“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.” ~ Morris Chang

The new decade is in full swing for most people. Many companies already have their communication strategies in place and are implementing them, while others are wrapping up their annual initiatives and preparing for the new financial year. Do you have a communication strategy?

“Communication, reputation, and brand management can be likened to the game of darts,” says Nalene de Klerk, reputation manager at Reputation Matters. “Every message is a dart. it is so important that an organisation’s communication is not merely a series of social media posts, newsletters, or press releases for the sake of it. How would you be assured of hitting your target? Your communication strategy outlines that target for you.”

The most effective communication is specifically aligned to the organisation’s overall business goals and customised for each stakeholder group. As you plan for the next 12 months, Reputation Matters shares a few guidelines:

  1. Evaluate where you are now. How are you currently being perceived? If you had to give your organisation a reputation score based on how people perceive your business, what would that score be out of ten? Here are some key points for you to consider to get that score closer to ten:
  • Identify your key stakeholders. There are a host of stakeholders to consider: media, unions, government, shareholders, the community, service providers and other strategic alliances, and so on. Prioritising key stakeholders are crucial to ensure that you give them the attention they deserve. At minimum, clients and employees should be on the priority list. To narrow down your other stakeholders, consider the influence that each group has on your growth trajectory and the risks they may pose if the relationship deteriorates.
  • Understand the strength of your stakeholder relationships. The sum of your relationships with those who are important to you ultimately determine your reputation. “People want to do business with companies that they trust and resonate with,” adds de Klerk.
  • Know what stakeholders’ communication preferences are in terms of channels and timing. You won’t necessarily talk to your employees the same way as to the media, and not everyone uses social media as extensively as you might think.
  • Brainstorm potential issues for each stakeholder group. Be proactive in your approach to communication, especially with regards to potential crisis situations.

“Knowing your stakeholders well is what gives wings to your key messages, similar to the flight on a dart,” says de Klerk. With this knowledge in place, you can start planning for the year ahead.

  1. Be strategic about your communication outputs.
  • Build your communication vision and goals around the organisation’s strategic intent. Your targets should be aligned to the company’s overall business targets.
  • Decide how you will measure the success of your communication initiatives. Have measurable objectives in place. These will vary based on your communication channels, be that newsletters, social media, or media announcements; the important thing is that you have very clear objectives in place on how best to engage your audience. What is it that you want to achieve with each piece of communication that you send out?
  • Keep an eye on what is happening in the world and in your organisation’s environment. “This is the part where you evaluate potential crosswinds that might affect your aim,” says de Klerk. It will help you identify new trends and opportunities.
  • Don’t forget that your communication should be two-way! Being open to feedback, both positive and negative, is critical to building good stakeholder relationships. It’s important to track whether the messages are being received and understoo

“Your strategy will guide your communication initiatives in the months to come and will help you to proactively build your organisation’s reputation,” shares de Klerk. “Hit your target consistently, and you will be taking your organisation’s reputation to a whole new level.”

Not sure where to start? Reputation Matters’ Repudometer® research provides organisations with quantified reputation scores that show exactly what is building and breaking down organisations’ reputations. The Reputation Matters mentorship programme also gives organisations access to a team of reputation specialists to help you become the business that people want to do business with.