By Len Monheit
It’s not easy to develop and implement a communications strategy. Knowing your clients, potential clients and investors helps, but choosing how to reach them is a confusing and cumbersome process. Once you’ve determined your approach, measuring its effectiveness is another thing entirely.
There is an endless list of choices to be made, including vehicle and media selection, type of message, frequency of message, process, public and media relations strategy, investor relations (if you’re publicly traded or have this stakeholder set). Many companies outsource the entire marketing communications program, which can work well providing internal champions are in place, or at the very least, if a clear vision, mission and objective set is provided to these outsourced resources. It is also much easier if the outsourced organization has a toehold in the industry or with the target audience.
Many organizations don’t outsource marketing and communications at all, or outsource pieces of it without developing a comprehensive strategy themselves. In each of these cases, the danger is that opportunities will be missed and precious resources wasted communicating to the wrong audience, or using the wrong vehicle and process. And now, getting a message through the noise and the filters (electronic, perception or real) is more difficult than ever. In these times of resource constraints, the cliché, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is more pervasive than ever. And the Internet as a communications vehicle has both advantages and disadvantages.
Last week I spoke about getting ‘back to basics’ dealing with re-evaluating the big picture and considering alternatives. Now, more than ever, there are a combination of processes companies can use to communicate with potential and existing clients and with stakeholders and employees. And more and more companies are finding that using combinations leads to higher success rates measured by client acquisitions, turn-around times, client and stakeholder feedback, satisfaction, readership, awareness and other measurements.
Recently, I’ve observed a publicly traded company distributing news releases to business stakeholders and investors. The information in the releases is important for potential and existing clients as well as industry relations, yet not pushed to these interested parties. The corporate website, most likely viewed by thousands, if not millions a year, has a buried newsletter deep in the site, and limited efforts have been made to build and communicate with a community with a vested interest in the company.
Although this is one example of a larger organization, we could just as easily examine a small company with a print brochure and sell sheets and a corporate website. It’s obvious that if the URL isn’t on the print materials and business cards, the program will fail. It should be just as obvious that if the sell sheets, (or at least a list of sell sheets available), is not on the website, then the program is doomed. If you pay to have a press release distributed globally and then don’t have it on your site, you’ve wasted an opportunity. If you prepare a media kit for an industry event and fail to make it available through some sort of on-line mechanism, once again, opportunity missed.
Then there’s the company that issues a release or sell sheet about a new product, generating interest and calls. The customer service staff not only doesn’t have the information available that the client is talking about, they may not even know about the special or announcement in the first place.
As smart use of technology for many business processes becomes available and less cost-prohibitive, the excuses for these missed communication opportunities or total program flops will longer exists. Companies can implement a total communications strategy and a process that encompasses both internal and external operations. Companies that rely exclusively on pushing information to clients, prospects, distributors, agents and sales reps in the field can combine push and pull approaches to information exchange.
New sell sheet, press release and pricing structure available for product line ‘x’.
All staff and external recipients receive automatic electronic notification that materials are available for viewing or distribution at a specific web address. The material is posted on the corporate Intranet so all staff can view information to field inquiries. Distributor and agent access to information is measured so results of sales efforts can be monitored. Knowledge-base, (also hosted on Intranet) of feedback from the field and directly from clients is fed from Website hosted discussions and sales and service representative generated logs and reports.
Potential Impact on:
Communication, training (you can see which employees have viewed information and which haven’t), performance tracking of agents and reps, customer services and many other areas.
Other aspects to consider:
By creating a zone to which you pull interested parties that complements pushing information to them, you create a communications cycle and can eventually build a community. Client retention is improved; service and maintenance costs are lowered.
I’m sure you can think of other scenarios when this approach makes sense. The best part about it, is that quick, easy, measurable programs can be constructed in days—once you develop the plan.
We’ve spoken with a number of companies in the industry about these issues and there are different strategies and approaches in use of course. Some continue to plod along with a brochure and sell sheet, despite
So how do you learn about all communications options and then determine the best overall plan for you and your organization? How do you tie the programs together? How do you measure program success?
IR, PR community