Monthly Archives: December 2013

You’re a Corporate Communication Strategist? But what do you do?

You’re a Corporate Communication Strategist? But what do you do?
In order to explain what I do as a Communication Strategist, I need to first point to a few crucial factors that answer the question “Why do you do what you do?”
1. The world is a different place now. Business is only one part of a much greater system and, to sustain harmony in the world, organisations have to consider their place in and their responsibility to the bigger system. They have to act in a way that enhances the concept of interdependence between economic, financial, environmental, political and social factors. The business arena is ‘being watched’ by activists and thought leaders who are very ready and able to expose companies that cause disharmony; so much so that regulators and governments are responding to the pressure by imposing guidelines and conditions for how organisations should behave if they want to be seen as reputable and sustainable global players.
2. A business is not self-sufficient, it needs all kinds of support from those on whom it depends for its existence. Today, people and consumers know more and expect much more from business. They want to feel that a business identifies with them and their needs, not the other way around, and ‘speaks to’ them.
3. There are thousands of similar products and services out there, so why should people choose yours? What you offer, over-and-above your product, counts for a lot now, and it is involves more than a transactional relationship, it must be real engagement with your people – an emotional connection. Differentiation through communication not products.

A communication strategist understands these factors and reaches out to the business world to develop a deep appreciation of how these factors impact a business’s operations, growth and success. The strategist engages with organisations through communication learning from each other, getting to know the company’s situation and responding to stakeholder needs appropriately to achieve business goals.
Tony Manning, once said, “Organizations are managed conversations.” Every day you and your organization communicate. There is an ongoing flow of information, ideas, opinions and emotions between an organisation and its audience or stakeholders – but is this communication well-planned to achieve its goals? Is it sufficiently strategic?
For corporate conversations to be meaningful and have a positive impact on the company and its publics, they need to be planned, appropriate and relevant. And the messages that come from a company must reflect its personality and its purpose. Developing a strategic communication plan moves the company in the right direction, getting internal and external audiences to buy into its vision, plans and activities.

The plan begins with YOU. Your company’s purpose and vision is fundamental to your success. If you don’t know your company’s purpose or even your own, finding one is your first priority. You also need to identify those with whom you want to share, collaborate and build your company, and then harness the power of communication to get them to work with you to accomplish your business goals.
Many business owners, managers and leaders need a helping hand in developing a clear, consistent and effective communication strategy. That is where the communication strategist comes in: she begins their conversation by getting the ‘boss’ to reflect on the business, its purpose and goals, its strengths, weaknesses and challenges, asking questions like: what is the outcome you want? What stands in your way? How do you overcome these obstacles?
At REAL Communication Consulting, we use well-researched methods to develop a strategic communication plan. We divide the process into ten ‘conversations’ in which you:
1. Identify your purpose and develop a vision or mission statement
2. Develop a corporate identity or brand to reflect who you are
3. Identify specific communication goals that support your business goals
4. Communicate mindfully with your stakeholders to learn what is important to them
5. Find alignment between your perceptions and those of your stakeholders
6. Develop the key strategic messages to achieve your goals
7. Create and deliver communication that speaks to your key stakeholders
8. Clarify meaning to minimize misunderstanding, wasted time, and negative emotions
9. Plan feedback and measurement methods to ensure that communication achieves its goal
10. Develop reflective practices that help you develop your communication expertise.

A communication strategy helps you create a productive communication environment, generating trust and a culture of interactive, engaging and meaningful communication in your organization.
Once your business starts on this journey, it will see itself as part of a much larger system with greater goals for future sustainability, and it will begin considering ways to make not only its business, but the world, a better place.

Dumping PR activity on all-and-sundry

I want to take up the issue raised by Wadim Schreiner in his article in The Media Magazine (December 2013: 4) entitled “Strategic comms is not an info dump”. He criticises public relations people who “dump” irrelevant information and “hot-air activity” on “as wide and undefined audience as possible” and then fail to do a valid and credible impact assessment (I assume that is because the research methodology will show a mere haze of media activity with no clear outcomes……).
If PR people do not know the following, then Schreiner is correct in saying, they “clearly have no idea about PR”; all communicators have learnt to execute any good PR plan and Communication strategy by:
1. Knowing the vision and future goals of the company
2. Identifying their key ‘publics’ , audiences or stakeholders, their needs and media preferences
3. Setting communication goals to align with the company goals
4. Developing messages and tactics that will ensure the goals are met
5. Creating tailor-made or specific messages and activities with the key audience in mind
6. Selecting the media that your audience uses and finds relevant, ensuring “a high hit rate”.
7. Timing distribution of messages to suit audience’s demographics, logistics and lifestyle. Go to them, they’ll tell what media to use.
8. Assessing feedback and impact, and evaluating audience perceptions thru’ good qualitative research, not only qualitative.
9. Keep communicating, adapting to your audience’s needs

The quality of a limited number of good connections far outweighs the quantity of a shot-gun approach to messages. It’s the connections that invite engagement, use and loyalty. Ultimately these are the things that matter, if you’re value- and goal-driven, rather than purely sales-driven.

Public relations and strategic communication (without an s) are about long-term relationship building, not only about sales and marketing. Reputation management should include reliable, valid and credible methods of measuring improvement in reputation. Another way of measuring reputation is: put your business on the market and add a value to your ‘reputation’ over and above the financial value and see whether others agree with your valuation or not!