There are myriad ways that you, and a host of other people in your organization, can spend your budget on promoting your services, products, and organization: community events, trade shows, advertising, social media, networking, public relations. The list goes on forever. But determining the right mix of strategies and tactics to deliver the best ROI can be overwhelming.
Tracking and measuring the effectiveness and success of your communications and outreach efforts can be confusing as well. How do you measure awareness levels? Did the event result in leads or sales? Should I even expect to see results in the first year? Is social media necessary? How does all of this work together? Is my brand effective?
While planning isn’t always the most exciting part of communications and outreach, with most of us creative beings wanting to move quickly to the concept and development phase, effective communications is always a result of a sound strategy. No way around it. The planning and strategy has to come first. If you don’t proceed this way, then you run the risk of building your program on a bad foundation. This can be costly and very time consuming.
It’s always more efficient and effective to do it right the first time, developing the strategy prior to the creative development or outreach. Putting your budget toward building a solid brand is much more efficient, for example, than having to spend resources on undoing inappropriate messaging or bad public relations.
Essentials of a good communications and outreach plan include analysis (including target audience identification), measurable objectives and strategies, messaging, tactical plan with rollout strategy, and metrics.
There are a number of ways to develop your strategy or plan. I’ve found the most effective approach to be one that starts with leadership and then involves key staff members to build consensus and ownership along the way.
Some of our most successful campaigns and brands are ones that incorporated facilitated meetings. These meetings not only help us arrive at important messaging such as the brand positioning statement, but also build consensus and ownership around the strategy and emerging brand.
And yes, the tactical options can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t clearly defined your target audiences or what you’re trying to achieve. The best plans, by the way, integrate all communications and outreach activities and utilize a number of strategies and tactics to get results.
It’s not uncommon for the ROI question to get lost in the fray of all the excitement and the “trying on” of different ideas within an organization. The hype around the latest and greatest tactics, for example, social media or great, creative concepts from well-meaning staffers, can capture even the most grounded leader’s attention and focus.
Successful integration of tactics to connect you with your audience has to be carefully evaluated and integrated into the overall bigger picture, which starts with a clear understanding of “where you are, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there.”