The corporate landscape is littered with plans such as business plans, risk management plans, disaster recovery plans and strategic plans. Therefore, when someone tells you it’s time to develop a strategic communications plan for your company, it’s easy to dismiss the idea as more corporate busywork. What you may not realize, though, is that your strategic communications plan could be the most important plan your business will ever create.
Sure, when your network goes down during a power outage, your customers may not be able to access your website for a while. They may grumble, but if you have a good relationship with them, then they’ll be back once power is restored. When your company makes major public communication errors, however, those errors have the potential to shatter relationships.
If you want an in-depth education in strategic communications, then click this link to learn about degree programs. To get started with a plan today, meet with your team and answer six basic questions.
What’s Working About Our Current Communication Strategy, and What’s Not Working?
Your company may have great success with traditional media communications. At the same time, your team may lag behind in social media, email marketing and other digital communications venues. In a crisis, social media complaints can escalate, and you can’t afford to be caught flat-footed. Appreciate your team’s strengths, but also take note of weaknesses so you can determine how to address them.
What Objectives Should Our Communications Accomplish?
Communications errors don’t just occur in a crisis. If your business rolls out a new product, but fails to communicate its value to customers, then you’ve already lost revenue. Therefore, your objectives may include things like improved branding, reputation management or reputation repair. Remember to keep better customer relationships as the heart of every objective.
Who Is Our Audience?
Your audience is primarily your customers, but you have to assess how well you know your customers. CRM (customer relationship management) data is extremely helpful, but so is one-on-one interaction. Visit a store or a branch office; engage customers in conversation on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social networks. Get to know your primary brand evangelists, and figure out who’s blogging about your business to a large audience. Simple conversations can work wonders for improving your company’s image and for getting that elusive 360-degree view of the customer.
What Do We Want to Say?
You want your customers to like you and you want a stellar industry reputation. Now is the time to ask your team why your company deserves respect and loyalty. You need to communicate what differentiates your business from competitors and you also need to focus your brand message. Additionally, communicate your company’s values. Your customers and your industry partners care more about your company’s values than you realize.
How Are We Going to Say It?
If you don’t have a digital communications strategy that includes email marketing, social media, organic search engine marketing, mobile device friendliness and an excellent website, then you’re already losing potential customers. Look at the ways you’ve been communicating and make sure you’ve adjusted to the modern world. Keep in mind that the “how” of communication includes more than the medium. Plan your communication’s tone and decide who should deliver your messages.
How Will We Know Whether We’ve Succeeded?
If one of your objectives includes effective crisis communication, then spell out what effectiveness looks like. You can use quantitative measurements like response time. You can also use qualitative criteria, such as how well you stayed on message without seeming robotic. Remember that success will look different to every company. Go back to the second question and turn those objectives into measurable outcomes.
Mitt Romney’s famous “Corporations are people, too” line earns a lot of eye rolls, but customers tend to project human qualities onto companies. Your customers will forgive you for a power outage, but they’ll have a harder time forgiving you for poor communication. If your business looks insensitive, clueless or archaic, then you’re endangering customer relationships. That’s why your strategic communications plan matters — and why it could be the most important plan your business will create.