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The Six Rs: Strategic Communications Tools

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Effective communications must either amplify your competitive strengths or inoculate against your competitive weaknesses. When helping our clients build communications strategies that persuade by reason and motivate through emotion, one of the tools we employ is the “Six Rs of Strategic Communications” to help break through the clutter and ensure messages are guided by a proactive strategic approach.

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The Six Rs: Strategic Communications Tools

  1. 1. STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS Thinking Tools by Andrew Cober Senior Solutions Consultant
  2. 2. INTRODUCTION Whether its heading off a social media attack that has gone viral or building a messaging approach to grab more of the market share pie, effective communications must either amplify your competitive strengths or inoculate against your competitive weaknesses. In helping our clients build communications strategies that persuade by reason and motivate through emotion, one of the tools we employ is the “Six Rs of Strategic Communications*” to help break through the communications clutter and ensure messages are guided by a proactive strategic approach. We identify perceptual territory owned versus the advantage that a competitor provides as the foundational framework for strategy development. This illuminates the battlefield and guides market place strategies, such as which one—or combination—of the “Six Rs” will have the most significant impact on your bottom line.
  3. 3. Strategies to Enhance Your Communications
  4. 4. REINFORCE: When building communications through this strategic lens you are highlighting the positive attributes, emotions, and values that you already know are strongly associated with your brand, product or issue. Ronald Reagan’s campaign ad Morning in America (informed by Wirthlin’s research) is a textbook example (noted by USA Today as one of the 25 most memorable ads of all time). Morning in America focused exclusively on Reagan’s strengths—strong leadership and building a more vibrant economy through individual opportunity—that resonated with his core and helped lead to Mondale’s landslide defeat in the General Election. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa8Qupc4PnQ
  5. 5. REFOCUS In this approach the strategy is to make stronger connections to your latent positives that might not yet be top of mind with your stakeholders. The plastics industry executed this approach with great success in the face of strong environmental concerns about plastics leading to environmental degradation (led by Dr. Jim Hoskins). In response the industry employed a communications campaign that drew attention to the medical and quality of life benefits that plastics provides day in and day out. As a result the industry was able to completely reverse public perception that the risks of plastics outweighed the benefits.
  6. 6. REDEFINE: Turn a competitive weakness into a strength. For example, the higher caloric and fat content of whole milk is commonly viewed as a weakness. But recently, multiple studies have linked the consumption of high fat dairy products with a significantly reduced likelihood to become obese. Whether higher levels of fat in whole milk products make us feel fuller, faster so we end up eating less, or bioactive substances in the milk fat are altering our metabolism in a way that helps us utilize the fat and burn it for energy, rather than storing it in our bodies—whole milk can now tout its fat and calorie content as a positive.
  7. 7. Strategies to Undermine Competitors’ Communications
  8. 8. REFRAME: Here the tactic is to expose a competitor’s perceived strength as a weakness. This can often be seen when products are under attack as posing health or safety risks, as evidenced by third-party research. The company under attack may expose a bias or less than ethical ties (follow the money) that can be communicated in a way that will turn a perceived advantage of the opposition into a disadvantage.
  9. 9. REDIRECT Effective use of this strategy is rooted in diverting attention away from a competitor’s perceived strength to their weakness. Taco Bell did this exceptionally well in its Breakfast Defector campaign (by far my favorite ad of the past year). McDonald’s dominance in the quick serve breakfast space was highlighted in the Taco Bell ad as a communist dystopian wasteland of conformity. https://vimeo.com/123015232
  10. 10. REMOVE: Undermining a competitor’s strength by showing it doesn’t, in fact, exist is another approach that can be employed. Take for example the issue of voter fraud that has generated a great deal of interest (and angry voters) over the past few years. Voter fraud is un-American to the core, it attacks one of our most sacred principles as a nation and the concept itself infuriates not just voters, but lawmakers determined to stamp it out. However, some of the wind came out of the sails of promoting voter fraud legislation when opponents (the likes of Jon Stewart) pointed out that in Texas, for example, there had been only two confirmed cases of voter fraud in the past decade.
  11. 11. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: ANDREW COBER Andrew is a Senior Solutions Consultant who excels at transforming client needs and objectives into tailored research designs resulting in meaningful and actionable insights that take root within an organization. Andrew has led research efforts in brand, messaging and communications strategy for leading corporations, associations, and healthcare providers such as AARP, PG&E, Scripps Health, Western Union, The National Restaurant Association, American Petroleum Institute, Western Digital, New Haven Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. acober@heartandmindstrategies.com * The “Six Rs” were first publically codified in 1995 by Reynolds and Whitlark in a Journal of Advertising Research article, “Applying Laddering Data to Communication Strategy and Advertising Practice”
  12. 12. How people think. What they feel. Why they behave a certain way. How to motivate them We see things others miss www.heartandmindstrategies.com

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