When we embark on projects for existing or new clients, we usually move quickly into discussions on strategy. It may be tempting to jump into tactics, but we believe that should be the last step, not the first. If you’re thinking that communication strategy is what will inform those tactics, you’re right. But there are two other strategies to consider before that one. Only when all three are considered can you be sure your communications plan is the best it can be.
1. Business Strategy. As organizations, we should ensure that our business strategy is at the root of all we do. Who are we and who are we not? What are we offering, what are our points of differentiation and what is our market position? Are we the high-performance option, the fastest solution, the lowest price? We have objectives for revenue, margins, costs and profitability – and we worked hard to develop these goals. When planning communications, we need to understand the business strategy because it serves as the foundation for what follows.
2. Marketing Strategy. To activate the business strategy, we need a strategy for going to market. What markets are we targeting and who are those decision makers? What distribution channels are we using to reach those prospects? What are the top priorities, and which segments should we emphasize? Knowing the answers to these questions is critical in determining how to engage with the marketplace and individuals.
3. Communications Strategy. Once the priority targets are in place, then it’s time to understand personas for each segment, buyer journeys, messaging and the media they use. Specific tactics and positioning can be effectively tailored to reach these audiences, including the use of digital approaches across paid, earned, shared and owned (PESO) media.
The above philosophy works for most types of situations our clients face, whether it involves a crisis situation, financial reporting, internal change management, distributor relations or customer lead-generation. In any of these cases, it always pays to understand the ultimate destination before planning the journey. So if great communications is your goal, don’t just ask, “What’s the strategy?” Ask, “What are the 3 strategies?” That question will always start a conversation that’s well worth having.