Communications can either make or break your market, and when you’re working in an intergovernmental organization like the European Union or United Nations, every bit of strategy helps. Marketing communications is worth its weight in gold as it captures the attention of beneficiaries, community-based organizations, and strategic partners alike and informs them of your programming and the excellent work your organization does. Even better, though, robust communication strategies are a surefire way to ensure maximum visibility. This article will go over crucial tactics you need to include within your communications and visibility plan, how strategy can impact your organization, and how to implement it most effectively.
Keys to Developing an Effective Communications and Visibility Plan for Your Intergovernmental Organization
What a Communications Strategy Is and What It Is Not.
Fundamentally, a marketing communications strategy is an effort to reach your target audiences through communication. Your organization could communicate these strategies through a host of methods such as television, radio, social media, games, events, graphics, publications, emails, public speaking, or any other medium that can communicate the message effectively. However, “communications strategy” is a mouthful, which is why many often use a shorthand: Public Relations, or PR, interchangeably.
Now, let us be the first to tell you: public relations and a communications strategy are NOT the same things. Sure, they may be closely related—both serve as forms of communication between an organization and its beneficiaries, investors, and the general public. However, the critical difference is that public relations often imply the relationship between an organization and the larger public. Communication strategies instead focus on promoting an organization’s products or services to its beneficiaries.
When it comes down to it, there are three essential aspects to the strategy: the message, the target, and the medium.
The message is what you want to say.
The target is who you are speaking to.
The medium is what channels you are using, in other words, where your message is to be said.
Each aspect is equally important. A successful communications strategy almost always frames these three elements in a complementary manner. This builds trust in your organization, reaches the right audiences, and achieves a positive ROI.
Key #1: Set Concrete, Clear Goals and Objectives
There’s nothing worse than jumping the gun, and we’re all guilty of doing it in one way or another in communications. As tempting as it may seem, trying to take the bull by the horns without planning is a common yet troubling pitfall. It can often lead to mismanagement down the road, or worse, overwhelm your staff, often leading to the strategy never getting off the ground. With concrete, clear goals and objectives, you mitigate that risk, managing it in smaller, clear milestones.
We recommend referring to the SMART system, illustrated by the Coaching Tools Company, to set your communication strategy goals into a viable roadmap.
Key #2: Pinpoint and Prioritize Your Target Audiences
Speaking of jumping the gun, it’s equally as important to identify who your target audience is before you begin. Further, if you want to gain the attention of a different audience, be sure to segment the audience based on common needs or interests, then craft your message specific to that audience.
Perhaps the easiest way to segment your target audience would be to conduct surveys or interviews. Be sure to ask questions about their values, needs, wants, and so on. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions to have an easier time developing your audience:
- What groups or individuals do you want/need to engage to help you reach your goals?
- Who would benefit the most from your organization?
- What actions do you want the audience to take?
- Who do you generally engage in your programs, projects, and initiatives?
- What are the challenges that hold back your supporters from contributing, if any?
- What do your supporters have in common?
- How do individuals find your organization? What is the easiest method? (e.g., social media, events, word of mouth, etc.)
These surveys are often more important than people realize. They are crucial for creating highly targeted marketing messages that your audience can relate to. Once you have gathered enough data on your target audience and know what they want, you’ll be able to move on to the next step.
Key #3: Craft an Important, Compelling Message
Regardless of who it is, target audiences will have different motivators and barriers that are quite different from one target to the next. Therefore, the last thing you want to do is have a too general message because otherwise, it will fall short. Always try to keep your message clear, concise, personalized, and uncomplicated—because it won’t do any good if your message is buried in jargon.
Often, compelling messages can be quite challenging to form, even if you know the behaviors that drive your target audience. Here are four key elements that must be tailored to each audience:
- The Key Message – The core takeaway, or message, that you want your audience to know.
- The Secondary Message(s) – A secondary message is supporting information that helps bolster your key or original point.
- Proof Points – A proof point is precisely what it sounds like: factual evidence that affirms your earlier messages.
- Call to Action – Perhaps the most important aspect, a call to action instructs your audience to contact your business.
Key #4: A Little Integrated Strategy Never Hurt Anybody
This is where the communications plan comes in. While an integrated strategy sounds intimidating, that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. Strategies bring a blend of communication goals, tactics, and methods that you employ to devise the best possible plan that works for your organization. PivotPath can help you with this, as we did for the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone.
Many frameworks could help brainstorm what approach you want to take in communication, but the most widely-known framework is the PESO model, originally illustrated below by Spin Sucks.
The PESO Model places the highest importance on the following information:
- P: Paid Media — Promotional efforts such as social media ads, sponsored posts, and native advertising, all of which involve paying for placements on third-party channels. These include native advertising, event sponsorships, paid search such as Google AdWords, etc.
- E: Earned Media — Buzz generated by the public (e.g., the press, your audience, your communications team, etc.) through traditional public relations, word of mouth, television, influencer marketing/relations, etc.
- S: Shared Media — Content on social media channels designed to prioritize driven engagement between an organization and its audience. This includes social media content (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and user-generated content like reviews, videos, comments, etc.
- O: Owned Media — Your organizations’ media—websites, blogs, events, etc.
When developing your tactics, be wary of the 80/20 rule. It states that you should only allot 20 percent of social media content for direct tasks (i.e., donations, event registration, etc.) and allocate the remaining 80 percent for building community through engaging content.
Key #5: Build Up Your Budget
Setting up a budget plan means that your organization must account for financials at all project steps. Being effective and cost-effective is the name of the game. Getting cost-effective press for your business through influencers, journalists, and bloggers with stories of your organization, brand, and products. Be sure to contact people linking similar content or even utilize tools such as Crunchbase or JustReachOut. Building a budget is also a fundamental resource for assessing your plan’s return on investment.
To get building, it helps to consider the following:
- Does your organization have an existing budget allocated for communications activities?
- How much will each line item in the tactical portion of your plan cost?
- If applicable, what are the projected vs. actual costs for previous campaign implementations?
Your budget should serve as a guardrail to help keep your plan on time and track. To avoid frivolous spending, be sure only to allot spending within your budget unless you’re confident that you absolutely need it.
Key #6: Map Out an Actionable Timeline
The final key in any strategy is to map out your activities in a timeline. Believe it or not, timelines are essential in ensuring that you stay on track when transitioning from the planning phase to the implementation phase. Monthly or quarterly timelines apply to these types of marketing strategies, but be sure to keep in mind any significant events and holidays that you want to leverage, as it could be a worthwhile endeavor.
An innovative, well-rounded communications plan can reward your time, patience, and effort and ensure that you launch a successful campaign, program, or service. However, be sure to tailor the steps to achieve the best goals you’re aiming for. Again: this is NOT a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Be sure to take notes if an aspect of the plan does not work out.
Key #7: Monitoring Your Success – Evaluation
Even when your organization has pulled the plan off, it’s just as important to monitor the plan’s effectiveness. Was there a shift in audience or supporters? Were people responding to your community insights? Regardless, marketing is the engine that drives attention and engagement to your brand and values. Marketing measurement tools like Google Analytics, marketing analytics software, and surveys will help you see what works versus what doesn’t in terms of engagement through your marketing efforts.
Are you interested in developing an effective communications plan for your business? Contact PivotPath today to schedule a free consultation to improve your marketing strategy!