To grow your business you can use a vast range of marketing communications tactics in 2020.
But there are so many options out there it can be hard to know what to choose.
From working with Instagram and YouTube influencers to Google and Facebook Ads, traditional advertising and public relations, there’s no end to the ways in which you can target your customers.
And that can be a problem.
How do you coordinate all these different marketing tactics so that they work together in a coordinated fashion?
In this blog I’ll take you through a step-by-step approach to creating a marketing communications strategy that will work for your business.
I’ll explain the strategic thinking behind all successful multi-channel marketing and help you write a combined marketing and PR plan that will help you increase sales throughout the year.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is a marketing communications strategy?
- How to think about your marketing communications strategy
- Writing your marketing communications strategy
- Implementing your marketing communications strategy
- How to measure your marketing communications strategy
Let’s get to it.
What Is A Marketing Communications Strategy?
A marketing communications strategy outlines everything you need to do to market your product or service.
It’s a comprehensive action plan to get your target audience raving about your brand – and taking an action.
The strategy can include everything from social media campaigns, SEO tactics and events to your media relations work and above the line advertising campaigns.
It’s a carefully thought through, well researched and (ideally) data-driven campaign, over an extended period of time.
Every successful marketing communications strategy is aligned to business objectives, and often involves different departments working together.
Internal and external focus
Your strategy will have an external focus – what information your customers, investors or perhaps, community stakeholders need to receive.
There will also be an internal focus – what do your employees need to know or do? It will include target brand elements, key messages and the communications channels that you will use to achieve your objectives.
The strategy concludes with measurement, assessing how objectives have been improved and asking what did you learn from your work?
A marketing communications strategy is a bit like a road map. It outlines where your brand or company is in terms of market position and reputation.
It points to where you want to be and how you want your brand to be known. Then it maps out how to get there.
But the roadmap is not complete without a look back over your shoulder to see how the journey went and an analysis of what worked well and what needs to be improved.
How To Think About Your Marcomms Strategy
You can divide the thinking behind a marketing communications strategy into three essential principles:
Here’s what they mean in a nutshell.
Having detailed knowledge of your market, your customer base and the potential of your business is vital.
If you act without the insight into how your brand is positioned and what its reputation is with your target audience you’re flying blind.
But if you gather data and intelligence about how your company compares to the competition you’ll make informed decisions that will bring about the best results.
I’ll take a deep dive into how to understand your target audience and how to truly measure the impact of your strategy later in the blog, but right from the very beginning, I want you to start thinking ‘intelligently’ about your marketing communications strategy.
Adopt a mindset of curiosity and learn from the best marketing books. Understand the social and behavioural trends that affect your company and your customers.
Then you’ll be well positioned to build trust and demonstrate why your business or service is a must-have purchase.
Whatever form of content you create, as part of your marketing communications strategy, it must be highly relevant to your target audience.
Potential customers and key stakeholders must be truly engaged as a result of your strategy. Your objective is not just to broadcast information, focus on creating genuine connections to your brand.
Create an army of loyal fans by showing the value that you bring and how integral your product or service is to their lives.
Take the current boom in the horoscope industry with Millennials and Generation Z. This demographic now consult the zodiac more than ever before.
Many use their star signs to inform huge aspects of their lives, everything from making important life decisions to what days they should go out on date.
Sound silly? Well trend forecasters price the mystical market at more than $2billion. Who’s laughing now?
And what’s behind this boom?
Accessibility of information and the unrelenting message that horoscopes can support and guide through every element of your life. At every moment they are relevant.
Weekly newspaper star sign columns are a thing of the past. They’ve been replaced by apps with push notifications, daily horoscope podcasts and personalised zodiac feeds.
Each comms channel providing daily support to consumers so they are never without a connection and one’s horoscope is always relevant to one’s life.
This is all about how your marketing and communications can affect someone’s behaviour or thoughts/feelings towards a brand.
Marketing communications strategies work best when they develop a positive relationship between a brand and a target audience.
This is an ongoing two-way interaction that builds connectivity and trust between each party, and in time this leads to influence over behaviour, feelings and thoughts about a brand.
This influence can be subtle. Well executed marketing, and in particular a public relations campaign, can nudge your audience into taking an action, buying a product or signing up for a service without them even realising it.
Or it can be bold and loud.
Think Black Friday advertising from a big online retailer that screams BUY ME NOW or political campaigns that are lobbying directly to get their constituents out to vote.
Before you start your campaign think about how you want your audience to think or feel about your brand, what action you want them to take?
Are you going to subtly nudge them in the right direction or is this a loud dynamic instruction?
Include your CTA (call to action) consistently through your content and see how your audience responds.
Once you’ve understood these three main principles, your marketing communications strategy will be a more comprehensive and a well thought through document.
It is a valuable piece of business intelligence that can be utilised by teams across your company. But before you share it far and wide here’s five key points to remember.
5 tips For Your Marketing Communications Strategy
1. It must be jargon-free
Don’t hide behind ‘marketing speak’ just to make yourself look good. If every department in your organisation can’t pick up your strategy and instantly understand it, then it’s pointless.
An excess of management speak = a lack of meaning. Make your marketing communications strategy accessible and engaging. Review and edit your strategy with this in mind and it will bring clarity and greater impact.
2. Choose your metrics before you start
Think outcomes before outputs. Don’t rush ahead with an elaborate strategy without working out how you can measure your success.
Define goals and targets and what they will look like as numbers. This way you can track progress as you go and amend elements of the strategy accordingly if you’re not hitting the mark.
3. Agree your budget
A marketing communications strategy will include lots of paid promotion so make sure you know what you can spend, and when, before you begin. You can’t organise an influencer marketing campaign if funds are not available.
You also need to know what return to expect on your spend – and be careful not to go over budget. Splashing the cash does not guarantee impact. Be frugal and invest where there is value.
4. Be clear on your brand before you start implementing your strategy
Of course this means a consistent look and feel to your brand, but also this will influence what messaging and channels you need to target.
We’ll cover this in detail but if you feel there is lack of congruence in terms of what people think and feel regarding your brand take a step back and spend some time sorting this out before you embark on your strategy.
5. Get the right teams or key people on board
Get agreement with your ideas before you kick start your campaign. A successful marketing communications strategy can involve all different disciplines within the marketing mix – digital, SEO, internal comms and free PR.
Agree actions before you press the start button and everything will run much more smoothly.
How To Create Your Strategy
When you write your strategy here are the main areas that you need to cover:
- The goal – what the strategy is trying to achieve
- Target audience – the people that the strategy will target
- Messages – what you want to say to those people
- Brand consistency – does everything about your brand look and feel as it should
- Channels – the ways you will engage with your audience
- Content and stories – what you will share with your audience
Let’s go through each section in turn.
1. The Goal – what the strategy is trying to achieve
Think about your ‘Goal’ as what you want to achieve with this strategy. The result you want to enjoy at the end of all your work.
Goals must be measurable so that you know what impact the strategy has had. Avoid generic goals, such as ‘raise awareness’.
Pin your target down with data, and make sure that the goals you set are aligned with current business objectives or the strategy for the wider company.
To set effective and achievable goals you need to know what point you are starting from. Conduct a communications audit before you begin, to collect data on key areas you are focusing on.
Ask questions such as:
- What is your market position?
- What is the current reputation/perception of your brand with your customers?
- Is your company hitting sales targets?
- Collect qualitative data about people’s thoughts and feelings about your brand, their emotional responses to your product.
2. Target Audience – the people that the strategy will target
Who do you want to connect with? Who do you want to interact with your content? These people are your target audience.
Similarly, the individuals that you want to respond to your CTA (Call to Action), to buy your product, to use your service, are your target audience.
Once you’ve set your goals for your strategy, the next step is to nail down who you will connect with to achieve those goals.
Which consumer group, which demographic, what age group, will you target to gain success with your business?
Investing in proper customer research and analysis at the start will also provide valuable insight to guide key decisions throughout the strategy.
If you know personality types of your audience then you can make sure your key messages resonate with them.
If you know where your audience consumes their information you’ll know what channel to choose to share your content.
Here are some questions you can ask to work out who your target audience is:
- How do they think? Personality types, attitudes, values, behaviours.
- What needs, challenges, frustrations do they have?
- What are their primary goals?
- How does your idea, service, or product help them?
- Where does your target audience hang out online?
- What do they do offline? What events do they attend, how do they spend their leisure time, what experiences do they like?
- Where does your audience consume their news?
- What drives your audience to make buying decisions?
- What does your current customer database show? Can you use existing data to define your target group?
- Did you choose the right target group? Always come back to this question and reflect upon your success at targeting the right audience.
As you work your way through your marketing communications strategy don’t forget to invest time to stay in touch with shifting customer demands.
Set up focus groups and periodically review the suitability of your target audience. Always keep your work focused on achieving your goals and don’t be afraid to adjust your audiences if necessary.
3. Messages – what you want to say to those people
Your messages, or key messages as they are often called, are the key information about your brand that you want your audience to know.
This could be important product information, what makes you the best on the market, or it could be crucial event information that attendees need.
Key messages should be short and memorable. If they are too long, your audience won’t engage and they’ll be lost in all the other marketing noise out there.
What’s your USP? Make sure it is included in your messages – if you don’t tell your audience what is unique and special about your product then who will?
4. Brand consistency – does everything about your brand look and feel like it should?
A brand is more than just a logo and a strapline, it’s how people think and feel about your product or service.
It’s important that every consumer touchpoint is a consistent experience of the brand – you want every customer’s contact to be of the same quality.
If your target audience all think and feel different things then they’ll be no agreement on what your brand stands for and how you are different from competitors.
This will lead to confusion and instead of loyal fans, doubt will grow in the minds of your audience. They won’t buy into your product or service.
Before you begin your marketing communications strategy conduct an audit of all your marketing touchpoints and collateral and make sure they are consistent with each other.
If they’re not, take charge and make changes to ensure your brand is represented in its strongest form for all your target audience to enjoy.
Channels – The Ways You Will Engage Your Audience
Marketing communications channels are what you use to share content that will reach and then engage your target audience.
The channels that you choose are sometimes referred to as your ‘marketing mix’ – the combination of media platforms that you use to reach your potential customers.
Your marketing mix could include:
- PPC and digital advertising – banner ads etc
- Social media advertising – Facebook, Instagram etc
- Offline advertising on print media, billboards or TV
- Influencer marketing – partnerships with social media influencers who will endorse your product
- SEO and content marketing – creating content that ranks well on search engines to reach and engage new and existing audiences
- Celebrity partnerships, brand ambassadors and corporate relationships – creating a network of promotional partners for your brand
- Events and stunt marketing – connecting with your audiences in person, face to face like these public relations examples
The biggest gripe that our students feedback on
In the main, it’s how to choose the right marketing channels for the audience and then to successfully run these channels day in day out.
It’s undeniably hard, it’s a skill to make sure the most engaging content is posted/shared/published on the most effective channel to reach your audience at the right time.
Not only do you need to be switched on, creatively, but you need superpowers of planning to deliver content on time so you can meet all deadlines.
There’s no short cut here, it takes time so don’t rush this stage. Don’t go live on one channel until you have all your content lined up for the rest.
Timing is everything and we’ll deep dive into this in the How to Implement Your Strategy, later in this blog.
6.Content And Stories – What You Will Share
The type of content and stories that you share across the channels will be specific to your brand.
You’ll need to ensure that they generate as much engagement as possible with your target audience to achieve your marketing communications objectives.
Here’s my top five tips to creating content that resonates and sparks engagement.
Whether you’re making video content or figuring out how to get a story on the local news ensure that it’s relevant to the audience.
This means it something topical, current or connected in some way to the lives of your audience. In our PR campaigns we call this being newsworthy. If you want media coverage you must demonstrate the news value of your story.
There’s a lot of competition for consumer attention, your audience will be inundated by content from other brands, so you need to get your message through quickly and clearly.
Make sure your stories are to the point – keep videos to less than 1 minute, know how to write a press release so that it’s no more than a page and record your podcasts for no longer than 20 minutes.
To create a holistic and clear reputation for a brand all marketing content must be consistent with agreed messaging.
Make sure that everyone involved in story writing and content creation, including external suppliers, is well briefed and everything is presented consistently.
Beige and boring content will not drive engagement. It will be ignored.
Don’t be afraid to push boundaries and try new types of stories for your brand. If you’ve always been seen as a conservative brand then try switching things up and showing a more human side to your company.
As much as preparation and planning are essential to marketing success, this is 2020 and marketing must also be done in real-time.
Your brand must have a visible ‘real-time’ presence on social media and online and so it will require you to think on your feet and create reactive content to events as they are happening.
How To Implement Your Strategy
Timing is everything.
Work to deadlines and make sure everyone is on board to achieve those deadlines. If you fall behind on producing a set of content for one channel then this will impact all your other work.
Be upfront about delays so that everyone can plan accordingly. Better to readjust time schedules and allow creatives to take longer with their work than to miss deadlines and leave your audience waiting.
Don’t Miss Out On New Opportunities
Timing is equally as crucial if you need to implement a reactive or opportunistic marketing communications strategy.
These are very common in certain industries, like fashion.
For example, a famous celebrity or influencer wears your company’s product. This is public relations and marketing gold and a strategy must be actioned immediately.
With each hour that passes after the celebrity was spotted means that your product is becoming less and less hot. Wait too long and you’ll be yesterday’s trend. Such is the fickle world of fashion.
As soon as possible you need to start the PR plan element of your campaign. Make sure that the product the celebrity wore is in front of every journo/influencer/media platform/celebrity gossip/music site you can think of so they know where it came from.
You’ll need to email them images and all key product specs/story – as a press release. ‘Influencer wears latest hot brand’.
Your digital/social media advertising strategy will also need to go live almost instantly if you want to cut through the noise. Get your ad sets signed off and get those algorithms working for you.
Stakeholder relations is a must here too. You’ll want to reach out to all your industry contacts, stylists, buyers and anyone influential to your business.
Let them know your product is on trend and in demand. If you’re hot to someone else you’ll be hot to them too.
Your Mindset Matters
Adopting a successful marketing mindset is just as important as having the right marketing tactics in place.
Stay calm and don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with information when working on different areas within the strategy.
Act on one thing at a time and prioritise what is most important.
Prioritise your tasks at the start of each day, work on the most time-critical content first.
Don’t cause a blockage – if you’re sitting on material that needs to be signed off then you’re at risk of putting the whole strategy off track.
As we discussed at the top of this section, set realistic deadlines and communicate when you won’t be able to achieve them. If you can’t make deadlines don’t consider this a personal reflection on yourself.
There are only 24 hours in the day and it takes time to produce quality content and run an effective marketing communications strategy. However, good time management can help you be more efficient and helps run your strategy more smoothly.
Check your task list around lunchtime – have priorities changed throughout the morning? Stay flexible and allow yourself to readjust your schedule if you need to.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Have a go at writing your own marketing communications strategy.
If you find it a drag to get bogged down in the planning before the exciting execution phase remember the old adage of the British Army – the 7 Ps: Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance!
And if you’re really ready to take your PR work to the next level grab our PR Starter Kit.
Our must-have kit has every template, script, strategy and guide you’ll ever need to do PR – all in one place.