After a little more than ten years in the communications sector, I have found that one fact is constant – numerous people, despite having spent the same or more time in this business, still do not know how to devise communication strategies of quality. This is not a surprise or great discovery because many of them may not have had the opportunity to come into contact with such a basic (some would say) task and skill in our business. From my experience, this is particularly pronounced in larger companies and public administration. Fortunately, you live and you learn, therefore it is not too late to correct this.
Good analytics is the key
Creating a successful communication strategy is serious business which involves a lot of analytical work to determine its initial parameters, i.e. to create SWOT, PEST, qualitative and quantitative media analyses and similar. Being an advocate of scientific approach in communication with the experience of consulting in a series of political campaigns, you can only imagine how big a fan I am of public opinion research, market research and call centres. A well-established methodology and analytical framework allow communication experts to receive excellent data that can help them develop precise strategies. This way it is easier to determine the strategic approach, target audience, tools, tactics, key messages and all other necessary elements. After that, we “only” have to deal with realization.
The agency I run approaches communication in a multidisciplinary manner, taking into account all target audiences and the task of building and preserving the reputation of a person, product, company, etc. We emphasize the importance of a comprehensive and integrated approach to communication, which includes cooperation with public relations and marketing. Consequently, our strategies work the same way. It is accuracy that separates the good from the not-so-good communication experts and this is best seen through their strategic approaches to individual projects. Innovation, recognition of new trends and inclusion of novelty tools in a strategy are also very important in our market. Hence, a good key document requires a lot of prior knowledge, digging up information, asking clever questions, good choice of a team with different skills and structure. In private life you do not have to be the most organized person in the world, but when it comes to writing and implementing communication strategies, it is a major prerequisite.
What does a communication strategy document consist of
There are no rules for instance we wrote a strategy for a Croatian sports club and elaborated the approach for each of the 16 types of targeted audience that come in contact with it in detail. We had previously carried out several surveys, focus groups, analyses and in-depth interviews, which, all combined, exceeded 100 pages. I am aware that it sounds a lot, but once we put it all down on paper, we knew exactly what to do. I would rather “lose” a month or a few days longer in the strategic preparation of the campaign, than to “play it by ear” and, at the end of the day, not achieve results. On the other hand, one must be honest and say that we do not always have the opportunity for a longer preparation, which was best shown through the campaign Nešto zbilja važno/This Truly Matters by the Association of Parents’ with Children with Disabilities Brački pupoljci. We literally had to develop a strategy that led to a change in the law and enabled island children with disabilities from all Croatian islands to receive free ferry transport and unhindered trips to their much-needed therapies as we went along. Would I have been able to run such a professionally and emotionally demanding campaign had I not previously developed a series of strategies and learned how to understand and develop the entire communication process that led us to our goal? Certainly not. Therefore, I advise all my colleagues to improve this segment first. In short, do not be a cog in the wheel, rather provide a structure, devise and lead the entire process envisaging the long-term goals.
And lastly, this brings us to the most frequently asked question during lectures, i.e. what is the difference between strategy and tactics? Figuratively speaking, strategy is like a genie in a magic lamp and the way we rub that lamp to get it out is a tactic. In other words and with fewer metaphors, strategy is defined in professional literature as a plan drawn up for a specific purpose and explains the methods adopted to achieve the goals. Thus, tactic is the details of a strategy, or specific procedures used in realizing and communicating a strategy.