on newsletter subscribes, these measures will all indicate what is working.

Remember what you set out to achieve in point 1. These measures must link back to your objectives. Some organisations rely on vague measures like reach or, worse, media value. 

We always encourage clients to set measurements which demonstrate your work’s impact on organisational goals.

These are important goals which may take years to achieve. But to keep the pace up as you work towards these, set intermediate goals which you can reach in the meantime. Aiming to boost your client base by 50% in a year could feel a stretch, but aiming to engage five new leads per newsletter? This is a more achievable measure and will help you evaluate whether specific comms outputs work in their own right.

Make this a continuous process and iterate your approach as you go. Do more of what works well, and less of what’s not working well.

Strategy building takes collective brain power and prioritisation

But it needn’t take months to do. We’ve developed a strategy sprint process that covers these points and can result in a great strategy to support your team.

Speak to us to help you carve the time out to strategise effectively.

Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash

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