All Companies Need a Communication StrategyBy Jan Hogewoning | Mon, 04/27/2020 - 19:08
Q: Why do companies need a communication strategy?
A: All companies must have a communication strategy. This is a form of social responsibility and commitment. It means not only informing the public of the company’s financial performance but, in a wider sense, of its plans, investments and developments. Communication has the ability to create visibility, reputation, credibility and empathy. These are the four axes of communication. Communication strategies are especially relevant today because information travels very fast, which means a crisis can be provoked very quickly.
Q: What service do you provide to clients?
A: We make sure that brands, institutions and companies develop a positive reputation. We do this by transmitting quality information to specific audiences. We also aid companies in both preventing and managing crises, which can happen to any company in any given moment. We work directly with the general management of companies. We believe social responsibility should be lifted to this level and not just managed by a CSR department. It needs to be part of the essence of a company. During the economic crisis of the late 2000s, large companies elevated their communication to the responsibilities of general management so they could provide the right information to specific audiences and protect their reputation.
Q: What method do you use to create communication plans?
A: Normally, we create a unique communication plan for each client. We identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and risks. We have a system of media intelligence, where we monitor public information, analyze it and generate strategic and business intelligence. As consultants, we create a strategic plan, not just a tactical plan. You need to know with whom, why, how, in what form and with which objective you are sharing information. We always establish a clear way of measuring objectives. We measure results both quantitatively and qualitatively, looking at methods, ethics, talent and achievements. All companies have economic results but we can also measure the perception of the company on media platforms, such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines and the internet. For specific topics there are specific products and drivers we can create. For example, we organize events where we invite journalists so companies can present information on a specific topic. Often, we think we know what companies are talking about, but the media do not. These seminars can correct bad perceptions and create good ones. José Cuervo is another client. We organize these seminars for them so they can present each of their different brands.
Q: How do you measure your achievements on social media?
A: Social media is easy to measure. You can measure the entry of information into the network, clicks, followers, hashtags and the way the information is presented. You can also track if the community is talking positively about the company, for example. We recently used social media to transform the image of the transport system of Pachuca, Hidalgo. We provided information about routes, costs, problems and how these were solved. People reacted immediately and positively on social media, given that they had a lack of information beforehand. Being informed, by itself, is a positive factor. The basis of social media is spontaneous conversation. You need to be in those conversations, take control of the conversation and generate brand reputation. In such a democratic and horizontal environment, social media is crucial to shaping how our society thinks today.
Q: What are the main challenges to getting the right message across?
A: The primary challenge is quality of information. Everything should be absolutely true and verifiable. You need relevant data that reaches specific audiences. Second, you need storytelling that is convincing and engaging so that the information reaches not just the media but stakeholders, political institutions, chambers of commerce and unions. We work with all those who have an influential status, like journalists, key opinion leaders, influencers and bloggers. We do not pay them but we provide them with quality information about our clients which they then post or distribute.
Time is also fundamental. A good story can always be published. However, different mediums have different time scales for when information is published and in what form. For newspapers, you know that they will publish a story a day or two after an event, which gives you time to strategize. Magazines are monthly or bimonthly, meaning that you provide them information with a more analytical character and context. TV and radio are immediate and have a continuous presence in people’s lives. You need to be on top of that all the time. Social media is also immediate.
Q: What should change in organizations to accommodate a communication strategy?
A: Companies are becoming accustomed to reacting quickly. But to do so, they need to have a communications committee. This should have two parts. One is a think tank that develops the mission of the company, decides its focus and anticipates for the future. The other component is the war room, which handles day to day communication, making decisions, applying protocols and talking to the media. A current situation where this is highly relevant is the COVID-19 outbreak. Companies have had to take measures to protect their own employees and to communicate to the outside world their economic prospects and how they are making decisions to prevent and deal with the situation in the best way possible. There is a short distance between panic and taking responsible action. We have created a protocol that companies can use as guideline.
Extrategia is consultant to companies and institutions in the area of communications solutions. It has been active for 18 years. It clients include Jose Cuervo, Dell, EY, Farmacias del Ahorro, McDonald’s, Newmont and Iberdrola