PivotPath

6 Actionable Steps to Keep Your Residents Engaged & Informed

Although it might seem like things are getting better, we are still amid a global pandemic. We’re all stuck with a little less socializing and a lot more anxiety about the world. Regardless, it is crucial to keep your residents safe, happy, and healthy. As such, reaching out to the public to keep them engaged and informed is perhaps the best way to ensure that your organization and your residents are on the same page. There are a plethora of benefits that community building and engagement could bring. Here are six actionable strategies that you can start implementing to keep your residents engaged and informed.

6 Actionable Steps to Keep Your Residents Engaged & Informed

1. Give Your Residents a Platform to Express Themselves

Firstly, a community is nothing without its residents, and unsurprisingly, your residents are a critical factor in your community, whether you work in a nonprofit organization or a municipality. In the public sector, you work to improve the lives of your residents, and giving them a platform to express their opinions, share their experiences, and talk about the things that matter to them is vital for a healthy dialogue that will earn their trust and satisfaction. The more your residents feel like they are being heard, listened to, and valued, the more likely they are to remain in your community and on your platform.

Strategies like employing user-generated content are a handy way to bolster your online presence. It is also a foolproof way to demonstrate to your community that you care about their ideas, ideals, and values. Send out an email newsletter encouraging residents to share photos or posts through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook to win a prize. You can utilize Zoom or Skype to officiate a town hall meeting digitally, keeping the health of your residents in mind while also allowing your constituents to level with you with upcoming legislation or regulation. With your residents getting participation and engagement and your brand getting content, it’s one of the oldest tricks in the book and a win-win situation. Furthermore, this allows you to pinpoint your residents’ problems, annoyances, and worries, giving you the chance to identify and fix them.

2. Utilize Community Moderation

With any community, online or offline, the residents in that community will probably have varying opinions on any given issue. However, with the anonymous nature of the Internet, it’s essential to keep your community safe from offensive, inappropriate behavior. 

Moderating your community is vital in preserving a healthy outlook upon your community. While online, toxic behavior can spoil the atmosphere of your community and make your residents feel uncomfortable, as seen time and again through the many social media networks that have tried and failed to combat this behavior. Once a few bad apples are given free rein to post offensive comments under the guise of “free speech,” then it is almost inevitable that your residents will be affected negatively.

Therefore, to minimize the chance of that happening on a digital platform, it is best to have a hands-on approach to community moderation: be sure to plan a moderation policy. What language do you consider inappropriate? Should specific topics be off-limits? Be clear in your approach, with clear, understandable rules that use clear, understandable language, and enforce it. Perhaps you could even automate part of the moderation process, automatically detecting spam or setting specific keywords to delete or ban. Offline, however, is a bit different, as there is no automated system in an in-person meeting, for example. 

As such, if you’re moderating in-person events such as town hall meetings or panel discussions, you can ensure that the conversation goes smoothly by implementing these tips. Do thorough research on the topic(s) at hand. Meet the speakers before the panel. Manage time effectively by starting and finishing on time. Mix in audience questions throughout the discussion to ensure a conversational, more engaging dynamic. Most of all, don’t be afraid to cut the panelists off if they end up hogging the microphone.

3. Identify Your User Base for Community Development

Using community engagement strategies is not a one-size-fits-all process. Given the state of the world and your organization concerning it, it’s a safe bet to say that your user base is probably very diverse—a great thing, as it means that your reach is far and wide. However, as a previous article suggests, it can be challenging to approach a broad audience and ensure that everyone is receiving helpful information that matters to them. Therefore, identifying your main user base is one of the most important steps you can take when deciding how to keep your residents engaged.

It is crucial to operating as an organization rather than a business. Knowing your residents allows you to create a better service and increase awareness of your organization and its mission. You can do this easily by collecting data from focus groups and surveys and utilizing different media types such as radio and television to determine which reaches your core audience best.

4. Gamify

Gamification serves as one of the best, most engaging examples of resident engagement strategies that we have ever seen. As we grew up, gaming incentives hooked us throughout our lives, and that element often follows us into adulthood. Even in the short term, adding a gamified element to your marketing will encourage positive competitiveness. It will ensure the bonus of keeping your residents coming back for more. One of the main goals of gamification marketing is to increase user interaction. You can implement strategies like running contests or a loyalty reward program. These are all simple ways to “gamify” your marketing.

5. Talk With a Community Manager or Leader

Working with community leaders is a viable strategy to help engage the residents in your community by working with a person they trust. However, like most residents, you’ll want to start by identifying your community leaders by asking the following questions: 

  1.  Who do you already know? 
  2. Who does your staff, trustees, friends, or even foundation groups know? 
  3. Which organizations have you developed personal and professional relationships with?
  4. Who are the busiest and most visible residents in your community? 
  5. Who is already an advocate for your community? 
  6. Which organizations and people share the same values and mission as your organization? 

This is what we call “mapping out your community.”

After answering these questions, you can identify these community leaders and, more importantly, why the residents in your community elected them as a leader. After, you can evaluate how you want to contact these leaders—either through email, letter, or a personalized visit. You can even set up an interview with them to help gather information about the target community’s needs. From there on, you can build relationships and identify potential partners and collaborators to help you achieve your goals.

6. Welcome New Residents to Your Community

Welcoming newcomers isn’t exactly a new idea. Housewarming parties and neighborhood get-togethers had come up with it first. Regardless, welcoming new residents is an excellent way to make them feel valued. With this validation comes a much higher likelihood of engagement and involvement with your network. Something as simple as setting up a welcome email will do the trick. Your organization needs to acknowledge people for engaging and participating in your organization. You could also explain your organization’s mission and your community’s purpose. You could even give them ideas for their first piece of user-generated content. Simple, yet very effective.

Whether a nonprofit, a municipality, or a traditional marketing group, your organization must engage, retain, and inform your residents. Either way, it’s crucial for your group’s success. That’s why you should contact PivotPath today to see the latest tips, tricks, and guides to bolster community engagement and more.

Cultural Competency: Tips and Tricks on Communicating a Shared Message to a Multi-Cultured Audience

‘When in Rome, live as the Romans do; when elsewhere, live as they live elsewhere.’

The idea of conformity might be appealing to some, but it’s not that simple in the diverse, multicultural environment.

Part of the wonders of effective communication is maintaining a diverse audience. Even so, it’s essential to understand and confront our own biases, experiences, and values that shape the lens through which we view our reality. With the aid of cultural competency, you will be able to communicate to your multi-cultured audience with ease.

Cultural Competency: Tips and Tricks on Communicating a Shared Message to a Multi-Cultured Audience

What is Cultural Competency, and Why is it Important?

According to the American Psychological Association, cultural competency allows us to understand and respect values, attitudes, beliefs, and most importantly, to interact with people from cultures or belief systems that differ from our own—and is perhaps the most helpful tool in business and marketing that you can have at your disposal. Having been a key aspect of psychological thinking and in practice for some 50 years, it’s even become listed as one of psychology’s core competencies. In most aspects of life, but especially with marketing and politics, cultural competence in communication could be comparable to the “hitch” that holds you and your target audience together.

Most importantly, when you have an audience of several different cultural backgrounds, handling your cultural competency can differentiate between a well-communicated message and a poorly-communicated one. To have a good sense of multicultural competence, it’s important to have the following competencies:

  • Basic knowledge of your own culture, worldview, and values.
  • A willingness to learn about the cultural practices, worldviews, and values of others.
  • A positive attitude toward cultural differences and a readiness to accept and respect said differences.

In a globalized, increasingly diverse world, with diverse people—refugees, migrants, immigrants, citizens, and so on—anyone can be your audience, and you can gain valuable insight in interacting with a worldly audience. But, how do you communicate with everyone across the board in a leveled, realistic way?

1. Focus on Structure

When it comes to structuring—through presentations, social media, videos, blog posts, or whichever medium you choose—we recommend that you ensure that the message of your medium is understandable and easy to digest. Make it easy for your audience to understand and follow along. Logically structured messages also make it easier for you to relay your message.

When communicating your message, start with the most crucial aspect of it first. Background and detail aren’t as necessary as you would think. Rather than building up to it, order your thoughts by decreasing importance. Readers will have an easier time parsing your message, and you won’t have to waste time to deliver the point. Use bullet points to your advantage whenever there are three or more points you want to make. Use bold print sparingly: it draws your readers’ attention, but too much of it renders the attention moot. Be sure that the bold text is self-contained so that your readers can find it easily.

A consistent, coherent, and light format—consistent fonts, font sizes, spacing, and numbering—keeps the message’s readers’ attention. If you consider capitalizing words or sentences to get your reader’s attention, don’t. Writing in all uppercase hurts more than it helps as it is obnoxious, and your message will be remembered for the wrong reason.

2. Leave the Idioms Out

In marketing, humor and idioms can help get your message across, primarily effective if you and your audience share the same culture, humor, and language. However, if your audience shares varying cultures, leaving the humor out of the picture is most advisable. What is funny in one culture may prove to be confusing, or even offensive, in another, and you don’t want to risk a misfire. 

Avoid jargon and fancy words to help save the reader time and effort. Otherwise, you risk making your audience stop and think about what’s being said to them, breaking the piece’s flow. Writing shorter sentences is an excellent way to ensure that communication between your brand and your audience is easily digestible. Best of all, you won’t have to worry about them possibly missing the point. Because your audience is multicultural—quite broad, generally speaking—the message has a chance of being lost in translation with long, complex sentences. As such, writing at a 10th-grade level is recommended. This isn’t meant to disparage or insult the readers of your text, but instead, this is to help ensure that the message is received with little margin of error.

3. Research, Research, Research

An essential step in this article, research, allows you to do many things: from defining and understanding your audience and their issues to letting you know how best to get the message across. To connect to your audience, you need to understand why your topic is important to them, and in turn, why their attention is vital to you. Why should they care? Why does your topic matter to them? What motivates your audience as a whole?

However, when it comes to research in the vein of cultural competency, you should give as much attention to your audience’s culture as possible, too. These include linguistic preferences, cognition, ethnocentricity, values, and communication styles. Researching the cross-cultural differences of your target audiences is essential, and, whatever you do, don’t put them into one marketing box. Cultural norms and values influence how people think, act, and feel, and the people who identify with them often share both. Once you gain an understanding, implement these cultural standards and values into your messages. Similar to nonverbal signs and their meanings, we need to know and recognize different cultural tendencies. As an example, some cultures use “she” as their primary preferred pronoun. It could be the opposite in other cultures.

Knowing such intricacies could help you have an advantage over other business marketing firms with a multicultural audience. More importantly, though, research can help keep your multicultural audience and minimize linguistic and cultural fumbles.

4. Ask Questions and Rephrase Comments

While this part is a bit on the shorter side, it is nonetheless important. Checking in with audiences is a good habit to form. Better yet, asking questions and rephrasing comments is particularly useful with a diverse audience, as it could give you a chance to go over your message to anyone who might have missed it. Rephrasing a question also allows your audience to get clarification, and it can also help you gain clarification from your audience.

5. Craft Sensitive, Culturally-Relevant Messages

To ensure that your multicultural audience stays as your audience, you have to respect the people who comprise it. Crafting a campaign that respects and reflects their values and beliefs can be the most effective way to earn your audience’s trust. As such, basing your campaign on stereotypes and assumptions is the quickest way to lose said audience. Furthermore, it can damage your organization’s reputation, credibility, and you can lose your audience’s trust in one fell swoop.

Therefore, there are several things you must consider when crafting your content. If there is a demographic shift in your audience, research it and quickly identify their needs. Rather than merely announcing that you “want” to reach your audience, find out who they are through research, as said in an earlier point. If you want to create dedicated communities, you must develop content specific to those targeting groups. A good example of this is creating an online community that allows an organization to understand consumers’ experiences and hear their stories in their own words and culture. This way, they can trust that your organization reflects their values.

5. Be Prepared for Feedback

An often overlooked aspect of communicating with multicultural communities, preparing for your audience’s feedback helps you just as much as it helps them. Audience feedback allows you to avoid costly mistakes, helping generate goodwill in combination with the earlier points in this article. Whether on social media or paper, through surveys, polls, or focus groups, knowing what your audience is saying about your company is crucial for your results. Are they happy with your interaction? Do you engage with them?

Listen to your audience’s mentions. Host focus groups. Hire native speakers of your target market. You can even partner with a reputable translation service with native linguists. Precise expertise, who are best-equipped, can help you in any of the following. They can impart valuable advice for your product or service. They can also help you implement a cultural sensitivity strategy within your broader marketing objectives.

Multiculturalism, however broad it is, is one of the world’s greatest assets and accomplishments. It can fuel innovation and growth. It can foster friendships, business relationships, and more when people are exposed to different cultures. Here at PivotPath, we think this is incredibly valuable for this ever-changing world.

Do you have a multicultural audience, but you just don’t know how to address them? Are you a non-profit organization or agency looking to branch out to stakeholders and residents alike? Contact PivotPath today for a free consultation!

creating and maintaing coalitions and partnerships

Selecting the Right Communications Agency for Your Municipality

Selecting the Right Communications Agency for Your Municipality

When selecting the right communications agency for your municipality and looking at how many agencies are out there, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, flustered, and frustrated. Marketing might seem like a field traditionally reserved for for-profit businesses. But, certain aspects of local government, such as city branding, definitely take marketing skills. These marketing skills are your most valuable asset when communicating initiatives, raising awareness, and encouraging participation.

We know it can be easier to stick with the same marketing and communication consultants for projects, but this can keep your community in the spiral of unrecognition and lost revenue opportunities. Plus, new, innovative agencies can bring a fresh perspective to your team that has not been thought of, developed, or implemented before. We will cover some factors to consider when selecting the right communications agency for your municipality.

Government  Marketing and Communications: Why is it Important?

Municipalities are looked upon by their residents to advance their community development, health, education, recreation, and safety. They plan and pay for most roads, run public schools, and provide water. They organize police and fire services, establish zoning regulations and licensed professions. Perhaps most importantly, they arrange elections for their residents to help maintain peace, order, and good governance districts.

It’s not a far cry to assume that solid and transparent communications from your agency will create trust in your residents and hopefully inspire them to become more involved in their communities. As such, when this relationship solidifies over time, residents realize that their concerns matter. They are theoretically being listened to, after all. The more community engagement from both parties, the better informed your residents are on projects that affect their daily lives.

Realize Your Municipality Objectives

 Municipalities often face unique challenges—most often a unique mix of businesses, services, and infrastructure to support the needs and wants of their residents and stakeholders. Therefore, a community’s strategic growth must be the combined result of both short-term and long-term goals. Considering these goals is an integral first step to selecting the right communications agency for your local government. These goals may or may not include the following:

  • Improving community engagement and pride through community involvement, events, and volunteering
  • Fostering business development through land use planning, supporting, and engaging developers’ efforts
  • Enhancing tourism industry development through product development and promotion—both internal and external
  • Enhancing and engaging in community service objectives

Now, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all goal list: in fact, complex municipalities rarely have the same problems or solutions for it. However, these involved municipalities have well-defined goals and objectives that pinpoint what action should be taken as far as marketing goes. More often than not, this is where your marketing agency comes in. They think and operate using business objectives when implementing a proposed plan. They understand the “why” and the “how” behind their actions and communicate this to internal and external stakeholders.

Consider Your Stakeholders: Your Bread and Butter

It can be challenging to engage with a general audience with more corporate clients than a specific one. One of the more unique challenges that municipalities face, however, is the fact that these governments have a large number of stakeholders that cover just about every resident in that area, a comprehensive spectrum: residents, business owners, the general workforce, tourists, elected officials, even your municipal staff. Sometimes, people who aren’t even residents of the area are essential stakeholders: influencers like real estate brokers and developers, community partners, educational organizations, advocacy groups, and more.

Identifying your key stakeholders is the second step in ensuring that your communications agency will target the people you want. In addition, it is often best that you base your choice on which communication agency you will go with, depending on your stakeholders’ wants or needs and your goals. A successful government marketing agency will work to deliver a memorable message that is unique, understandable, and sets your region apart from other communities. It would help if you had a good handle on what matters to your stakeholders so that you can best meet their needs.

Personify Your Municipality

Here, you should take an honest look at your region and ask yourself: what makes it unique in the market? What problems can your municipality solve, and why is your solution the most coherent? In time, you will find that your answer often becomes your municipalities’ most important proposition as the foundation for your marketing messaging. A good communications agency will help you establish an identifiable “brand” emblematic of your region, a “personality” that helps define a consistent voice to convey your value propositions.

Some of the more famous examples of this phenomenon include Disney’s adoption of “the magician” in their brand or Harley Davidson’s adoption of “the grizzled biker outlaw.” Either way, both adoptions contribute to these brands’ sense of identity, conveying a specific appearance that their communications reflect. These could affect logos and taglines through marketing materials, including websites, signage, residential communications, advertising, sponsorship materials, and even events.

Be Sure to Establish A Budget

The size of your budget is less important than your objectives and the different capabilities needed to meet and exceed your municipality’s goals.

Still, it is also important to exercise discipline when developing your budget and picking the right communications agency. Undoubtedly, the size of said agency also plays a role in determining one, but be sure not to fall into the rabbit hole of “big budgeting for a big agency and smaller budgeting for a smaller agency.” 

Municipalities could also learn from the messaging tactics of businesses through a communications agency. Companies deliver messages to consumers in many ways, such as outdoor advertising, print, broadcast, and direct mail—and a communications agency, as it turns out, isn’t much different. Depending on the agency, they can do this in-house with either one employee, a small group, an entire marketing firm, or even outsource their branding tasks to on-call agencies. Some even do a particular combination of all four.

Regardless of which you pick, it is essential to realize that some tactics work better than others. For example, relying on an in-house marketing team increases the speed with which a city can respond and push out messaging during an emergency or crisis, as shown with the Zika virus in South Florida. With that in mind, team structures and partnerships are abundant, depending on each city’s branding and marketing needs. What works for one city might not work for another.

Ensure That You and Your Agency Are On the Same Page

Even more important when considering a specific communications agency is whether or not they “get” you. However, this doesn’t just cover this agency’s experience in your region or the industries within said region. Frequently, the best communications agencies can understand the problems you are having in the public sector. For example, suppose a stakeholder in your municipality has a problem with transportation or traffic congestion that extends their commute. In that case, a good communications agency should address the issue by giving updates to fix that issue. This way demonstrates genuine care for your stakeholders.

Review Your Results

Whichever agency you choose to hire, be sure to keep in mind the results of your efforts. Metrics are essential, especially in this day and age. Can the agency promote earned media coverage? Through ads to ensure stakeholders view, digest, and understand your municipality’s message, do they do so through ads? In the end, results are the most significant indicator of business success, just as much as government.

Revisit Your Long-Term Vision and Goals

Many businesses and organizations alike focus on quantifiable results and return on investment. These include factors like more clicks on a website, greater app use, a boost in event attendance, or greater recognition of a city’s logo and mission. Municipalities should also do the same to identify what did and did not work. Afterward, it’s essential to check up on your goals and your long-term vision with your municipality. Are you on the way to making that long-term vision a reality?

Are you running a municipality or some other form of governance? Have you found yourself stuck when it comes to marketing? Contact PivotPath today to schedule a free consultation to help improve your strategy. We’ll put you on the right path!

Keys to Developing an Effective Communications and Visibility Plan for Your Intergovernmental Organization

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!

What They Don’t Want You to Know: Top Tips From Successful African Business Owners

Africa is practically an economic goldmine, with thousands upon thousands of business owners, both big and small, revolutionizing various industries in the continent.  Countless countries have taken advantage of Africa’s flourishing economy and grew their start-ups into similarly flourishing enterprises. Whether in the East, the West, the North, or the South, running a business can be hard work, and you’re liable to face certain struggles. To mitigate these struggles, we have gathered several top tips from successful African business owners that ensure your business not only survives but thrives.

What They Don’t Want You to Know: Top Tips from Successful African Business Owners

1. Understanding the Market

To first become an entrepreneur, you must understand Africa’s market, consumer trends, and niches. Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to dedicate several hours to scrolling endless web pages. No one likes agonizing over whether or not their next revolutionary idea will fit in a neat little box. Instead, look to your local sources, like your neighborhood, for example.

However, if you really are stuck on ideas, it wouldn’t hurt to check out market research in Africa and the surrounding area. SIS International Research has several reports on the subject.

It is no secret that the African continent is home to a plethora of natural resources. With that comes growing consumer markets or, potentially, untapped ones. As such, certain companies taking notice with a discerning eye for competitive advantages and opportunities for growth. Housing the second largest population globally, Africa’s economy largely depends on natural resources for its agriculture and mining sectors to function.

Regardless of whatever business you decide to go into, make sure that the market for it is neither too narrow nor too broad. Try to tap into a market that is stable all year round rather than seasonal. Google Trends could show you how stable these markets are.

Case study: This much is the case with Hephzibah Ijeje, a 19-year-old economics student, humanitarian, business enthusiast, and co-founder of Recyclift. With Africa being the most susceptible to environmental challenges, including deforestation,  land degradation, and extreme vulnerability to climate change, Recyclift hopes to bring about sustainable development to her community.

2. Start Small

One of the most ubiquitous examples of starting small is the foundation of Amazon. Amazon started as a humble bookstore in Bellevue, Washington. Once the profits were stable, the bookstore slowly expanded into a different market: toys. As time went on, Amazon continued to break into different markets, ensure its stability, and continue until it became the powerhouse it is are today.

It is far easier to start a business with a narrow scope than a broad one. However, it isn’t enough to branch out into any other market once you have the scope. Instead, it would be best if you branched into relevant markets. Otherwise, you risk being unable to capture that market.

Aliko Dangote of the Dangote Group in Nigeria stresses this to young and budding entrepreneurs, in fact.”To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big.” He says, “In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.”

3. Developing Your Brand

A successful business owner, African or not, must always focus on their brand. It is often the first thing that potential customers notice, and it pays off to make a good first impression. Furthermore, a good brand will help set you apart from your contemporaries. It will also promote recognition and tells potential customers about the kind of company you helm. A strong brand can even help your company connect with your customers emotionally. This is especially correct if your brand and your customers hold similar values.

Tom Osborn, an African entrepreneur and community mobilizer, co-founded GreenChar, a social enterprise that provided clean energy for rural Kenyan communities and urban slums. In addition, he was named on the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list in Social Entrepreneurship, among other awards.

Osborn emphasizes that young entrepreneurs do their best to develop their business and personal brand. In fact, he considers it half the battle.

“I think in Africa there are a lot of young entrepreneurs who have great ideas but never get noticed or past the small-scale level,” He remarks. “I think one reason is that they poorly position themselves and the organisation. They don’t know how to tell their story. They don’t know how to create their brand. And I think that is also very important. Entrepreneurs should spend a lot of time not only on their products, but also on working out how they are going to sell them.”

4. Choosing the Right Business Partner

Something that many successful African business owners have is a business partner. Having a business partner is critical when your business expands. In fact, it is even preferable when your business is just starting. As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.”

Whether through networking, job postings, or personal connections, finding a partner whose skills complement your own can help you and your business in all ways. It can help plan, grow and run your business and help mitigate the stress of running that business. In addition, a partner that shares your values, your spirit and your vision are guaranteed to help you. You will have an easier time communicating with this person, making decisions, setting goals, and overall ensuring the health and survival of your business together.

An example of this would be Thato Kgalhayne and her co-founder, Rea Ngwane. Friends since childhood, the duo have developed a rewarding partnership by ensuring their personal friendship does not get in the way of business.

“When you form a business partnership with your friend, act as though you met that person that day. You can’t say because you’ve known your friend since grade four, you’ll work well together in business.” Kgatlhanye suggests, “No – you have known them since you decided to start a company together. So get to know your business partner as a business partner, not a friend, because business and friendship is a different ball game. And I think that’s the best advice. Get a business coach, be honest, leave the ego at the door and hustle.”

5. Building and Managing Your Team

Building a productive team is often more important than you think. With a good team working with you, you’ll find that a lot of your success will equate with your team’s. After all, it is much more efficient to work with a team in entrepreneurship than to work alone. You will find that your ability to lead and inspire is critical to your future just as much as your business’s. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll also find that once your team shows growth, your business will inevitably follow suit.

Many successful African business owners realize this, choosing members of their team after scrutiny. Some partners are childhood friends while others are hand-picked, but one lesson remains: they made sure that their team was confident and skilled.

Togolese entrepreneur Sam Kodo, founder of Infinite Loop, also acknowledges the importance of a flourishing team. Explaining that he and his team have complementary skills to make decisions, Kodo is a prime example of why building and managing your team is useful for an effective business.

“Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg might not have particularly been good businessmen or good administrators or even good at marketing, but what they did was surround themselves with people who have the competencies and skills to turn their [innovations and computer skills] into a company. When you choose a business partner, choose someone who complements you – not someone with the same skills.”

6. Motivation, Failure, and Perseverance

A business owner must always keep in mind that if you fail, it doesn’t hurt to try again. Entrepreneurship is difficult. In fact, perhaps the easiest thing about entrepreneurial success is how easy it is to get discouraged.

However, there are countless stories of entrepreneurs whose businesses have ended in disaster, and instead of giving up, they go on with their next idea. Whether there weren’t enough interested investors, or a lack of capital or funding, or an inadequate management team, a faulty business model, or unsuccessful marketing campaigns, it is important, if anything else, to treat these failures as the lessons that they are. Take notes on the precarious pitfalls that made you fail, and be sure to work better at them. Use those discouraging situations as learning experiences, and take the opinions of those who doubt you with a grain of salt. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, you must be brave to take that risk.

Chris Kirubi, founder of Centum Investment in Kenya, imparted a meaningful quote that has always rung true in the world of business: “Business is always a struggle. There are always obstacles and competitors. There is never an open road, except the wide road that leads to failure. Every great success has always been achieved by fight, every winner has scars. The men who succeed are the efficient few –they are the few who have the ambition and willpower to develop themselves. So choose to be among the few today.”

Are you interested in starting your own African business, or even just growing it? Contact PivotPath today to schedule a free consultation to improve your marketing strategy!