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Putting your Strategy Together


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Joe Barrell, The Eden Stanley Group
Mission Critical: Crafting your communications strategy workshop

Published in: Business
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Putting your Strategy Together

  1. 1. • Introduction: I’m Strategy Director and partner of Eden Stanley, an independent full- service communications agency for the non-profit sector. Background in communications management in UK charities. I have been Communication Director at Save the Children, and had similar roles at ActionAid and Shelter. I’ve written communication strategies for these organisations, and for some clients too.• First – let’s agree a definition for ‘communications strategy’… 1
  2. 2. There is often pressure in organisations to sound ‘smart’ and so people often wrapthings up in opaque language and call it ‘strategy’ – or worse, allow the idea of ‘strategy’to distract them from tangible, actionable work. Let’s reject that definition. 2
  3. 3. Your strategy should be tightly linked to your ‘business goals’, unique to you, andenabling and motivating to your organisation.So let’s use these three definitions. 3
  4. 4. • Your organisational culture will need to shift if you want your strategy to be adopted.• Involving your colleagues will help make that shift, and bring ideas and insights that you hadn’t thought of.• A good idea to use external help too, to demonstrate objectivity, and because there can be a lot of specialist work involved. 4
  5. 5. • Useful to start any strategy development process with a skeleton document. That is headlines and scope notes.• This can be the first major document you circulate in your organisation – it’s a good way to get feedback, and also sets out very clearly the scope of your planned work. 5
  6. 6. • If you Google ‘communications strategy’ you will find lots of examples. They’re all slightly different, and for good reason. You will need to think through what is right for your organisation.• Typically, they will have at least the elements shown here.• There is not time to go through all of these today, so we’ll focus on a few key areas. 6
  7. 7. This was our first definition 7
  8. 8. • This seems to be how communications is viewed in many organisations. Do you recognise it? The idea that communications is a sort of narrative wrapper that we put around an organisation. That’s why some people from outside the communications function think that your role is to tell the world about the work they’re doing. Communications can do so much more than that… 8
  9. 9. • Communications can be core to delivering your aims• This transition is the fundamental shift you need to try to make in your organisation.• That is as much as a shift in mind-set as a change in strategy.• That is why it’s so important to involve people in developing your strategy. 9
  10. 10. • Most non-profit’s activities can be categorised into three broad areas. 10
  11. 11. • When did you last take a proper look across these functions and ask yourself how communications can help deliver their aims?• That should be the starting point of strategy development• Populating this chart is a process you could do through a planning workshop with stakeholders across your organisation• The examples here are very generic – you will think of more specific ideas that work for you. 11
  12. 12. • Once you’ve looked at all the possibilities – consider mapping them against cost and impact.• This will help you decide where to prioritise• If you include this in your workshop, and involve stakeholders, they should be able to help you make these assessments, and in doing so, think outside of their own function. 12
  13. 13. • You will need to decide together where to put the emphasis of your work• In this example we’ve deliberately not chosen the strategies with the highest impact, to demonstrate that this will be decided through negotiation, and the need for a balance of activities.• Strategy is about focus, but not necessarily to the exclusion of everything else.• Perhaps these three priorities will take up 70% of your capacity. 13
  14. 14. • Now our three priorities are displayed in a log-frame• Note these are not communication objectives, they are organisation-level objectives. (This is highly simplified – as there may be multiple objectives against each function).• If your objectives ARE organisational objectives, it should be much more straightforward to make an investment case.• Can you work together with other departments on your investment case? If you’re achieving their objectives, there must be a financial value to what you do. 14
  15. 15. • The greater the interdependence you can create across your organisation the better you will link your work more tightly to core strategy, and create greater efficiencies.• For example: • Can you build brand by delivering an information service to beneficiaries? • Can you acquire new supporters on a campaign ask, and convert to donors? • Can you empower your service users by engaging them in lobbying?• Certainly, my favourite projects have often delivered multiple objectives – and I’m not a member of the ‘cult of the single objective’. Communications has the power to unite! 15
  16. 16. The second of our definitionsNow is the moment to do some research… 16
  17. 17. • It’s important to look in these areas, because they are the hardest to change. 17
  18. 18. • Not enough time to look at all of these methodologies. A few observations • Link focus groups with opinion polling – to understand issue/brand awareness and preference, and allow audiences to define their own frames. • Then thinking about mass market, identify ‘bulls-eye audiences’ (through demographic and attitudinal modelling) that you can realistically reach with enough frequency to make an impact. Do you really know who they are and how to reach them? Can you reach each of them at least ten times a year? • Use low-cost online tools to map influencers and web traffic – it’s becoming much cheaper now • Ad spend analysis of your competitors is a very good way to build an investment case, and project impact • Do a SWOT analysis of your team – and involve them. It will help them develop, and help them understand the rationale should you need to restructure • Look for hidden gems in your existing material. Is there anything you’re doing small that you could be doing big? 18
  19. 19. A tough balance.I am a big believer in research-based strategy development, because I think it’s the bestway to bring new perspectives to bear. If you don’t research, you will just repeatyourself. Research challenges us to be externally oriented and question some of our ownassumptions.ButWe’re also in the business of making change, so sometimes we have to swim against thetide. Use research for insights into what will work, and to understand the barriers tosuccess. Don’t simply let it tell you what to do.Also – the data isn’t enough. You need to work with it to drive consensus on what it istelling you. Otherwise it will be used against you - another form of enslavement! 19
  20. 20. The third of our definitions 20
  21. 21. If you want your strategy to drill down further than the previous log-frame, you couldconsider this.This isn’t yet a communication plan. It is a framework to allow you and others to goaway and write project proposals. I’ve found these very useful, both at strategy level andproject level. It fits with our definition, because it is a framework that helps ensurecoherent aims.But does it promote great work? Hmm…It’s hard to think of a log-frame as a means of inspiring great work, and frameworks likethis are likely to produce fairly predictable results. These are useful, but you needsomething else.Your strategy is about change. So you need to create space for innovation. 21
  22. 22. (By the way, it’s easy to fill up strategy papers and everybody’s heads with big ideas. Youneed to be out in the world doing stuff – and most people understand communicationsin tactical terms. Successful communicators usually got there because they’re creative orgood at selling, or both. So let them do that. Don’t let your strategy tie you in knots. Sayyes to project ideas. Push ahead. Embrace tactics!)Anyhow – let’s look at innovation… 22
  23. 23. With the time we have left, let’s discuss innovation – because it really is the missingpiece in so many strategies.My input? This is something that I’ve grappled with in various contexts– and some of theteams I’ve worked with have managed to engender a very creative and innovativeenvironment. It’s a very exciting place to be! Areas to look at are:- Investment mechanisms that promote innovation while managing risk- Training and capacity building to encourage new thinking- Work on team culture to give permission to take risks- Balanced recruitment that brings in some people from outside the sector- Improving use of research and insight. 23
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