Found your key audiences, but want to ensure that you get your message across? This guide is for you.
We’ve already looked at the challenges you may face when launching your communications strategy, and how to overcome them – more on that here. In this guide, the latest in our insights series, we’ll talk you through the stumbling blocks that we often see businesses and organisations come across when planning our communications strategies.
We’ll also provide you with practical advice on how to overcome these struggles, to help you in effectively getting your message across to your target audiences.
1. Understand your audience
As a first step in any communications strategy, we recommend mapping out the audience segments you want to reach. This could be defined by demographics (such as young families, women 30 – 55, or wide-ranging generational groups like ‘baby boomers’). If you’re working on a B2B marketing campaign, targeting by job title or function can be an effective way to best understand what your audience needs, and how they may operate within their own organisation.
Some strategies may even be concentrated to a particular region or community. As an agency operating in the North East, as well as Middlesbrough and London, we’ve worked with a number of brands looking to target very specific communities, such as local councils or developers.
Once you’ve defined your target audience groups, map out the needs of each segment. What are their priorities and objectives? How can your service, product or offering help them? How are they likely to interact with you, both online and offline?
By building this foundational knowledge of your target audience, and applying any insights you may already have – for example, Google Analytics data segmented by user profile – you can begin planning your specific marketing activities, tailored to each audience group.
Understanding who your audience are and what they need from you to move on in their consumer journey is vital in ensuring that your communications speak directly to them and move them towards action.
2. Plan ahead
As Warren Buffet once said, “someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Planning for various potential eventualities as far in advance as possible will ultimately save you more time and effort in future.
This is particularly important if there may be a sensitive issue or potential difficulty on the horizon. We’re often brought in to support businesses through challenging times, and pride ourselves on putting a proactive communications plan in place that heads off the need for any crisis communications.
As with step one above, a mapping exercise can be very useful in building a comprehensive communications strategy that gets the right messages out to your target audience. Write up a timeline of important dates, events and other major milestones that are coming up for your business, as well as for your industry and audiences.
Add an activation layer on top of this, working out what particular activities will work best for particular times of the year, as well as how the results from each campaign will be fed into the broader strategy.
An integral part of this communications plan is having your key messages written up clearly and concisely, signed off by all relevant stakeholders, and ready to disseminate as required. We will frequently work with our clients to develop a ‘bank’ of key messages and quotes that can be deployed as needed, fully briefing the relevant spokespeople to ensure that they are prepared to speak up should the need arise.
Put simply, proactive communication provides breathing space. Not every eventuality can be prepared for, and some curveballs can inevitably be thrown your way, but having a fully prepared strategy, supported with well-timed activations, gives you the opportunity to reach your audiences in the right way.
3. Use the right platforms
Speaking to your audiences in the right way and through the right channels is critical in connecting to potential customers or clients. Much of the hard work for this will have been done in your audience mapping exercise. Identify which platforms and channels your audience is concentrated in, using insights from your follower and online analytics data if available, and ensure that you’re focusing on these to disseminate your messages.
For example, if you’re running a B2B strategy focused on delivering impactful thought leadership content to potential customers, you may find that LinkedIn is the platform most used by your target audience for this kind of content.
Alternatively, if you’re a food and drink brand looking to get your product known by young families likely to be browsing the supermarket aisles, ads on highly visual social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok may be the way forward.
However, be sure not to bombard your audience across multiple channels. Have a clear content plan for each platform, with a defined tone of voice and visual identity that your whole team is on board with. Carefully select which content will go on which channel, according to audience need, and ensure that everything you post is relevant to your audience, as well as consistent with your brand.
This may be an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many businesses forget to monitor their social channels. Respond appropriately to any customer queries, referring to the key messaging you’ve already mapped out in your strategic planning. Aim to reshare relevant customer posts pertaining to your brand too – amplification can be a great way to build customer advocates, while also showing your brand personality.
4. Be consistent
Now that you have your communications plan up and running, the next step is to ensure that you’re engaging with your target audience on a regular basis. It can be exciting launching a new strategy, new platforms and new messaging, but these are only effective when used correctly and consistently.
Make sure that your communications plan is regularly updated, with a clear content strategy for the next six to twelve months, as well as clarity on which activations are targeting which audience segments. Simple tools like colour-coding your communications plan by audience segment can be deceptively effective in communicating and rolling this out internally.
Customer journeys can vary in length, which means you need to build in regular points of contact with your prospective buyers to keep your business front of mind.
Think back to the platforms and channels we just spoke about – how might your target audience use those different channels at various points of their journey? Which of your activations might work best on which channel, and are you making sure that your audience are seeing a consistent tone of voice and message across their journey?
Consider gathering insights through online tools like Hotjar or Google Analytics, which can tell you how your audiences are interacting with your website, and which platforms or referral sources they’re coming from.
Apply these insights to a consistent communications plan, meeting your target audience where they are mostly likely to see you.
This goes for existing customers also. Too often, businesses can focus on customer acquisition, whilst neglecting those who could be loyal customers. Useful, interesting and authentic content can be a highly effective tool in retaining your existing customers, ensuring they remain engaged with your brand, and ultimately likely to purchase from you again.
5. Be agile
Communications plans shouldn’t be set in stone. Being able to respond quickly to audience feedback, changing market conditions or new insights is the sign of an effective strategy.
Build in these opportunities for adjustment as part of your overall planning. For example, for many of our clients, we hold quarterly or even monthly strategy reviews, examining in intricate detail how our campaigns are performing, what may be coming up in the near future, and how messaging and content can remain fresh and insightful for target audiences.
This is particularly important in the current climate, with changing consumer expectations, needs and behaviours – in both the B2B and B2C worlds – forcing businesses to quickly adapt. Sensitivities around, for example, the cost of living crisis, the increasing awareness of sustainability issues, or simply the breakneck speed of the news agenda means that your communications plan should be robust yet adaptable enough to withstand and adapt to these challenges.
Talk to your target audience about their perceptions of your business. Surveys and focus groups can be an effective way to do this, but even simple social listening exercises can help you to better understand how your communications plan may need to adjust to meet changing needs.
Refining your strategy in this way means that you can keep pace with your competitors, or take advantage of when your industry peers have been slow to change. Audiences value brands that are willing to move with the times; it not only shows that you are evolving, but also that you understand what they need and how you can best meet this need.
By showing that you are keen to listen and take on board feedback, that you understand how external factors may influence purchasing decisions, and that you are acutely aware of changing market conditions, you can build a loyal audience base, while making your communications plan – as well as your wider business – more resilient.
How we can help
Cool Blue has experience in developing communications strategies for target audiences across a wide range of sectors.
We can help you with:
Preparing an agile communications plan – defining your audiences, understanding where they are and how to get your message across to them
Defining your key messages – building a library of go-to messages that can be deployed across your strategy timeline
Training your spokespeople – providing robust media training and briefings to ensure that your team are prepared for any eventuality
Engaging your audiences online and offline – creating authentic and creative ways to catch the attention of potential customers
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