What gaps are in your communication strategy?

Alice

The fourth assignment for my CIM Professional Certificate in Marketing involves creating a communications audit on the organisation I have based my assignment upon. After I had fathomed exactly what was required, I started to enjoy analysing every aspect of communication the organisation did, including the ‘external’ stakeholders involved, such as the media and pressure groups, the community and those involved in corporate social responsiblity.

This may all sound complicated, but there is no need to get apprehensive (unless you haven’t done much about communications in your business). First you need to work out all the different aspects of communication: websites, social media, blogs, PR, newspaper reports, articles written online and paper published, recommendations, networking (off and online), participation in events in the local social diary, corporate social responsibility and involvement in local groups. There are probably more you can think of, depending on your kind of business.

Go on the web and find out what other companies, especially your competitors, are doing to publicise the communication strategies they have in place. Sometimes a little light secondary research can reveal a lot about them, as well as yourself. How visible are you, both off and online? How much information do you make available about your company and the things that you do? How easy is it to find?

Then you need to work out the impact your communication strategy has on your business and your stakeholders, which includes past, present and potential customers, your competitors and suppliers, as well as the general public. How well do you communicate with them on the areas that are relevant to them? What kind of things do you need to tell them? How frequently do you perform this and what have the results been? Have you achieved your objectives from these ventures? What strategies do you have in place to continue, improve and achieve success in your future endeavours?

I have only just scratched the surface on this subject, but hopefully to get the strategic juices flowing. Being visible to the appropriate stakeholders could make a real difference to your business, not only to publicise what has been going on and any future projects, but to increase awareness, explain more succinctly exactly what you do and what you are aiming to achieve, increase networking opportunities and relationships that could evolve into joint ventures and other likely connections, and much more besides.

Let us know what you are doing within your communication strategy – it would be exciting to find out how successful you’ve been and what tactics you have thought up to set the communication wheels moving as smoothly as possible!

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Don’t waste your time writing that newsletter!

Chantal

I’ve just spent an hour catching up on reading newsletters. I often don’t have time to read them as they arrive, so put them somewhere safe and then read them when I have time. I copied a bunch of these newsletters onto my laptop, so that I could read them, while I sat in a coffee shop, between meetings. After a while I wondered why I bothered.

There were ‘newsletters’ that were pure sales pitch, telling me how great the company was. There was one that just said ‘you might like to read this’ with a link to someone else’s website. One of them was a list of articles that the sender had written over the last few months.

If you’re going to take the time to research and write an email newsletter and build a list of interested people to send it to, the least you can do is send something of use to your readers. Don’t patronise them and don’t waste their time, or they will delete what you send the next time!

What makes a good newsletter?

Alice

As a result of doing some research into what people think about e-newsletters, the answers have been varied and very interesting, fuelled by diverse attitudes and individualistic insights.

One thought is that e-newsletters need to be well crafted and sent to the right people.  Unlike paper newsletters, they are not a medium for lengthy and multiple information.  They are not constructed for leisurely reading-time or many chapters; the computer screen is not suitable for reading, as the light makes eyes tired and swimmy, concentration difficult to focus and, basically, we don’t have time to read newsletters when there’s a full in-box requiring our attention.

E-newsletters should contain only one subject that is relevant, wanted, needed and interesting. If readers consider it good value, gain knowledge and can see how it would affect them and their business, they are then more inclined to look forward to the next issue. The missives that go on for pages, endless scrolling down to find the crux of the concept, or constantly needing to provide alternative examples to make their point, will not only turn people off, but will result in maybe some valid information being missed amongst the padding.

There’s a misconstrued idea that your e-newsletter needs to be full of content. This is not the case: ideally one subject is adequate, as really it should be used to slam home a valid point via quick scanning methods into this time-starved world.  You could tell your readership about a particular post you’ve uploaded onto your blog, where you can elaborate more fully, and also have the benefit of receiving comments as feedback.

And then there’s your readers – are they right for your newsletter, or is the content of your newsletter relevant to them? You need to consider their time and how much is it worth.  Are you providing information that is worth reading, offering time-value benefits to their business, providing contribution that stands out from the rest, presented in a punchy, poignant and potent method to make your audience think, understand, react and come back for more? As long as you are providing equal merits in a quick-read format, then your newsletter will succeed.

What differences are there between blogging and micro-blogging?

Alice

Blogging and micro-blogging are both forms of social networking. Of course you’ve already sussed that micro-blogging is a shorter version of blogging, and it is, as a more concise, focused version.

Blogging allows you to express yourself in a chatty, conversationalist manner in as many words as you like. How long your posts are is open to contention and depends on what purpose you write your blog for, but I think they should not be over long. Blogs are newsy and should be aimed at your readers who don’t have a lot of time, and are looking for a quick fix to get their information or be entertained with knowledge that is in the ‘now’. (Anything that is over 750 words could be termed as an article, especially if it is extreme in its technical language and the audience it is aimed at, and really should be allocated to online article directories.) Posts can also be controversial, argumentative, opinionated, poignant, show-stopping or thought-provoking. There is room for expression as well as pictures and other media such as videos and audio. They are also archived for researchers and for reference in the future, and posts are shared with your audience through subscription services and RSS to feed them into other social networking profiles or streams.

Micro-blogging is also known as Twitter. (It could also be considered as updating your social status fields in your social networking profiles, or chatting with your friends on msn or other communication methods.) The nature of this activity is that it is short, quick-fire, concise and limited to a small number of characters (Twitter is 140, on other social media it is more). Because you are constrained in what you can say, it is mostly in letter characters, and if you want to expand your thoughts you need to direct your readers through a (usually shortened) link to a blog post or Facebook fanpage or LinkedIn Group or whatever source you like. This is the same for other media such as pictures, video, audio, etc. But the main reason is to share information with an immediate audience as a real-time updating service, revelling in the concept of ‘now’ or otherwise it has gone, catching your audience as it passes through and hoping your contribution is suitable enough for them to share it with their followers.

Why do businesses need a blog?

Alice

It’s amazing how many businesses don’t have a blog, or if they do, it lies neglected and forgotten. Only recently I helped resuscitate a website by rewriting the copy to bring back the customer focus. One of the links went to something that was called a blog, but hardly resembled one…

It’s great that they had a blog, but it’s certainly not good to misuse it. To them it was a page where reference points were listed, or articles were recorded. Hmm, apart from being very boring, it certainly didn’t encourage visitor interaction, which is what blogs are all about.

Blogs are all about increasing the visibility of your business online. It is an extra place on the web that allows a different and wider audience to find out more about you. It is an extremely flexible medium that enables a business to express themselves outside the rigid format of a brochure website. Within its pages you can show off your expertise, explain areas of your business in either greater detail or in a more sociable and communicative method to encourage visitor response. You are able to let your hair down, take off your tie or kick off your heels, and really show social media what you’re made of.

Now we’re entering the second decade of the millennium, the way business is done online is changing. Social networking is rising, and business practices are taking it on board within their marketing strategies. Gone are the days of stiff presentations, say hello to more social interaction, making way for customer’s and reader’s comments, feedback, suggestions, questions, even their own content. A blog is certainly one method of achieving this, using technology that is improving all the time to increase the easiness of use, friendliness of action and encouragement of participation.

So my next task is to carefully educate this website’s business to start using their blog again, making them understand its true purpose so it can perform effectively. It’s lack of knowledge about social media that result in poor management of online marketing tools, and this blog aims to rectify this as soon as possible. Watch this space…