We are more connected than ever before. Platforms of communication are as diverse today as they are global.
Put simply, we have more opportunity to interact more quickly and with more people than at any point in history.
Nothing illustrates this more than the fact that over half a billion people are now active users of Facebook solely from their mobiles, a number that will continue to rise with sharp growth in Asia.
On Twitter, over 500 million tweets are sent per day, with 80 per cent of active users on mobile.
For brands and companies of every size across every industry, the opportunity to engage positively, effectively and swiftly with stakeholders has never been greater. Nor, however, have the challenges in successfully maintaining control of messages and reputation in a fast-moving, 24/7 digital age.
It is no coincidence that as our global media environment has become more complex, so too have we seen the increased use of the term ‘strategic communication’, not just within the PR industry but in C-Suites around the world.
Indeed, strategic communication is increasingly recognised as a developing subfield within the sector of communication itself, an umbrella term to describe how individuals and organisations use communication and media to negotiate highly mediated societies.
Yet how do we define it?
As a company CEO, brand manager or marketeer, what does it mean to have a strategic communications plan in place?
As defined by the Financial Times, communication is strategic when it is ‘completely consistent with a corporation’s mission, vision and values’, thereby enhancing the strategic positioning and competitiveness of the organisation.
Being strategic also means communicating the best or ‘right’ message, through the most effective channels, measured against tangible organisational and communication-specific goals. When viewed in those terms, the best practice of strategic communication can apply to the handling of an immediate crisis as much as to a long-term campaign.
At the heart of the concept is the emphasis on strategy rather than on specific tactics.
It is about delivering purposeful communication that is integrated into a wider organisational plan.
It is because of the increasing complexity of our global, digital society that the capacity for organisations to engage in long-term strategic planning has been challenged, therefore fuelling increased requirement for ‘strategic communication’.
A good communications plan should be one of the most important elements of any organisation’s daily operation. As a living and breathing document, it should frame media activities, including engagement with external and internal stakeholders, clarify the organisation’s priorities and define long-term goals.
A key concept to understand in relation to communication strategy is that communication should always be seen from the audience’s perspective. One way to think about this is to ask yourself the question – every time your organisation communicates – “As a result of this, my audience will…”
So before you start, do your homework: define what your target audience is, create mission-driven messages and above all – understand the current landscape.