How to Develop a Communications Strategy – with 6 Words

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. -Sun Tzu

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Don’t have a communications strategy?

Not sure how to develop one?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Responses to the Communications Strategy Survey continue to pour in, and it’s clear that one of the biggest barriers to developing a better communications strategy many people have is they just aren’t sure how to develop one.

So many organizations skip developing strategy and jump right into tactics – that is doing the day-to-day communications tasks. But as Sun Tzu wrote:

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. -Sun Tzu
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Avoid defeat! Develop a communications strategy!

I’ve tried to prune the process down to its basic elements. I give you…

Communications Strategy in 6 Words

1) Why?

Why are we communicating? We can break that down further by asking some additional questions…

  • Why does our organization exist? (Hint it’s in your mission/vision statement)
  • What are the goals and objectives of our communications? (They should align with your mission/vision statement)

2) Who?

This question has two parts:

  • Who are we? What is our brand? Our message? Our culture? What is it that makes our organization unique?
  • Who are our target audiences? Who are we trying to reach? Who are our existing customers/members/students? What are their demographics? What do they like? What do they think about? What communications platforms are they already using?

3) What?

What do our target audiences have need of? What can we provide to them? You might start with the products or services you provide, but think deeper than that. What do those things provide? Security? Significance? A community of love and acceptance? A deeper connection with God?

Now what do our target audiences have need of from a communications perspective to experience those benefits? An invitation to visit our community of faith? Regular reminders of opportunities for spiritual growth? Notices of opportunities to try a product or service that will lead to better productivity, relationships, leadership or fulfillment? An online community for sharing ideas & discussing challenges?

4) How?

Now that we know what our audiences need, how can we best deliver that to them? This is where we finally get to talk tactics.

  • What platforms should we use for each audience?
  • What content will we publish to each platform?
  • What’s the content schedule going to be?
  • Who is going to do what?
  • What systems, processes and policies will we use?

5) ¿Cuántos?

That’s “how many?” for you gringos ;) To keep the theme of one-word questions I had to mix in a little Spanish lingo. Once we’ve determined our tactics, we need to decide what we’re going to measure so we can evaluate our success. What metrics are we going to track? What are our numerical goals?

Note that tactical metrics are useful (e.g. number of Facebook shares each month), but the most important metrics are those used to evaluate whether our objectives (our why) is being achieved. How many people visited our church, bought our product, or signed up for our ministry newsletter after first hearing about us on Facebook? Twitter? Google search?

6) Where?

Where do we go from here? What is our process for reviewing our metrics, adjusting our tactics and revising our strategy?

Strategic thinking will never be simple or easy, but I hope these 6 words help give clarity to the strategic planning process. And I hope that clarity inspires you to do the hard work of developing a great communications strategy!

Discussion

  • What comments or questions do you have about this approach to developing a communications strategy?
  • What would you add, remove or change?
  • Which of these questions do you need to address in your organization’s communications strategy?

Also see: 4 Common Barriers to Developing a Good Communications Strategy (and How to Overcome Them)

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

7 Responses to “How to Develop a Communications Strategy – with 6 Words”

  1. lisavictoriahamilton May 22, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Paul,
    I appreciate how focused your questions are. By answering each question, I can drill down what to say yes to and what to say no to and HOW to say no based on the why. I'm excited to meet with my team to work through these questions so we can concentrate our efforts on where they will really make a difference and reach our target audience.

    How do you measure if your strategy is effective? I'm trying to come up with the best metric system so I can gather numbers to determine if my strategy is working.

    • PaulSteinbrueck May 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      Awesome Lisa! You really "get it" when it comes to strategy. Understanding that each section of the strategy (the answers to each questions above) informs the decisions you make in the following sections is huge. It makes everything clearer.

      >>How do you measure if your strategy is effective? I'm trying to come up with the best metric system so I can gather numbers to determine if my strategy is working.

      I think it comes down to asking people. Ideally, every person who visits your church should be asked how they heard about it. Every person who signs up for a class or a small group should be asked how they heard about it. I know that's not always easy, but think about how valuable it would be to know how many people did each of those things as a result of each communications platform you're using (website/SEO, Facebook, Twitter, email newsletter, verbal announcements, Sunday bulletin, etc)

  2. Bertie Williams May 24, 2013 at 1:45 am

    I really liked reading Paul's 6 Communication Strategies. I have already been applying them so I can truly say they are effective but they take time and most people want instant results. I like the idea of just 6 words to get his point across and these 6 words caught my attention. I am wordy. But I am also attentive to reactions while I'm beating ya over the head. That keeps me ready for whatever I have to do or say next. By the time I am done, we have communicated. I enjoy it when it all comes together. Thanks for a delightful article.

    • PaulSteinbrueck May 24, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks Bertie! I'm glad to hear you're applying the principles. Hang in their despite the people who want instant results.

  3. This is really amazing, we have a youth group and we often have been shooting blanks, these questions should help us focus on the strategy and the challenges ahead.

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