Successful corporate communications are everything that a company says or does to create a positive image and reputation both internally and externally. It is the foundation that supports the company’s growth goals and conveys the attitudes, beliefs, goals and culture of an organisation in order to gain visibility, credibility and recognition within the marketplace.
Today organisations face a volatile, uncertain, complex, activist multi-stakeholder world. Change is constant so effective corporate communications has more of a role to play than ever. Communicating value, whether it’s financial, social or environmental is critical in insulating firms against reputational risks and also engaging key corporate stakeholders.
With public scrutiny of companies at an all-time high, companies that can’t communicate what they are doing, and why, will have a hard time to stay relevant in the future.
We share some of the key questions and components that firms should consider when developing a succinct and successful corporate communications plan in 2023:
1. Firstly, understand your market and where you fit within it
Acknowledge the challenges being faced and start thinking about an approach to overcoming them.
2. Establish your identity and how you’re perceived
It is important at this stage to enter self-diagnosis mode. You should analyse how your company is currently perceived and how you want it to be viewed in future. Consider who you are as a business; what response you want to illicit from your stakeholders and what challenges might lie in the way of you achieving these objectives?
These are some questions that should be answered before developing a strategy and will help you to structure your communications.
3. Identify your goals and clarify your objectives
These should be measurable and attainable goals and strategies. Any corporate communications plan should also indicate immediate, short, and long-term goals.
Objectives can vary depending on the focus of your campaign. Whether you plan to increase brand awareness, reposition your organisation, plug a message in specific media or educate key stakeholders, setting clear objectives is a critical first step.
4. Define your company’s mission and vision
What your company stands for is directly related to your corporate purpose and how your company will deliver a product or service. To be most effective, this mission needs to live and breathe throughout all corporate communications and go beyond a website statement. It should align with the leadership’s core values to become a genuine part of the guiding principles that drive the corporate vision. Otherwise, it will lack substance or seem unachievable.
A strong vision can play an influential role in communicating the connection between the business of today and tomorrow. Make sure it is actionable and realistic and don’t forget the practical and operational details of how you will deliver on it.
5. State your purpose
A purpose statement explains ‘why’ you are in business and why you are relevant. It should be inspirational and reveal your company’s journey and the value you are creating. Be clear on the demonstrable impact you are having on the market and why it matters now.
6. Understand your audience through stakeholder mapping
If you want to connect with your key stakeholders, you need to understand their expectations, preferences, concerns and motivations. Ask yourself: Who are they? Why do I want to talk to them? Imagine a customer, employee, investor or politician answering, what’s in it for me? Think about the motivators and drivers and adapt your strategy accordingly.
Segmenting and understanding your audiences will be critical when you start to manage the various stakeholder groups. Communications must be tailored accordingly so segmenting this data will facilitate a more favourable sentiment and help individual audiences gain a better understanding of your company’s objectives, value proposition, vision and strategies.
Dialogue and trust are the new currency of the stakeholder economy, not money. Reputation or stakeholder sentiment has a direct correlation with how a company is valued today so getting your audiences and stakeholder dialogue right is worth the effort. Companies are now operating in a complex stakeholder ecosystem so don’t forget to engage or at least consider issues and potential responses to wider stakeholders such as regulators or community groups in addition to employees, customers, partners and investors.
7. Develop your key messages
Key messages should be clear, concise, consistent, and compelling. They should articulate the benefits and impact your company is delivering, the challenges being addressed and what actions are being taken.
These messages should be based upon your company’s values, purpose statement and adapted in line with what will resonate with your disparate stakeholder groups.
8. Choose your tactics and communication channels
Once you have clarified the messages that you want to communicate you must establish how you’re going to distribute them. It is important to assess the channels that are most relevant to your stakeholder groups and tailor your communications accordingly.
Without the right tactics and channels of engagement, your target audience may never see all your hard work come to life so be intentional. Communicate regularly and consistently and engage your audiences through your content.
9. Make sure there is a budget, schedule and method of assessing the success of communications initiatives
Without these three components, corporate communication plans are likely to fall through the cracks. Sometimes they are sacrificed to competing priorities or shuffled from one person to another. It’s an irony of modern corporate communications that investment in reputation will always get cut short term in favour of maximising shareholder value.
10. Evaluation metrics
How do I know if my corporate communications strategy was successful? The success of any strategy lies in whether you can learn from it so define a measurement plan. The metrics you track should also tie back to your tactics, objectives, and goals. For example, if your strategy focuses on increasing awareness, metrics such as visibility and impressions will be key. If you are seeking to reposition or enhance reputation, sentiment shifts are a useful metric to measure.
A strategic communications plan shouldn’t be static or limited to just key milestones and inflection points- it needs to evolve as the company grows and/or transforms. Therefore, it requires fresh eyes, flexibility, genuine scrutiny and refinement. Today, it is no longer a “nice to have,” it’s a necessity.
To discuss your corporate communications requirements, get in touch with our award-winning team today.