Nike’s “Just Do It” tagline makes sense some of the time. If you’re standing at the end of the high dive with a line of people waiting behind you, you might as well take the plunge. If you suddenly see the girl/guy of your dreams getting up to leave at the next metro stop, you better get your butt off the seat and at least say “hello.”
On the other hand, if you’ve invited 15 people to share your multi-course home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner, are standing at a marathon starting line or heading into a military battle, let’s hope you’ve done some work on a strategy beforehand.
Successful business communications require pre-planning, too.
Today’s increasingly complex communications environment moves at lightening speed. Windows of opportunity open and close in hours instead of days. Attention competition is fierce while attention spans are fleeting. Any misstep will leave its footprint indefinitely in a digital world that cannot be controlled or erased.
So before launching a business, introducing a product or service, or starting a campaign meant to build long-term relationships with key stakeholders, you need a plan — a fully integrated public relations, marketing and internal communications plan that will help ensure your target audiences receive, understand and act on your messages at the right time.
Here are five reasons why:
- Establishes people, money and time requirements — From the small one-person shop to the largest multinational corporation, communications folks never have enough people, money or time to get the job done in the way they want. Working through a communication plan requires analysis of in-house capabilities, outsourcing needs and associated costs, and timelines. This allows you to prioritize and decide which activities will bring the most bang for the effort and money, and keeps you from wasting valuable resources on activities that may be fun but not effective.
- Supports strategic messaging — Built on the foundation of an organization’s goals and core messages, a well-devised communications plan helps ensure consistency across all written, digital and spoken channels. We all know that repetition gives stakeholders a better understanding of key messaging, builds brand equity, and reinforces credibility for your business and its products or services. Pre-planning helps this happen.
- Mitigates reputation risk — Proactively developing a positive stakeholder image via a coordinated, well-designed communication plan is infinitely less stressful and less expensive than having to retroactively correct a communication faux pas caused by rushed, unplanned communications activities. Period.
- Sets the basis for measurement — I’ll save a for a future blog post the discussion about why you should measure the effectiveness of a communications plan, what to measure or how to develop a communications dashboard. Just remember, implementing measurement at the start of a communications campaign results in a more accurate view of the plan’s success, or failure. Even math phobics should get this.
- Provides direction for content development efforts — Putting together engaging content that empowers key audiences, tells your story and positions you as a thought leader requires different formats and different styles to meet the expectations of different stakeholders and different channels. Moreover, in too many cases, those who don’t understand this simply hand communicators a to-do list of public relations and marketing tactics. Having a logical, explainable plan in place helps fend off unreasonable requests and ensures better quality content that meets an audience’s needs.
Don’t be one of the “just do it” chumps with no plan and shotgun business communications that waste money and time, and leave your stakeholders confused and wary of what you say or do, no matter how brilliant your service or product. Instead, work smart. Take the time to develop a communications plan that will strengthen your organization’s reputation, build brand awareness, create and nurture relationships, and, ultimately, increase your market share.