Idia M. Martínez, Lic. RP28
President, Upfront Communication

In times of economic challenge, multiple businesses focus their efforts in identifying ways to make adjustments that would reduce operating costs and strengthen sales. However, even after making these adjustments and having good products and services, many businesses don’t grow or flat out fail because they don’t integrate strategic communication into their business plan.

Managing communications in a proactive and efficient manner strengthens the business’ relationship with internal and external audiences. Earning their trust, gaining more loyalty to your brand and strengthening your market share are additional benefits of an effective communication plan; as is the ability to overcome crisis.
When we talk about communications, we refer to any initiative through which organizations establish a bond with diverse audiences. Some examples of such initiatives include branding, institutional advertising, events, presence in social media and other digital outlets, as well as exposure in traditional media (press). In short, it is anything and everything that conveys the identity of an organization and has an impact on the way its audiences perceive it.

While the design of a strategic communication plan responds to the particular characteristics and needs of each business or organization, there are certain elements that must be considered nowadays:

• Grow your audience beyond the client or consumer.
• Redefine your message to focus on what people want to hear.
• Develop strategic alliances that strengthen your efforts and result in greater credibility.
• Have meaningful impact in through media exposure.
• Integrate non-traditional tactics.

Let’s develop each of these concepts briefly.

Grow your audience beyond the client or consumer
Directing communication efforts only towards the client is a big mistake. A business’ success or failure does not rely exclusively upon the fact that clients consume its product or service. Internal communication, for instance, is transcendental because, at times, lack of motivation and employee engagement can be the end of any business. For this reason, there has to be a communication strategy that supports the efforts of your Human Resources department.

Another perfect example is the immediate community. All too often we see the case where businesses of all sizes lack the acceptance and support of its neighboring residents who, in turn, become the organization’s main detractors. An operation may not be likeable for certain groups within the entire population. However, using open and sustained communication efforts, the situation can be turned around with favorable results.

Redefine your message to focus on what people want to hear
The advertising, press releases, webpages and social media networks of many businesses are plagued with messages that are of no interest to their audiences. It’s obvious that is necessary to communicate certain concepts. The key lies in finding a way that’s relevant to your audiences. For example, instead of focusing on highlighting the virtues of a product, we can focus on the benefits consumers will obtain from it.

When it comes to social media, we often see posts completely directed to sales. These messages are almost always rejected. However, a profile with information that’s relevant, valuable, interesting, educational, and original results in more followers and higher engagement.

Develop strategic alliances that strengthen your efforts and result in greater credibility
Always having the leading role is not necessarily good. Developing alliances with other businesses and organizations can be beneficial, particularly in times of economic adversity. Alliances allow us to share expenses or resources, give us more access to interest groups, and bring more credibility to your initiatives and the business as a whole. Plus, the allies can mutually benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience.
A public relations campaign in health care, for instance, often results more reliable when there are multiple groups of health care professionals or government entities involved.

Beyond impacting the consumer, alliances are also beneficial in advocacy situations, where parties need support to approve, amend or repeal legislative measures. Alliances validate the old adage: “Strength is in numbers”.

Have meaningful impact in through media exposure
As news outlets continue closing, opportunities to spread non-paid material are fewer. That’s not the end of the world, though.
Previously, the effectiveness of a public relations plan or campaign was measured, mainly, according to the amount of press coverage it got. This has changed because, now, the quality of the material published in the media is what determines the impact. A press release published in three media outlets, which generates little or no readership interest—or which reached readers who are not in our target audience—is less effective than a release published in just one media outlet, but which reached our audience and was convincing.

Therefore, success lies in developing adequate messages, preparing the speakers to maximize their performance, and identifying the media outlets in which we should focus. All of this should happen hand in hand with content development that’s interesting or pertinent to the media, because that’s the key to getting published.

Integrate non-traditional tactics
Communication plans cannot depend on what has always been done, because the results will remain the same. To grow a business or maintain its stability, one must develop new ways to communicate.

It’s a noisy, competitive world out there. On a daily basis, we are constantly bombarded with messages on mass media, social networks, and mobile phone. Therefore, it is crucial to create new stimuli. It’s not about discarding traditional media, but about developing creative elements that awaken the audience’s interest in what we do or what we market.

These and other ideas can be adapted to your business. Remember, however, that it’s important to plan your communication efforts; hence the term strategic communication. A professional in this field can help you develop and execute the ideal plan for your business or organization.