By Ronnie Walsh, Nine Island Communications
Customers are busy with work, kids, pets, or travel. Life. They are inundated with information. The challenge is to cut through all that noise to ensure the connection with them is authentic, consistent, and timely. The smart approach is to create a strategic communications and marketing plan. The plan is a guide for everything your business will do throughout the year.
What is a strategic plan?
A strategic plan is a purposeful vision document aligning business goals and targets with communications and marketing elements. If it doesn’t help achieve these goals, don’t pursue it. The plan identifies the change you want to see and the tangible outcomes. It’s not just about doing stuff. It’s about doing the right stuff to help connect with customers and ultimately make money.
The opposite of strategic planning is flying by the seat of your pants. It can feel great to create a brochure, post to social media, record a video, do an interview, or run advertising, but if the “why” and the “how” (impact, reaching target audience, driving sales, etc.) aren’t clear, then it’s a waste of time and money.
What makes a good strategy?
A good plan will increase awareness and understanding of your business, allow proactive connection with target audiences and key stakeholders, and manage your reputation in good times and bad. It will also enable two-way communication, support employee engagement, help you stay on budget, and identify timelines and ownership. (This can have an added benefit for use in performance management.) Research and analysis back up the approach; specific metrics and scheduled check-ins help evaluate to ensure targets are met and allow you to adjust if needed.
Your plan should include the following:
Identification of needs and opportunities
SWOT analysis (some organizations also include a PEST analysis—Political, Economic, Social, and Technological)
Identification of objectives
Target audience information
What are the risks if you don’t have a plan?
When one-off planning is done, there is a lack of consistency in approach. Opportunities to proactively manage your brand, seize opportunities, and monitor what’s being said about you are missed. Customers may also forget about the product or miss the message.
Everyone should sit down once a year (as you would when you do your budget) and do a strategic communications and marketing plan. If you’re in a larger organization, be sure to include other members of the team to gather their insight. It takes some hard work to get the plan done, but when this foundation is in place, there will be clarity, greater efficiency, and hopefully, a better bottom line.
For more than 20 years, Ronnie Walsh has helped people strategically and creatively tell their stories. She began her career as a journalist, then moved into communications and marketing. Ronnie’s experience allows her to view situations from different perspectives, ask the right questions, and deliver the best results. Ronnie is an accredited, award-winning communications expert known for developing corporate strategies in media relations, strategic communications, employee engagement, and reputation management. She’s also a media relations and performance coach. She shares her insight via her blog, as a professional speaker, and as the host of the business television show Extrapreneurs.