For any business, effective communication is crucial. How your business interacts with customers, clients, stakeholders, and employees can have a direct impact on your bottom line and the success of various campaigns. Clear and transparent communication also helps you build trust with your audience, which is why it’s important to have a strategy in place.
Developing a communication plan can have numerous benefits for your organisation, making it clear who needs to know what information and in what format, and outlining the message, objective, and processes. Understanding how your business communicates, both internally and externally, can also help ensure consistency.
Most communication strategies include numerous elements such as communication objectives, audience segmentation, communication channels, assessment of current communications, monitoring and evaluation, budgets, and implementation.
Some other components to consider when developing your communication strategy are how the message will be delivered, who is in charge of delivering it, and what the timeframe and frequency will be for various messages.
Your communication strategy sets the tone for all communication activities and materials your business delivers. It helps align internal and external communications. Here are a few key steps essential for creating an effective communications strategy:
Set your goals
No strategy can be successful without first determining your goal. Knowing what you want to achieve will help you develop a strategy in line with that goal and more likely to achieve your desired outcome.
You don’t want your company’s communication to be conflicting, confusing, or worse, non-existence, so it’s important to establish clear and concise goals for communication. Without clear goals, you can’t determine the success of your strategy and it can be difficult to take away learnings from your strategy to make improvements.
The goals for a communication strategy could range from raising brand awareness, motivating your audience to take action, or changing the attitudes of your target audience. Understand the purpose of your plan and how it serves your business to decide on the overall goal.
Whether your communications plan involves short-term and long-term goals, clearly define the timeline of your goals. This will enable you to track the progress of your strategy and determine its success.
Identify any pain points
A communication strategy can be used to address any existing pain points within your business or identify opportunities for improvement.
Assess the current state of your communications to identify communication efforts and processes that need to be improved. Spending time understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your current communications can help you determine where you need to make improvements first.
Whilst you can always make improvements to systems already working, in the instance of a communications strategy it’s generally going to give you a better return if you focus attention on the problem areas first, rather than re-working something that’s already serving you well. Prioritise your efforts towards the main pain points, as this is likely to have the biggest impact on your business overall.
Know your audience
A communication strategy provides you with a roadmap for getting messages delivered to the right audience and makes it more likely to encourage change. The more you know about who your audience is the better the chance of developing a communication strategy that will be effective.
Research will be required to help you gain a clear understanding of your target audience and industry so you can build a relevant strategy to target the right people.
You may have broad audience groups that need to be split into smaller categories if they require different communications strategies. Make a list of each audience you need to reach, both internal and external groups. Your messaging can change depending on the audience and it’s important to make sure your message is appropriate and relevant for the intended audience.
You may also communicate with some groups more often than others. Consider what each audience already knows about your organisation, what they want to know, and what you want them to know.
Knowing the characteristics and interests of your audience will help to determine the best way to reach them. Certain methods or platforms for communication can be more effective with certain audience groups and you want to avoid putting time and effort into a method that will not provide a strong return on investment (ROI).
Once you’ve identified your target audience groups, prioritise which audience will have a larger impact on reaching your goals.
Have a way to measure success
When developing a successful communication strategy, you need to devise a way to measure that success.
Measurement for success will depend on the goal of your strategy and may differ for each key message. This is why you should first determine your key messages and what success may look like for each message.
Being clear about what success looks like will enable you to choose metrics that are important for business growth and the success of the campaign. Include key performance indicators (KPIs) as measurements for success to help you meet your business goals and objectives. They need to be specific and easily measurable.
You will also need to set timelines for your KPIs. Having designated milestones for each metric makes it easier to assess progress and whether the current strategy is effective, or you need to adjust. An effective strategy will maximise the ROI of all your communications, so being able to analyse the results is crucial.
An effective communications strategy is a valuable tool for your business, as at the end of the day, how you speak to your audience matters.