Imagine this scenario; you and a friend are far apart in a very crowded and noisy place, and you have a dire need to immediately pass important information to your friend, how are you going to go about that?
Shouting into the crowd hoping that you are heard and understood by your friend will likely not work out effectively. Your best line of action will be to think up a strategy to get your friend’s attention and get your message across. You may decide to send a text, pass the message through someone, pass a written note or try to get closer to your friend.
The above scenario is exactly the situation of the business world of today; the business world is filled up with so many actors and players – brands, competitors, consumers, partners, and various stake holders – all trying to talk and be heard at the same time. This makes the business world a “noisy and crowded” space. Despite this “rowdy” nature, brands still have a need to communicate with their audience. Therefore, for a brand to communicate effectively, it has to communicate strategically.
Within the communication space, the term “strategic communication” has become a buzz word communication practitioners constantly throw up in the air to appear sophisticated, but have we sat down to understand what this concept really means and how it can be applied by brands?
Scholars and communication professionals have viewed strategic communication as an umbrella term which covers a variety of communication-related professions and activities, such as public relations, brand communication, advertising, and more. Although the term “strategic communication” is not new, it has only recently been discussed as a cohesive instrument. Hallahan et al. in their book Defining Strategic Communications defines strategic communication as the purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission.
Creating clear goals and understanding how audiences attitudes, behaviors, or perceptions will support those goals is what makes a communication strategic. The implication of this is that, for a brand’s communication to be strategic, it must involve high level planning, analysis and execution.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected through new forms of communication,
Strategic communication is with no doubt one of the essential elements every brand must utilize, so as to align its communication goals with its business goals.
Strategic communication has proven to be even more important because most businesses today, have multiple audiences and stakeholders, all with diverse needs. Therefore, the nature of communication that is needed is different for each stakeholder, this makes communication and the communications process a very complex one that needs careful and efficient execution.
Strategic Communication has certain characteristics, key elements and tenets that must be identified, understood and utilized to ensure efficiency. These elements include, but are not limited to;
Target audience selection
For communication to be strategic, the target audience must be intentionally and carefully selected. Audiences can be divided into two broad categories; Internal and external. Audiences for internal communication messages include employees, investors, and managers. Audiences for external communication messages include customers, influencers, and the news media. Once the main audience has been selected, it should be analyzed. This involves examination of attitudes, values, and beliefs.
Intentional message design
Strategic communication has to do with a great level of thought, planning, and analysis. It is not simply putting out a nice advertisement or sending a tweet or post on social media without thinking about the impact or implications of the message, and how it help achieve communication goals. Whether you want to cultivate positive associations with the organizations brand, raise awareness of a new product, connect with key stakeholders in a meaningful manner, whatever the goal is, it must begin with a well-defined purpose and this purpose must be considered throughout the process of creation and implementation. Additionally the communication goal must go hand-in-hand with the organizations goal. Strategic communications also help to understand social and psychological context of the message in order to get desired impact.
Appropriate platform (s)
There is a saying in the communication industry go where your audience is. A large part of strategic communication involves choosing the right platform to communicate to your key audiences. In this age of boom of communications technology, it is difficult to determine the particular platform to reach your key audience, however it is possible. If this is not done well, the whole communication efforts can be futile.
Calculated timing of message
The timing of the message must be appropriate as a message wrongly timed can amount to a waste of efforts and recourses. For instance the world is battling COVID-19, and it is adviced that people practice physical distancing; it will be awful for a brand to start sending out messages to promote a concert.
The impact hoped to be made and result hoped to be achieved must be determined at the very beginning of the process. At the planning stage the result to be achieved should be stated and metrics and KPIs for determining them must be clearly indicated.
Measurement is one of the most important aspects of modern day communications. If a message is communicated, the impact made should be measured, in order to ascertain if success is achieved or not. Measurement in this digital age is quite easy compared to the days of only traditional media. Through measurement, it will be easy to identify where mistakes are made and where improvements can be made.
The major take out from all these is, communication is universal, people and brands communicate every day, but communicating efficiently and strategically is an art, time, resources and a great deal of creativity goes into it. What most brands do is join the band wagon, get drowned in the noise and lose money. It is time for you and your brand to start making the most of communication, by communicating strategically.