Stanton Communications has enjoyed wonderful new business success in recent weeks. With each new client engagement, we take time to assess why we were chosen, what factors or attributes made a favorable impact on the decision makers, and what we might learn that would help us do even better the next time.
Lately, we find a common denominator in nearly all of our wins is the emphasis we place on communication strategy. While always a priority, it seems recently to have taken on even greater importance as corporations and organizations go to great lengths to ensure their programs are properly focused and resources prudently applied. There simply is no room for guesswork or trial and error when budgets are tight and the expectations for success are great. It continues to be nice to present prospects with a creative big idea. What they are far more interested in, however, at least based on recent experience, is how that idea arose, what logic supported its creation, and what steps were taken to validate the wisdom of the approach.
In our focus on communication strategy, we leverage a disciplined process that is both intuitive and applicable across a broad spectrum of enterprises. It features four central characteristics that can serve as guidelines for anyone faced with the challenge of developing a truly strategic plan.
The best programs are created with the full participation of key stakeholders. In-depth interviews with program participants, outside audiences and organizational leadership are essential before the program is drafted. While careful media analysis and a communication materials audit provide an analytical perspective, stakeholder engagement uncovers perceptions and attitudes that inevitably impact decision-making about the communication program. Stakeholder engagement that is personal and direct elicits the best insights from influential individuals while the communications plan is in its formative phase. The knowledge and perspectives we gain from these discussions not only help us frame the program plan, they also begin an ongoing process of providing these professionals a sense of inclusion in the program’s ultimate implementation and success.
We also undertake a structured approach to communication in terms of program organization and delivery. Our strategic plans visually depict the full spectrum of communications recommendations and program elements. This unique presentation, or architecture, allows the comprehensive communications program to be viewed in its entirety, from the overarching mission, goals and business objectives that guide the program, through to the specifics of messaging, audiences, and tactical implementation.
The architecture of the program also provides a framework that allows enterprise leadership to see how each communications strategy and tactic relates to one another, how it shapes the recommended approach, and how it correlates with the overall goals of the organization.
The graphical presentation of the program not only provides an at-a-glance view of the initiative, but also serves as a device for periodic program reassessment. Rarely is any communication program set in stone for perpetuity.
The very design of the presentation is such that it encourages ongoing review and evaluation to confirm the appropriateness of strategies, messaging and outreach. It also facilitates a periodic reassessment of the program’s overall effectiveness at key milestones along the way. Based on that evaluation, appropriate course corrections may be adopted to ensure long-term success.
Gone are the days when ad equivalency or total impression numbers are acceptable metrics of success. Today, communication programs must support business objectives and be measured against business performance. Taking a structured approach to program strategy facilitates a precise alignment of program components with specific and quantifiable outcomes.
It also allows for a consideration of the ways in which program elements complement and support one another so that as the program evolves, the greatest emphasis can be placed on those elements producing the greatest return.
All communicators talk about strategy, but not all can tell you how they go about it. If recent new business discussions and results are any indicator, having a clearly defined and disciplined process can make all the difference.