Business strategic communication

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COMMUNICATING to clients and potential clients through the media is a challenge for every business, especially in areas where the media is controlled by other parties or interests.
But working strategically with the media can really pay off for your marketing campaign, allowing you to reach more buyers for your products or services with persuasive messaging.
However, a strategic communications plan will help ensure that your business maximises every opportunity to inform, inspire and motivate your market through the media. This instalment covers the tools and skills needed to build this communications plan, which will draw attention to our marketing campaign from both traditional (television, radio and newspaper) and new media (Internet, blogs and social media).
Strategic communication plan
A strategic communications plan, or media strategy, is a plan for getting positive coverage of our marketing campaign through the media. Marketing campaigns benefit greatly from a well-run media outreach programme. There are a number of important distinctions to make you begin to define your strategic communications plan. Firstly it is important to understand your media landscape in terms of nature, scope and reach. The term media refers to any means of communication designed to deliver information and influence large audiences. This includes newspapers, television, radio, social networking sites, etc.
It is therefore important to note that each of the various aspects of media listed here will play a role in your strategic communications plan to a different degree, depending on the local environment and what you want to achieve.
Earned media versus paid media
However, some marketing campaigns rely more on earned media than paid media, for financial reasons. In this situation, your campaign is in less control of how much coverage it will get as well as how it is represented in the media. One of the main purposes of constructing a media strategy is to ensure that the message that appears in the newspapers, on the news or in a blog is the one that we want our target audience to see and hear.
Your strategy should seek to maximise your media opportunities, but it should also support your campaign’s overall goals and work in partnership with all other parts of your campaign, such as customer contact platforms. For example, your efforts to connect with customers and your customer base for your campaign are good news stories, so your communications strategy should operate in collaboration with these efforts rather than in isolation.
Messaging or content marketing
It is important to note that, throughout this discussion of communication strategies, it is vital to keep in mind that none of these efforts will be effective until we have defined our campaign’s core messages for our target audiences. Unless we know what we are going to say to our audience and which target market we need to reach, there is no point trying to get media coverage. Media coverage without a clear message risks confusing potential clients, representing our campaign poorly or even alienating the target market
Working with the media
Developing good working relationships with the media will result in more, and better, coverage of your campaign. By understanding reporters’ needs and making sure you are prepared to respond to them, you will provide the media with what they need to cover your story. Reporters, bloggers and editors will be more likely to make the decision to cover your campaign if they know you or a member of your team, and if they are convinced that your product is viable and has a real base of clients. First impressions make a big impact, so make sure that when you meet with reporters the first time, you convey to them your campaign’s message and the kind of client base you have.
Organising effective media events
Organising your own media events is a great way to influence the kind of coverage your campaign gets in the press. A media event is any campaign activity designed to generate press coverage. Media events can be site visits to locations (schools, health centres, factories, parks) to highlight certain issues, campaign activities (meetings, door-to-door canvassing), speeches, and debates. Media events are more interesting for the press to cover than press briefings because there is an \0activity to report on and usually a visual image to show.
The media toolkit
No matter what type of campaign you are running, being prepared to work with the media will save you time and help you get more favourable coverage. Take some time early in the campaign to put together your media toolkit, which is an assembly of all the basic documents and pieces of information that you will need whenever you engage with the media throughout the campaign.
New media communications
New media platforms, such as social networks and video hosting sites, are an inexpensive and efficient way to get your message to a large number of clients and potential clients who are online and use new media. However, they also take considerable time and effort to manage consistently and effectively. New media can be an effective way to maximise a number of campaign objectives.
The costs for setting up your campaign’s presence on these platforms are relatively low, and the platforms have the potential to reach a wide audience and distribute your message quickly to potential market. Most of these media are interactive and offer new opportunities to listen to and engage with the public.

Robert Mandeya is an executive coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of the Leadership Institute for Research and Development (LiRD). — robert@lird.co.zw, info@lird.co.zw or +263 772 466 925.

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