Communication expert and Brisbane Business Hub mentor Mel Kettle recently joined us at the Brisbane Business Hub to share her advice for planning your strategy for 2024 – so you can save time and money, increase your visibility and feel in control of your communications next year.
This interactive masterclass provided a collaborative experience for attendees to kickstart their communications and get their strategy down on paper for the new year.
For those who couldn’t attend the event in person, here are a few of Mel’s key takeaways.
Words by Mel Kettle, Communication Strategist
As 2023 wraps up, it’s a great opportunity to review and reflect on the past 12 months. Before you dive headfirst into the new year, hit pause and give yourself time to refresh and refocus your goals and action plans.
If you are unsure where to start, I’ve put together a step by step guide to nailing your communication strategy.
Take the time to reflect
This time of year is a good opportunity to take stock of the previous 12 months and think ahead to what you want the next 12 to look like.
Some prompts that might guide your reflection include:
- What worked?
- What didn’t work?
- What do I want to continue to be doing?
- What opportunities presented themselves that I did/didn’t take advantage of?
- Where do I want to be next year?
- What do I want to have achieved by this time next year?
- Who do I want to work with?
- What kind of work do I want to do and how am I going to do that?
Your answers to these questions should inform your approach going forward, so you can refocus your goals, strategies and action plans and put your best foot forward in 2024.
I structure my planning by breaking it up into quarters, picking one thing to focus on per quarter – such as reviewing and revamping your website, creating an online program or increasing your social media presence. For example, my next quarter will be focused on finishing my next book.
As Harvard Business School academic Michael Porter says, ‘The essence of strategy is choosing what NOT to do’. When you begin the planning phase, go through and make a list of anything and everything that you want to achieve and then cut it in half. Focus less on the shiny objects, like podcasts or Clubhouse, and more on what will actually drive your business forward.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the change you want to create?
- What does this look like?
- What are your goals?
- How will you measure your success?
- What is stopping you?
While it may feel like you have way too much to do and you can’t possibly have the time to plan, having a strategy will save you time, energy and money in the long run.
Why is having a strategy important?
Poor communication can cost businesses millions. According to The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, which looked at communication barriers in the modern workplace, the repercussions of poor communication in the workplace can be severe and widespread.
Forty-four per cent of respondents indicated that miscommunication caused a delay or failure to complete projects. 18 per cent said miscommunication led to a loss of a sale. Communication breakdowns also contributed to stress (52 per cent) and low morale (31 per cent).
When you don’t have a communication strategy in place, it can be hard to be clear on what your purpose is, leaving staff and clients feeling confused.
It is important to determine what you stand for and how you help your customers. When you take the time to plan and think these things through, it makes it clearer for you, the people who work for you, your customers, those who volunteer for you, or donate to you.
Having a well thought out communication strategy will make you more influential in your sector and help your staff to feel more empowered.
Creating a communication strategy
Too often we spend time and effort developing a communication strategy, but fail to implement it when we are caught up in the hustle and bustle of day-to-day activities.
It is easy to lose focus by prioritising outputs instead of the target market or audience.
To that end, I have put together a set of steps to follow to create and implement your communication strategy.
Remember the goals you set out earlier? It’s time to prioritise and pick two to three goals you want to focus on. They must be S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals and relate back to your overarching strategy and business plan.
Hone in on your target market and who they are. The more you know about your target audience, the more you can tailor your strategy and content to serve their needs. Think more broadly than demographics – use data, do your research, and don’t assume that just because you have an idea there will be an audience for your product or service.
Give your audience:
- A name
- An age
- An occupation
Ask yourself the following questions about your audience:
- What do they do for fun?
- Are they married? Do they have a partner?
- Do they have children?
- Do they have pets?
- Where do they live?
Humanise your audience and let them evolve and be impacted by the world. It is important to have a really clear understanding of the environment you operate in. At this point, it might be helpful to do an updated SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.
- Key Messages
What is it that you want people to know about you and your business? This is the main message about what you do, who you do it for, how you want to work and the problems you solve.
It should be at the front and centre of most of your communications. You should have a few key messages about what your organisational purpose is, and it should be included on your website, in your social media bio, on any advertising materials and in the footer of your email.
- Communication tools and tactics
Once you know what you want to communicate, think about how you’re going to communicate it. The more you know about your market, the more you will be able to choose the relevant tactics to use.
Know where your clients and target clients go to get information on the product or service you provide. Is it social media? If so, which social media platforms? Is it Google? If so, what phrases do they use on Google and how can you incorporate these phrases onto your website? Do they like to go to events? If so, is it trade shows, conferences, workshops? Is it word of mouth?
Establishing where your customers are seeking out information can guide you on what content you need to produce and where it needs to be. Creating content is a big job and can be overwhelming, but the more that you plan, the easier it is when you sit down to create the content.
A few tips for creating content:
- Create one piece of content and use it across a range of platforms.
- If a piece of content performs well, what else can you do with that idea?
- Focus on content that works to solve a problem, answers a question and has a call to action at the end.
- If you don’t know where to start, look at your competitors and people in your industry and see what they are doing and talking about, and how they are using content.
- Curate content from other sources and share your thoughts around why it is worth sharing.
- Recycle and repurpose old content that is still relevant with a new/different spin.
- If you’re in the mindset to sit down and create content, then batch create to save time and energy.
- Focus on being simple, short and to the point.
- Don’t expect people to engage with your content unless you are engaging with theirs.
- Provide value and people will be far more likely to engage with it.
- Think about how much capacity you have and how often content is relevant to your audience to determine the frequency of sharing content.
Everything should be measurable and trackable, and the best part of technology is that it makes this easy. Google Analytics allows you to learn about your website visitors, social media channels make data and statistics available and newsletter services help you to track newsletter performance and subscriber behaviour. Much of this information is free and easily accessible.
When it comes to social media, in particular, don’t get caught up in measuring vanity metrics – focus on things like comments instead. When people take the time to give you their opinion or thoughts on what you’ve posted, they are interested in you and what you have to offer. This is an opportunity to nurture this connection and form a relationship. Communication is much better and easier now with two-way involvement and the opportunity for that is everywhere. Take advantage of it.
- Implementation plan
There is no point in having the strategy if you don’t actually take action and do something with it. You need to know who is going to do what and when and how you will measure the success of that.
If you look back at your list of tactics and realise you don’t have the capacity to fulfil them all, then go back to your list of goals and prioritise. Work out what your key milestones are and when they need to happen. Keep it simple – put key dates and deliverables into your calendar, have an accountability buddy, find out what works for you and run with it.
With all that being said, be kind to yourself when things don’t get done. Life happens and it’s OK if you don’t manage to tick everything off your goal list for the year.
Finally, once you have reflected, started to plan ahead and created your communication strategy plan, I suggest converting it into a 1-2 page communication strategy that you can refer back to.
If you follow these steps your communication will be fighting fit for next year.