Why this is important
The purpose of a communications strategy is simply to answer this question: How can a company change the way it communicates to be more successful?
The operative word here is change. But change for the better is difficult to achieve if the strategy is unfounded in consumer insight or industry data. It’s also difficult to engage people in your strategy if it’s not accessible and compelling.
A well-articulated strategy should tell a story in the same way that any movie or book does. There’s a depiction and acknowledgement of the present situation. Then there’s the breakdown, innovation, shift or shock that disrupts the situation and is the driver of change. The response to this shock is the change itself. Resolution, acknowledgement and measurement are the actions that ‘lock in’ the desired shift and ensure it becomes part of an ongoing process of evolution and improvement.
The construct for a strategic communications plan
There’s no perfect format for a strategic plan. The critical feature is the thinking behind it.
We subscribe to the pilot’s adage for charting a course from one point to another; navigate from the big features to the small.
It’s the same with planning your strategy. To ensure situational awareness through the planning process, we’ve developed a planning approach that we feel delivers simplicity and clarity.
From the beginning…
The DPR&Co approach to strategy is based on the following overarching principles:
- Begin with a statement of strategic intent – The DPR&Co approach to strategy is based on the following overarching principles.
- Apply the strategic intent to the strategic pillars of the business that will be impacted by the change.
- Bring expertise and stakeholder support to the process from the very beginning and maintain the connection until the objectives of the strategy have been met.
We help our clients to engage fully in the strategic process rather than getting drawn into detail – a cause of so many strategies never being completed or acted upon (or even read by the executive of a firm).
Building out a strategic plan
The key components of a strategic communications plan are as follows:
We like to place our executive summaries into a table as it forces us to be concise and to-the point.
Background and context
This is the opening to the story where we articulate and agree on:
- The present state for the organisation presented as much as possible in hard metrics. It’s likely that these metrics will underpin the KPIs we use to measure our success).
- The main players or influences in the story and what we need to know about them to understand the context of the strategy.
- External trends and recent market shifts.
- What it is that has triggered the need to consider doing things differently
Here, we work with you to describe your marketing and communications objectives concisely and carefully. We call these strategic pillars. Addressing more than 3-4 pillars in a strategy is probably unrealistic.
For each pillar, we apply quantitative as well as qualitative (or soft) measures.
Your project stakeholders having already engaged since the very beginning of the strategy development, the next priority is to map the audiences impacted by the strategy and the communications that follow. As a rule, we like to map 3 types of audiences:
- Primary – those who we directly need to impact and whose behaviour or views we need to influence – often those with the greatest propensity to respond to the strategy.
- Secondary audiences – those who may be influencers or gatekeepers for the primary audience.
- Eavesdropper audiences – those who are downstream from the decision-makers but have a need to understand or be aware of the brand or strategic shift.
Tiering your audiences is not always as simple as it seems. In some instances, your strategy may require you to address audiences in unconventional ways. See a case study involving a legendary Australian brand here.
At this point, your key messages should be shaped to respond to the issues your data and research are pointing to as priorities.
These are the messages that the target group need to understand about the strategic shift. They need to be straight and clear. Later, they will be used to develop the architecture of your campaign planning and development process.
It’s not enough to say this will be a digital or integrated strategy. And there are a few people involved in understanding the combination of channels that will deliver your message at the right time and place with the right context. Some of these roles may be multi-tasked or merged, but broadly, we mobilise the following team for you:
- Agency planning manager – this is a data-informed, strategic role of synthesising the combination of channels and the most compelling ways to use them. Between the planner and the media strategist, the business case for the plan should also be formulated.
- Media strategist – this is the role of understanding how the relative benefits of different channels can be leveraged to optimise target audience reach and frequency with maximum effectiveness and ensure you get the right data in the right dashboard-style format. See Media Strategy later in this document for more detail.
- Digital manager – the role of managing SEO/SEM, programmatic and media buying through digital channels and provides inputs into the dashboard.
- Media trader – for above the line media, an accredited media trading house will provide the required credit insurance and facilitate the media booking and financial transaction.
The deliverable includes:
- A media strategy and rationale
- Target metrics
- Dashboarding approach
- A detailed and costed media plan with timelines
Assessing audience needs, map the campaign assets required to deliver on the objectives, then determine which, if any, existing campaign assets can be used in their current form or an evolved form. Given that our channel mix needs to be served by these assets, our advice is to find a balance between practicality (usually driven by cost) and effectiveness.
Deploy, test and learn
In our experience even the strongest campaigns can be made significantly more effective through the test-and-learn process. Learnings derived through digital media can be applied to mainstream media allowing for ongoing increases in ROI.
Regular dashboard workshops, quarterly performance reviews and semi-annual or annual brand health tracking enables the evolution of the campaign to extract maximum value from the assets created. These measures also enable us to establish when a plan or campaign is losing momentum, at which time we recommend re-assessing the business challenge and beginning the strategy development process anew.
Having been through all these steps, you’ll have a comprehensive roadmap to a winning strategy. More importantly, you’ll have a very good idea about projected ROI. This will have been triangulated between the insights, propensities and projections highlighted in the analytics and research processes cross referenced with benchmarking comparisons based on brand share of voice and relative investment in exposure.