By Kathy Lindsay
Our experience is that a properly-planned and thought-out communications strategy significantly increases the likelihood that your objectives will be met. And within an acceptable cost. Although a communications strategy takes time (around one month through refinement and sign-off), future activities determined by the strategy will be more efficiently and confidently undertaken.
A communication strategy will:
- identify and agree key objectives
- identify key stakeholders, their issues, interests, and levels of influence
- develop an appropriate position to manage the significant issues
- develop key messages and tailor them for specific audiences
- outline an appropriate strategic pathway to engage with all stakeholders;
- include a range of actions to achieve the objectives
- build in a comprehensive time table of activity and roll out.
1. Determine your objectives
The success of the strategy is measured against achievements of the objectives.
2. Analyse issues
An issue is an unsettled matter impacting on - or potentially impacting on - the attainment of objectives.
It is crucial to the successful implementation of a communications strategy that issues are identified and tactics developed to manage those issues.
3. Know your stakeholders
A comprehensive stakeholder analysis will inform the strategic approach used to achieve your objectives.
The successful implementation will require the careful management of a broad range of stakeholders with competing interests and levels of influence.
Stakeholders must be identified, communicated with, listened to and understood.
In undertaking a stakeholder analysis it will be necessary to determine:
- Who feels they have a stake in your activities?
- What do you know about them and their agenda?
- How are they likely to react to what you want to do?
- Will there be any adverse reaction and if so will it have much impact?
- If there is a significant impact, what can you do?
4. Agree on key messages
Getting the key messages right is crucial as they convey the essence of communication. In a sense, they are what communication is all about; ensuring that what you mean is understood by others.
Messages encapsulate the key points or themes you wish to communicate to your audience about you and your organisation, your activities, policies, initiatives, needs and wants.
When they are received and understood, they represent the point at which you begin to exert influence in your communication, whether you are trying to raise awareness, shape opinion, or change behaviour.
5. Develop a strategic approach
With the establishment of clear objectives and identification of issues and stakeholder expectations, you can develop a broad strategic approach to underpin the whole strategy and its implementation.
6. List activities and a timeline for implementation
The strategic approach will guide what you do and in what order and will inform an accurate pricing of the work in terms of hours spent on implementation.
How many of those activities you actually undertake will depend on available resources (financial and personnel). Some will be crucial to achieving your objectives, others will be nice to have but not essential.
7. Refine your budget
As decisions are made about the level and extent of activity you undertake regarding the final strategy, budgets can be further refined.