Personal Blog Post #3: New Frontiers in Strategic Communications

New Frontiers in Strategic Communications

Strategy is an imperative part of every public relations and communications initiative.

 Last Thursday, March 11, 2010 the International Association for Business Communicators (IABC) presented New Frontiers in Strategic Communications during its monthly chapter meeting at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda.  The presenters were Christine Nyirjesi, Managing Director at Weber Merritt Public Affairs, and Jeffrey Brooke,  Director of Employee Communication for the US Government Printing Office (GPO).

Christine Nyirgesy implied some of the best practices for implementing a successful communications strategy during the first half of the presentation. The information was a great refresher for public relations practitioners and a fundamental guide for new communicators.

The presentation began with the following definition of strategy, quoting David Moorcroft, SVP Corporate Communications of ABC Financial Group:

“A roadmap that aligns corporate communications in support of the company’s vision, goals, values, and priorities, thereby enhancing the corporate performance and reputation in a measurable way.”

Some of the keys points of the presentation were that professional communicators need to understand that they are performing a business function, as well as be able to explain their superiors in a coherent way how a communications strategy can be beneficial for the company’s success.

The 3 integral stages of building a communications plan as outlined in the presentation are:

–      Master Strategic Plan – high-level (mission, vision, values of a company or organization);

–      Operating Plan – mid-level (identifies issues, ways to address them, budget, timelines);

–      Project Plan: ground-level (specific for a project, similar to the operating plan).

Here are 10 easy steps for demonstrating your strategy:

  1. Identify the opportunity or need
  2. Research trends that can impact your strategy
  3. Understand the audience
  4. Establish goals
  5. Establish objectives
  6. Craft your message
  7. Define a real timeline
  8. Choose a delivery method
  9. Evaluate against the objective

10.  Make adjustments and repeat

Another essential point brought up at the presentation was that communication professionals of all levels need to be able to differentiate between goals and objectives.

Goals are where you are trying to be: boost visibility, enhance reputation, for example.

Objectives are much more specific: earned media, Facebook fans, sales, etc.

The presentation also touched on the importance of knowing your audience: who are they, what they want from you, what you want from them, how they communicate with you, and how you communicate with them.

Media Relations was not left out of the discussion being a core pr function.  Our story needs to be interesting and accessible to media and tied to a current trend. We also need to do a significant amount of research, find success or failure stories and validate our message. Measuring media is a step not be skipped either. Some of the most important criteria include the number of clips, the tone of coverage, the geographic reach, and whether the message was properly grasped and transmitted.

Last but not least, we need to measure our success. The objective and the evaluation process need to be aligned. Did our efforts bring us closer to achieving our objective and by how much?

During the second half of the meeting Jeffrey Brooke shared an interesting example of how he, in his position of Director of the United States Government Printing Office, played a key role in improving employee communication and engagement by using electronic billboards. The problem was that employees reported dissatisfaction with the agency-wide communications and employee recognition. An employee engagement survey revealed that employees felt unrecognized for their efforts. What the communication audit found was that communication channels individually scored great, however, the message penetration was not strong (employees not reading). Communication needed to deliver super-short, unavoidable messages, messages showcasing award recipients. So, a software package internally branded as link was introduced. It allowed content to be shown on PC monitors and wall-mounted monitors. The overall approach consisted of keeping employees’ attention with graphics, keeping messages short and simple, providing fresh content, driving them to more details in other publications. As a result, employee satisfaction increased with 19%.

It was a meeting definitely worth attending, not to mention the great networking opportunities.

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