Why strategy is important

Screen shot 2013-08-13 at 8.15.04 AMI had an interesting conversation last week with someone who is doing quite a bit for his organization in the world of social media. Without giving away too many details, I will discuss his approach and my questions/response to his approach here.

This person works in a high risk, high potential for negative response environment. He is very active in pushing information out via social media and yet when I asked how he manages responses and the potential for negative responses, he laughed and said: “We don’t respond at all – and if they are negative, we just delete them when we are able.”

In our conversation, I asked him what his organization’s objective was in using social media. His response was that it was for providing information to stakeholder groups.

I asked how he identified which stakeholder groups were on which social media sites. His response was that they took the most popular and used those (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). I asked how he measures success. His response was that he doesn’t measure anything on social media, but measures how many people open his e-newsletter.

I have to admit, it was quite a disjointed conversation. I kept asking about his objectives and how these objectives would form his strategy, and I focused on the importance of measurement. He kept trying to convince me that using social media as a distribution system is a strategy. (For the record, I believe that using social media as a distribution system is a tool – not a strategy.)

There are many social media networking sites that can be of value to you in your communications planning. It’s important that using social media – even if it just means that you are monitoring it so that you know what is being said about your organization – be included in your overall communications strategy. It is only one component of your strategy and your tactical plan.

In our view, the development of a communications strategy needs to start with answering some key questions, including:

  • What is my overall objective? (What do I want my stakeholder group to know, do or think after I have informed, educated and engaged with them?)
  • Who is my target audience/community/stakeholder group?
  • How do they want/expect to receive information from your organization?
  • How interactive and engaged are they?
  • Where do they gather online and on which social networking sites?
  • How often will I communicate with the stakeholder group?
  • What will I do if there are negative responses?
  • What are the risks I am taking by reaching out? (How do I mitigate those risks?)
  • What are the resources (human and financial) that I need?
  • How interactive should my communication outreach be, relevant to specific stakeholder expectations and tools used?
  • How will I measure success? (What are the tools I will use? What are the metrics or baseline I will measure against? How often will I measure and what type of analysis will I use to understand the actions or non-actions of my stakeholder group in response to communication from my organization?)

These questions are just the start of what needs to be defined in order to develop a strategic plan for your communications outreach. And throughout the year, it is crucial that you review the success of your campaigns, initiatives and projects – and refine or even change them if you aren’t getting results.

I don’t know of any communications professional who doesn’t struggle with tight budgets or limited resources. We must be strategic to generate the most valuable results possible for each outreach. In this wired world, it just doesn’t work to simply push information out and hope someone is listening or reading. And, in my experience, pushing information out and not engaging in conversation is an issue or crisis waiting to happen.

It’s crucial to develop a strategy that clearly defines your objectives and outlines how you will measure success.

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