Let’s make a plan: 5 questions for an epic communications strategy
We all know we need to be communicating with our customers and prospective customers more often – but honestly, it can be pretty exhausting trying to come up with ideas for new content (we struggle with it for our own comms sometimes!).
A clear, easy to follow communications plan is the key to making that process easier. You do all your thinking at once, can assign out tasks based on the plan, and regularly communicate with your audiences WITHOUT having to think about it too much. So how can you create an epic communications strategy? It’s as simple as asking five questions:
WHERE are we going?
Instead of just coming up with vague communications goals like ‘I want a bigger social media presence’, think about where you want your business to be in one, three, or even five years. What does the business look like? Who’s buying from you? What do people know you for? What will you be leading the way in?
Paint a picture of where you want to be and work backwards from there. Who will you need to get in front of in order to build that business and that reputation? What kind of content do you need to be creating to gain their respect? What channels and networks will help you build the right kind of reputation or the funnel that you’re looking for? Make sure you know where you’re going and you’ll soon have a clearer direction for your comms journey and activity.
WHO are we talking to?
The biggest factor in achieving that picture of the business and reputation you want to build is communicating with the right people. Who are the people who will help you build that? What are the biggest challenges they’re up against? What do they care about? How do you need to make them feel in order to get them to come on the journey with you? Where are you likely to find them?
Whether your target market is grouped by demographics (e.g. 35-50 year old women buying from your clothes store), need (e.g. small businesses who need help with their accounts), or goal (e.g. successful business owners wanting to grow their reputation as thought leaders – guess which one is ours!), the clearer your picture, the better you’ll be. Get into their heads and hearts and you’ll have a much better idea of how to answer the next few questions…
WHICH channels will we use?
It used to be that you had 3-4 choices max for how you would communicate with people – your own newsletter or magazine (printed or eventually by email), traditional media (through PR or advertising), or one on one either on your premises or via the phone. These days, there are almost too many ways to communicate – email, phone, text, newsletter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, blogs, newspapers, media outlets… the list goes on!
But trying to do everything, everywhere just means you’ll end up doing it badly. So how can you pick 3-4 channels max and make the most of them to reach your audiences? It’s all about going back to the last question – who are you talking to? Where do those people spend their time? Are they engaging with LinkedIn each morning or browsing Instagram over lunchtime? Are they reading the Herald religiously each day or do they prefer to get their news online? Do they prefer reading or watching videos? Consider where those people are and what they’re engaging with and start there.
HOW frequently should we be communicating?
Communicating is all about building two things – connection and trust. To do that effectively, you need to be consistently engaging with your audience. Consistency is what helps your audience know they can rely on your content, as it shows you value their attention and gives them a reason to keep engaging or checking back in. Consistency also helps you get in front of as many people as possible, as not everyone will see everything you share each time.
But how often should you be communicating? It depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Just wanting to keep your current clients happy? If you’re already dealing with them frequently about the work you do for them, you might not need to get in touch too often – a quarterly or monthly newsletter could be all you need. Looking to gain new audiences? Creating intelligent content that speaks to their needs and feelings each week might be needed. In a quick moving industry that has a lot of competition? Daily content could be in order. Consider who you’re talking to and what you’re trying to achieve and work backwards to figure out what it will take to build connection and trust with those people.
And remember – thanks to social media algorithms, no-one is likely to see ALL of your content, so you can afford to communicate a little more frequently than you may initially feel comfy with.
WHAT will we talk about?
Now here’s the really fun part – brainstorming! Ideas for topics should come from a variety of places – your SEO plan (if relevant), your team, your leadership… But most importantly, they should come from your customers! Consider what they are always asking or what would help them fill a need and start from there. Book a brainstorm with the people who have the most contact with your customers, and consider inviting a few customers themselves!
Then to kick you off, here are a few questions that might get your brains storming:
- What do people most ask questions about, or are most unsure about?
- What are the misconceptions about what you do?
- What do you wish your customers knew about your company or industry?
- What are some of the greatest transformations that your clients or customers have been through?
- What’s a problem you could solve for your customers without them having to purchase from you? (Just using your knowledge)
- What are the biggest objections prospective customers have to working with you?
- What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in your time in this business?
- What have you seen done really badly in your industry?
- What have you celebrated most recently or most notably as a business?
Bring all the answers together and start to build out a calendar of content – if you don’t already have a template for creating a content calendar, download our template here.
Aim to mix up content length, format (video vs. written vs. imagery vs. audio), and type (client story vs. how-to vs. thought leadership, for example). Decide how you will adapt each piece of content to get it across as many of your 3-4 focus platforms as possible. Now divvy up who will be creating what and who’s responsible for posting/sharing and congratulations – you’ve got yourself an action plan!
So that’s how to create an epic communications plan that you’ll actually implement. Where, who, which, how, and what: five key questions to ask yourself and your team that will lead to a clear action plan. It sounds simple when you put it that way!
But in reality, we know that it’s far harder to ask yourself the hard questions than be asked them by someone else. That’s why we love helping clients plan through our ‘Roadmapping Your Reputation’ process. If you’re interested in finding out how it could help you grow your business and your reputation, drop us a line.