Why communication is integral to strategy

IT IS PROVEN over time that businesses most admired by their customers, employees, shareholders, members, donors, suppliers, regulators and in public discourse are those that:

(1) Have a clear strategy for the future;
(2) Have a CEO with a vision for the business and its sector;
(3) Perform to plan;
(4) Communicate the above regularly and effectively;

To do this requires structure, planning and well executed implementation and so forms an integral part of nearly every strategic plan. The following ingredients are key to achieving this successfully and, once agreed at the business planning stage, can make it happen to great effect.

Business Strategy
A clear strategy is now seen as hugely important for any business to create meaningful engagement with its stakeholders. In short, people like to know how an organisation is performing and what it is planning for the future. Importantly, they like to be associated with its success. A well-developed business strategy therefore creates an excellent opportunity for proactive communication internally with staff and externally with relevant audiences.

Communications Strategy
With communications in particular, you need to know where you are going in order to get there. Agreeing the communication objective for your business therefore is the fundamental first step. This is essentially what core message or ‘narrative’ you want associated with the business over time. There will be other messages that are important too and these will be reinforced opportunistically. Identifying the target audiences that are critical to the success of your business is the next step. Those with whom you can develop a strong understanding of what you are about and what you are looking to achieve will be the ones that become key influencers of your future development and success.

These will most likely include staff, clients, regulators, industry bodies, media and most importantly your existing and target clients.  Don’t forget the easiest to reach audience is your staff who can readily become the best ambassadors for your brand. Communication to these should therefore feature prominently in your plan. Reaching external audiences, including targeted customers for your range of products or services, will require detailed ‘stakeholder mapping’ in advance and will ensure that proactive communications land more easily. Once you have an agreed communications strategy, you will need to decide on your approach and engagement. All of this will not be achieved overnight therefore a strategy for 24 months and planning for 6 months at a time is recommended.

Communications Approach
Every communication from your business, without exception, should be seen as an opportunity to achieve its core strategy. In practice, this means always bridging back to your core message or other agreed messages regardless of what type of communication it is or with whom. This is a discipline that yields real results. Every communication should be structured and planned with an agreed long term goal. It should also be done for a reason.  In addition to what you proactively plan, communication opportunities constantly present themselves and you should be alert to these particularly regarding the ongoing news agenda. This also demonstrates an alertness and agility over other organisations and can become an admired differentiator.

Communications Engagement
Your engagement plan will contain everything that you agree to communicate internally and externally over the period of your plan. It is effectively the ‘who, what, where, why and when’ in terms of conveying your message. Depending on your ambition, these can include:

  • Regular news announcements about the company and the industry
  • Structured staff communications
  • Client surveys with published findings
  • Media interviews and or background briefings on key topics
  • Speaking opportunities for select members of the management team
  • Informative client communications by way of blog, email or events
  • Sponsorship and other CSR initiatives
  • Developing explanatory videos for your website which is fast becoming the communication tool of choice for business

Implementation
Successful implementation of any communications plan requires commitment, structure and discipline. It is well proven however that simple effective communications used consistently over time achieve significant results for any company. Whether this is handled internally or through an external third party is something you may need to consider and the merits of both together with the resource implications and cost should be considered as part of your process. Any investment you make in communications should be measurable and evaluated. Everything new that is undertaking should be in a ‘test and learn’ format so that you get a return for your effort or expense. Evaluation also reinforces the principal that all communication should be done for a reason. There are numerous forms of measurement that can be applied around website traffic, referrals, client surveys, media mentions etc. and these can be put in place as part of the strategy.

The ultimate evaluation of this process however will be in its contribution to the future success of your business.

FITZGERALD Consulting has a proven methodology for developing highly effective strategic plans that deliver fantastic outcomes for our clients.

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