Strategic Management Communication Theory
Developing and Nurturing
Developing a communications strategy Developing a communications strategy is an art, not a science and there are lots of different ways of approaching the task. Whether the communications strategy is designed for a specific project or for the same period as the organizational strategy, it should establish the following:
1. Objectives The objectives are the key to the success of a communications strategy. We should ensure that the communications strategy is organizationally driven rather than communications driven. Communications activity is not an end in itself but should serve and hence be aligned with the organizational objectives. Ask ourselves what we can do within communications to help the organization achieve its core objectives.
Aligning the communications and organizational objectives will also help to reinforce the importance and relevance of communications and thereby make a convincing case for the proper resourcing of communications activity within the organization.
2. Audiences Audience is the most important factor in communications strategy. It is important for us to identify those audiences with whom we need to communicate to achieve our own organizational objectives. The best audiences to target in order to achieve an objective may not always be the most obvious ones, and targeting audiences such as the media may not always help achieve the objectives.
Everyone would like a higher media and political profile, yet activities aiming towards this may ultimately be self-serving and only communications driven, with no wider impact. They can even have a negative effect if we dedicate resources towards this that would otherwise be put towards communicating with key audience.
3. Messages Strategic targeting and consistency are keys to the organization’s messages. Create a comprehensive case covering all the key messages, and emphasize the different elements of the case for different audiences. To maximize impact we must remember that communications is all about storytelling: use interesting narrative, human interest stories and arresting imagery.
4. Tools and activities Identify the tools and activities that are most appropriate to communicating the key messages to the audiences. These will be suggested by the audiences, messages, or a combination of the two. It is advisable to tailor our tools and activities to the level of time and human and financial resources available.
5. Resources and timescales The key rules to observe are always to deliver what we promise and never over promise. Use the resources and timescales to set legitimate levels of expectations and outline the case for more dedicated resources.
6. Transmission channel The channel is both the medium that we can use to transmit our information and the understanding what to expect in achieving in those who receive the message. The receiver is the destination of our message. It is important because the receiver interprets the message according to his or her own perspective, surrounding, language, knowledge, and logic.
7. Evaluation and amendment Consider performing a communications audit to assess the effectiveness of the strategy with both our internal and external audiences. We should use open questions with appropriate prompts and benchmarks and, if possible, get someone independent to do the work. Consider and discuss the results carefully and use them to amend the strategy.
Example audiences to consider are the client (internal and external), staff, funders, key political targets and media. Sets of question we should consider asking are:
a) What do we read/see/hear? b) What works/doesn't work? c) What do we want to see more of? d) What information do we need that we are not currently supplied with?
Remember, while drawing up the communications strategy, we should always involve our team, and on a smaller scale, the entire organization. By having someone in charge, the person assigned to head communications can leads, delegates and work in partnership with the actors in the field, such as the person in charge of media or facilitation. Feed the communications strategy into the organizational strategy to ensure maximum alignment and efficiency.