When I refer to communication, I refer to it as a collection of various storytelling and perception building disciplines. That means public relations, audio-visual production, writing and editing, digital marketing, marketing communication, development communication, crisis communication, advertising, branding, and journalism, to state a few, all fall under the field of communication.
These are skill sets across communication, but these skillsets are required for all organisations in the information age. What I tell my clients is that what they have not been told is that you are required to be a mini media house, employing all these skills in communication to remain relevant and attractive to your select target audiences. So let me break this down a little further.
As an SME or even a non-profit, the first step you need to take in building a perception about yourself is to let people know who you are and what you do. For some, the first go-to will be let’s get an advertising or public relations agency to develop a campaign or organise a news conference where you can release a statement.
That is never sustainable, not just financially but in the long run; communication is not just a series of tasks. It is a lifestyle you need to adapt to as an organisation. Internally your communication department should have the capacity to run its campaign.
It would help if you were clear on your communication objectives – these are usually tied in with your organisational strategy. For example, it could be raising the top-of-mind awareness, increasing revenues, or fundraising for USD 20,000 in a year. Once those objectives are clear, then we go to the next step.
Know your Target Audience
Who exactly is our primary and secondary target audience, what do they need, and what problem of theirs are you solving and how? Once you can answer this question, it becomes crystal clear how to manoeuvre this mammoth called communication. Because once you know who you are talking to and what needs your solution is satisfying, you can define your solution in a language they understand and a style they relate to.
Once you know this, you don’t waste your resources with a mass-market appeal. Instead, here you focus on those that matter.
Next step: Communication Channels
Once you know who you are talking to and how your solution satisfies the target audience’s needs, you know what clear message you want to relay; you need to figure out how. Your target audience determines the communication channels; events, word-of-mouth, newspapers, TV, radio, and specific social media channels like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, etc.
Don’t waste your time on Facebook if your target audience is busy getting all their trusted information on YouTube. The channels you use are determined by your target audience, not the other way around. Once you are clear on what channels your target audience gets trusted information, not gossip, trusted and reliable information, customise your content for the specific platforms and engage your audience through a series of campaigns.
Communication is a constant, so you need to develop a clear work plan every three months, what you want to achieve, who you target as an audience, and the messaging, and then build content customised to the communication channel.
Why three months? The rule of thumb is that your target audiences are getting familiar with you in the first month. By the second month, there is some interest and engagement. But accurate measurement of impact starts to show in the third month. You can see what works and doesn’t connect and iterate in the following 3-month campaign.
You will need to create compelling videos if it is on YouTube, but that applies to all other social media platforms. Videos and photography are standard requirements. The 21st century is a content monster, so you need to schedule video, and photography, create blogs and start podcasts where you need to delve deeper into the problems your organisation is solving to develop allies and education. The aim is to be seen as an information source as an organisation to a solution. When people see you as a one-stop-shop of information and solutions to a need, you become the inherent go-to person. This is a continuous process.
Do It In-house
And this is why I constantly state that communication is not what you do, but a culture you breed, or as I said earlier. Communication is not a series of tasks. It is a lifestyle you need to adapt to as an organisation.
For organisations still growing, reliance on advertising and PR agencies is impractical in the long run. It is too expensive; it is also challenging to relay your organisational DNA to a third party juggling other clients.
It would help if you built an internal communication department that can deliver this. I also understand from an operational standpoint investing internally may be too expensive, but this is my counter to that thinking. How much are you losing in revenue and traction in top-of-mind awareness by not having an in-house communication team? If you look carefully, you lose more by not investing in-house.
Communication is a mammoth of skills put together, which your organisation can invest in. Please don’t treat them as separate entities; when you do, that is when you struggle; all these skills merge and work towards the same goal. You need these various skillsets to work collectively to achieve your strategic goals as an organisation.
If you wonder how to set up an internal communication juggernaut for your organisation? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.