Good communications can be a hard nut to crack. The explosion in digital channels, tool and platforms has provided communicators with brilliant ways in which to engage with customers, residents and patients. Has this made our jobs easier? Well, yes. And no. Which is why a good strategy is more important than ever.
By Darren Caveney
As communicators we’ve never before had access to as many direct engagement opportunities as we have right now. The landscape is continuing to change at such pace we could be forgiven for thinking that we just can’t keep up with everything which is being thrown our way in terms of communications solutions.
A while back we had to nail a good website. Once that was cracked we were then told that we needed to develop killer apps. Social media burst onto the scene and we needed to become smart with that. Video and now virtual reality, we’re told, are the next must have’s in our armoury.
And all this against a backdrop of PR being dead (it isn’t, it’s just been shuffled along by the digital wash and a greater spotlight on transparency and need for sound ethics) We’re told that newspapers are dead too (in print form, largely yes, but not for some of the savvy ones who moved themselves online and now attract significant traffic) And now we’re hearing that Twitter is dying (No it’s not – if a world event or a disaster or major incident happens it will break on Twitter first. Fact. I’d argue that that’s pretty influential)
As communicators we’re left trying to figure out the best ways to communicate and engage in 2016.
But if we take a great big step back – or, better still, elevate ourselves above this wall of noise and temptation – we can see that despite our ever-changing world one constant remains. And it’s been that way for decades.
The importance of having a bloody good comms strategy.
It lay at the heart of what the mould-breaking mad men of advertising were doing in New York in the 60’s. It was the most important thing that Anne Gregory taught me and fellow PR students on the first UK public relations degree back in the early 90s. And it still lies at the heart of what respected industry figures like Alex Aiken are creating at the core of government communications today.
Clear objectives + thorough research + smart tactics + knowing your audiences + knowing the channels they prefer using + flexible approaches +strong review and evaluation = a strong strategy.
Always did, always will.
Today, we know that we need to keep our fingers on the digital pulse. We need to know about the latest trends and the ‘new kid on the block’ channel. Twitter may come and go in the longer term, Facebook might hang around for a long time. And virtual reality might become the real deal. Or it might not (let’s not forget that the Zuckerberg’s of the world are businessmen and they’re telling us that virtual reality is a game changer because they have invested a significant wedge in the technology. Only time will tell.)
If you really drill down to what being a communicator in 2016 is our task is still the same as those wise old advertising folk of 60’s Maddison Avenue. All that’s happened is that channels have changed. The big media outlets have changed, evolved, disappeared or shifted direction. TV and radio and newspapers are still big players. The Facebooks of the world have become important. But Facebook isn’t the answer to everything, nor is a web site and nor is a video. In the same way that a press release or a leaflet or a bus ad campaign wasn’t the sole solution to everything 10-years ago.
I’ve been a huge fan of digital innovation since joining Twitter back in 2008 and I’m a passionate believer in its benefits. But digital isn’t the only show in town.
Our challenge right now is to plot a smart course through this sea of data, opportunity and – at times – uncertainty to create effective, creative and winning strategies.
For me, the trick is having the knowledge to understand what a great strategy looks like, and the understanding of the best way to target and engage with people. That’s where the real prize lies.
I’m currently working on a number of live communications projects with organisations. They’re all different in their own way. But the golden thread running through all of them is the need for a great strategy.
A great strategy isn’t a fad which will come and go.
Great strategy will still be around when we’re trying to deliver effective communications in 20-years’ time, whether we’re communicating through headsets, from space crafts or from a good old fashioned office desk.
Darren Caveney is a creative communications specialist and co-founder of comms2point0
image via NASA on the commons