In a time where news crosses the world in a heartbeat, you can sink or swim by what you say and how you choose to deliver your message.
While many organisations focus on visual brand, fewer think about the language they use to get their message across.
Do you want to sound friendly or formal? Who are your spokespeople? What are the potential risks you need to manage? And do you have a plan in place to act quickly to protect your reputation if disaster strikes?
A consistent experience of your brand over time will help it to be seen as more trustworthy and be remembered for all the right reasons, so it pays to get the scaffolding in place.
Here are some things to think about when planning your communications strategy for your organisation or next campaign.
1. Who is your audience? Few brands or categories can truly target ‘everyone’ and even fewer have the budget to even try. Be realistic about who needs to know or who will care about what you have to say. Who are they? Where are they? What problems can you solve? What will hold them back? The more you understand your audience, the more likely they are to understand you.
2. What do you want from them? Is what you’re saying of value to them? And will they understand what you want them to do next? People are busy and bombarded. If you are burying your ‘click here’ button at the bottom of your email, not A/B testing your email subject lines, or don’t have people on standby to take calls, then there’s definitely room for improvement.
3. Is it easy for them to respond? If you want them to do something as a result of your communication, then make it obvious and easy. You’d be surprised how many times a link goes to a page that seems unrelated or the email address is for a mailbox that no-one monitors. And make sure you’re testing the link text – there’s usually a big difference in response between phrases like ‘Book now’ and ‘Learn more’.
4. How do you want to sound? Your category, audience and the channel you use has the most impact on this. But so does your brand personality. Some brands can be more playful, others less so. Generally, aim for simpler words and shorter sentences. For example, the way I write a social media post is different to how I’d approach writing a speech or crafting a media release.
5. Who is your spokesperson? In the media space in particular, you need someone who knows the topic and is authorised to speak on behalf of the organisation. They should have had some level of media training so they can stick to key messages and deflect curly questions. And if you’re quoting your spokesperson in your media release, make sure they’re available for interview and not about to jump on a plane for the next 24 hours.
6. What channels will you use? The message, audience and organisation will all have a bearing on how to get the message out. Publishing to your website with a link to it from social, sending an email are standard. But don’t forget advertising, PR and the post – a letter or postcard in the mailbox is harder to miss than an email in an overflowing inbox.
7. Are you prepared for a crisis? Unfortunately any organisation can find itself in a situation that could cause significant damage to their brand – fraud, sexual harassment and negligence leading to injury or death to name a few. If you haven’t mapped potential risks and put some form of communication crisis plan in place, you place unnecessary pressure on yourself to control the message on the run in a high-pressure situation.
Before you plan your next campaign, write a story for your website or next newsletter, or start developing a social media content plan or next annual report, take a step back.
If you’re not confident that you are making the most of the limited time you have to impress your audience and want a fresh perspective to help you see things more clearly, then it’s time to get in touch.