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Posts Tagged ‘communication’

It seems like every day a new story emerges, in which someone has miscommunicated, off- or online, creating controversy or damaging the good name of their company. In a recent situation, a small firm’s lawsuit over a tweet —and a spokesman’s off the cuff response—sparked outrage in the social media world.

Although the dynamics of public outreach, media relations, and member/investor relations are changing almost daily, one rule of communication remains steadfast: Clear, consistent (and sometimes compassionate) communication can save the day.

First, a true story from one of our colleagues. His client had achieved incredible company growth, running a multi-million dollar company on mere thousands a month. The company had succeeded in just about every facet of business, had built a faithful customer base and was on the verge of even more growth. However, economic conditions changed and the company found itself up against a shortage in cash, waiting for accounts receivable and investor funds to come in. Before they knew it, they had missed payroll and were past due on some mid-sized vendor invoices.  

In today’s economy, we see this happening with more and more frequency, with even huge corporations (such as British Airways) facing challenges they never anticipated.

As you well know, employees and investors are two of the greatest assets within a company and their happiness and confidence can directly translate into your success. Knowing some basic communication missteps to avoid—and strategies to keep in mind—will help guide you through turbulent waters.

One of the worst errors in communication during times like these is waiting, both in terms of waiting to reach out to affected groups and waiting to draft a plan.  When under fire, the best plan is one that is already laid, hands down. So figure out how you will handle an unfortunate or crisis situations now, rather than later. Run through potential scenarios and from there, determine how communication will flow, what exactly will be said and through what mediums or channels. Develop your key messages and communicate them with company leaders and spokespeople to avoid contradiction and confusion.

Depending on the severity of the situation, you should be communicating and updating internal relationships once every other day to once a week. Appropriate, effective outreach can take many forms: a newsletter, e-newsletter, or other confidential, internal channel.

However, before jumping into any form of communication, you must have a crystal clear idea of intent. What do you want the outcome to look like? What do you want to convey? What core company strengths can you call on to help guide your communication? In the example from above, the company wanted to:  

1. Convey its sincerity, concern and professionalism

2. Protect its stellar reputation and relationships

3. Be open, transparent and fair

These are excellent intention guideposts, and when feasible, should be duplicated.

Whether through verbal or written forms of communication, remember to stay focused on the problem at hand, avoid being negative and listen to concerns.

Compassion and concern can go a long way, when done in a professional manner.  Also, providing doable incentives and possible positive future projections will help build a bridge over the hump and keep employees positive and faithful, and investors confident and in the game.

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As you may have well realized by now, building it doesn’t always ensure they will come. You must entice, endear and sometimes entertain “them” – your customers – and do so in a way that is heard above the roar of competitors.

One of the most basic goals of the new era of marketing is becoming “top of mind.” Essentially, this means communicating with your customers creatively, effectively and consistently so that when they think of X widget, they think of you.

To occupy this space, first look to the basics of traditional marketing, the first step of which is a clear plan. No stumbling around bare-footed or blind here. Create a laser-focused plan by asking many questions and defining what you want to achieve. Align all other elements, tasks and messaging around this piece.

Speaking of messaging, every company needs to have a cohesive, core message that is clear and easily communicated (can it fit on a matchbox?). Perfect messaging is like perfect lighting. Without it, no one sees the ultimate beauty of the object it illuminates. Messaging should reflect your brand’s tone, personality and value it brings to the customer. It should be creative and fresh, and inspire your prospect to take action! Then, extrapolate what you have created to other areas of your business. Be consistent.

In the past, marketing was almost synonymous with selling or public relations. Today, this is less true. While the end result still includes increasing positive public awareness and essentially sales, the marketing landscape has shifted dramatically over the last few years. The easiest way to sum up the new philosophy is this: Give first and ask (sell) last. Disseminating useful information on your field, donating product/ services/time to an event, and even nurturing relationships are all included here and will get you in the game – if not ahead of it.

Get creative here – and “talk” about what you are doing as much as you actually do it. It’s also important to know exactly how your brand “plays” in your market. Getting to know your target audience can help you determine this. Many companies and communications firms used to rely on market analysis firms to help them identify consumer groups’ thoughts and behavior. However, with the avalanche of user-generated content on the web (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, industry forums), you can get a very eye-opening picture of customers’ sentiments. (Though be prepared to dedicate a significant number of man hours to this endeavor!)

Your website can also act as a feedback loop and should be the hub for all the internet outlets you use to broadcast, so make sure it is up to snuff. Based on the communication areas you want to implement –traditional marketing, guerrilla marketing, public relations, social media, web development or all of the above – figure out what skill set, hours and resources you will need.

With new technologies arriving every day, this is an industry that changes more than it stays the same. Staying abreast of trends, tools and techniques is time consuming, but will give you an edge. We suggest hiring a firm or expert who can manage part or all of this process for you. If you have questions, please reach out to us at cassiacomm [at] gmail [dot] com. We are happy to hear from you.

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Hiring a communications firm will help manage your budget and your relationships

If you are one of the millions of businesses in the U.S. right now affected by the downturn, then now is a good time to implement or re-evaluate your communications strategy.

The right communications firm can help you speak to concerned employees, hesitant investors, the elusive media and consumers. These were tricky waters to navigate before, but now, with non-existent job security, evaporating investor funds, and word-of-mouth press, the effects of a well-defined, well-executed communications plan can make a tangible, real difference in the success of your company. The right messaging combined with an effective strategy can restore faith, secure funds, bolster reputation and save you precious time and money.  

But, you may be thinking, “How can we afford to outsource, now?” You may be surprised to learn that you can’t afford not to.

Communication firms worth their salt will consult with you free of charge to help you draw a clearer picture of your desired outcome and the map to get you there on time. This will save you countless man hours, money and headaches in the short and long term.

A targeted plan begins with the right questions – and plenty of them. Some of these questions, like “what do you want to communicate?” and “who is your audience?” are no-brainers, while “what’s the problem?” (What? I have a problem?) or “what is the frame of mind of your targeted audience?” are not so intuitive. An outside firm can help you get off to the right start by answering these critical questions and finding the message your audience will hear.

Need a few other reasons to look outside the office?

  • Time is money — and now more than ever.  Your time is probably already maxed out generating new business, saving that certain project, focusing on your staff, and of course, figuring out how you are going to wiggle around in this uncertain, “new rules” economy.
  • Money is money. Considering salaries, benefits, insurance, training, etc., a dedicated in-house option will cost you thousands more per year than hiring out. Plus, most communications firms will offer some, or most, of their services “a la carte.”
  • Contractors provide additional, third-party expertise and an outside perspective. Often, this vantage point allows them to offer fresh ideas, solutions and strategies you might have missed going it alone.
  • One less project for you to manage. The firms you vet should present you with the option to manage the project start to finish for you.
  • Stellar firms will have an army of expert resources at their fingertips in several areas of communications such as marketing, social media, public relations, website development, printing and of course, top-notch writing and editing ninjas. (Who doesn’t want a ninja on their team?)
  • Hiring a firm gives you a lot of flexibility. You choose how involved you want to be in the project, whether it’s a short-term gig or long-term relationship, whether you want full-service or a la carte, and of course, the flexibility to switch firms — because sometimes, you just want change.

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