Strategic Communications – Your Secret Weapon in a Recession

Strategic Communications
Your Secret Weapon in a Recession

With all the uncertainty in our political and socio-economic landscape, business confidence is nearly at its all time low. As with all things sentimental, the prevailing view tends to continue its trajectory until something breaks through to change the mood. South Africans certainly do have a lot to bemoan and ample cause for concern, but prolonging the ‘pity party’ isn’t going to help anything.

Rather than just battening down the hatches with the hope of riding out the storm, it’s time to get smart about the value drivers in your business and to adopt a more creative approach. In case you hadn’t noticed, sucking blood out of a stone doesn’t work. You need to understand and nurture your stakeholders and you need to elevate the importance of strategic communications in your business.

Strategic communications is not “PR”. It’s not about churning out meaningless press releases that are never going to get any coverage anyway. It’s about building your reputation and bottom line!

 

5 signs that you need a more Strategic Communications and less “PR”

To help with this process I have put together my top 5 “you’re doing it wrong” list. If this looks familiar in your company, it’s time you gave me a call!

 

  1. Your staff newsletter includes a classifieds section

Of all your stakeholders, your employees are without a doubt the most important. If they aren’t engaged and committed, then you’re not an effective organisation and nothing quite like a recession to separate the men from the boys!

There are a couple factors that drive this commitment, but communications is top of the list so if your version of internal communications is a meaningless weekly / monthly newsletter then don’t be surprised with high churn rates, performance management issues, poor service, faulty products, etc etc etc.

Good internal communications is the foundation of your company culture and requires careful planning along with detailed execution to get it right. You should never be too busy to make sure this is done properly!

 

  1. Your stakeholder engagement programme consists of an annual golf day

 

Apart from the fact that golf days are oh so passé, effective stakeholder engagement requires a detailed analysis of your value chain to determine who your stakeholders are, a mapping exercise to establish who influences whom, who is critical to which issue and how the various actors feel about you. Only once you have this info can you put together a tailored programme of engagement.

 

Whilst having the boss take key clients to lunch is not bad, you really need to approach this critical area of strategic communications more strategically. Your stakeholders will make or break your business so best you up your ante!

 

  1. Your website was last updated two years ago

 

I hate to have to break the news to you, but building it once and forgetting about it is probably worse than not building a website at all. Technologies change so you have to constantly manage your search engine optimisation and you have to have really good content. Your website should be the hub of your digital eco-system with an ongoing, proactive stream of content to support your desired positioning with all stakeholders, including customers. It’s not just a place where you upload the odd press release! To get this right you need a holistic, strategic communications strategy that is fully aligned to your business strategy with the technical competence to bring it to life…

 

  1. You don’t have a Communications Director or worse yet, your Marketing Director is responsible for Communications

 

You have to understand that marketing people are trained in marketing and not in communications. They sell more stuff and whilst this is a handy skill for any business to have, it is not the same thing as positioning your company with all stakeholders in a way that builds your reputation. In fact marketers quite often do things that are very damaging to reputation.

 

When times are tough these differences become even more pronounced with the marketing people pushing ‘campaign’ (ie. short term) thinking when it is actually at this time that a company should be looking to invest in long term shared value projects that will win stakeholder support as well as open up new markets, opportunities and revenue streams.

 

  1. Your Communications budget is a (teeny tiny!) fraction of the Marketing budget

 

“PR” is free, right? Wrong! If you’ve got a really good story for the media then you’re likely to get some “free” coverage, but even that will have costs behind it somewhere. In today’s world traditional media relations is but a tiny piece of the communications pie and the rest of it requires budget.

 

You have to have both the technology, and the people who understand how to get value out of this technology, in order to communicate effectively in today’s age of accelerations. However, the good news is that this investment is still way cheaper than traditional marketing and it enables proper ROI measurements that will prove its value!

Fear Not

Any of the above ring a bell?

Even though it would definitely have been better to start your strategic communications efforts years ago, there are still short term benefits to be had that will help your business over the coming months until the worst of South Africa’s down turn is hopefully behind us.

As they say in the classics – no time like the present! So let’s set up some time to see how It’s a Shovel can help you J

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