How to successfully refresh your business communications

A phrase you’ll often hear me say (or write) is “the way your business communicates is crucial to your success”. You need to communicate the right way, with the right audience, to achieve your objectives.

To do this requires a strategic approach to how you communicate with your audience, across all channels. Strategic messaging (internal and external) is core to building powerful engagement and positive organisational culture.

This starts with developing a communications strategy for your business. As with any strategy, this won’t remain static but will change as your business evolves. This means that every now and then, your communications strategy will need a refresh.

For more on how to approach that refresh, keep reading!

What is a communications strategy?

First, let’s step back and talk about the communications strategy.

A communication strategy forms part of a broader communications framework that also includes a communications plan (a schedule for what you will communicate, to whom and when) and brand voice guidelines (read more about that here). Your communications framework will seek to answer the questions:

  • Who will be using the framework (internal marketing team, all employees, consultants, etc.)?
  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What message do you want them to receive?
  • How will you try to reach them?

Within the framework, the communications strategy covers:

  • Business objectives
  • Communications goals – how will what you communicate help you achieve your business objectives?
  • The positions/roles responsible for various types of communications – e.g. CEO, Marketing Manager, Social Media Manager
  • Stakeholders involved or impacted by the communications
  • Audience(s) – e.g. employees, clients, customers, shareholders
  • Key messages to communicate
  • Relevant communication channels – e.g. website, social media platforms, media
  • Periodic reviews

Having a communications strategy enables consistency in your brand messaging to establish your brand identity. Reviewing this strategy periodically helps to ensure the message being communicated remains relevant and continues to be effective.

Reviewing your communications strategy

A good place to start when reviewing your business’ communications strategy is by looking at your business objectives.

How have your objectives changed since the last time the strategy was updated? Does your approach to communications still help you achieve these objectives?

If your objectives have changed and you answer “no” to the second question, then this should prompt an exercise to revisit your communications goals, which will likely have a flow on effect to other elements such as your audience and key messages to communicate.

If your objectives remain the same and you believe your communications approach continues to meet these objectives, it’s time to zoom out and look at your industry and competitor landscape.

Consider the industry landscape

Your communications strategy should to some degree be influenced by what’s happening in your industry right now. The extent to which depends on the nature of the industry and your business.

For example, you might provide financial services products in an environment where interest rates are fluctuating and there is much uncertainty. This may not have been the case when you first developed your communications strategy but is something to consider as you review how you communicate with your target market.

Another factor to consider when reviewing your communications strategy is what’s trending. What are your customers or potential customers talking about? What seems to engage them more than anything else?

If trending topics are aligned with your business goals and values, then think about how you can gear your communications towards addressing these topics. Ask the following questions:

  • Does this change or build on our underlying message?
  • Who are we speaking to?
  • Through what channels are we speaking to them?
  • Is this a short, medium or long-term shift in our communications strategy?

Look at your competitors

After you’ve looked at the wider industry for more context for your communications strategy review, it’s time to look at your competitors.

To help shape your communications strategy, it’s important to gather market intelligence on who you’re competing with so you’re aware of their communications activities. This awareness should help you determine how to differentiate your own message and stand out.

Now, you can do this manually but it’s a time-consuming process if you want to stay on top of changes to competitor communications. Media monitoring tools can be useful for ongoing analysis.

When you do conduct your analysis, look at things like:

  • Competitor websites – what do they communicate as their unique value proposition? Based on that, who is their target market? What types of content do they feature on their website?
  • Social media platforms – how many followers do they have? Who is their target audience? What’s their engagement rate? What types of content do they post?
  • Media coverage – how often do they appear in the media? What are they saying in the media? Is the sentiment positive, negative or neutral?

Once you’ve done this thorough research, you’ll have a better idea of the opportunities for your business to craft communications that are set apart and attract the right audience.

As important as a communications strategy is for effectively communicating your message with the world, it can easily fall to the wayside in favour of other pressing issues.

I get it. But you want to prevent that from happening if you can. Here are a couple of ways you can do that:

#1 – In the “review” section of your communications strategy, include more than how often you plan to review the strategy. Also address trigger-based reviews – what events or occurrences would prompt a review of the communications strategy sooner than the usual periodic (annual, for example) review?

#2 – Outsource the review and hire a communications specialist or writer to help you make it happen, even with your competing priorities (shameless plug – you can reach me here).

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