A communications strategy lays the foundations for success and develops the strategic framework needed to ensure all communications activity is aligned with your business objectives.

Whether you’re looking to increase brand awareness, change perceptions or manage your reputation in a crisis, without a clear strategy you’re unlikely to achieve your organisational goals.

But how do you go about establishing an effective communications strategy? Here, we break it down into seven simple steps.

1. Insights
Gather as many insights as possible. Carrying out a comprehensive audit of where you are as a business will help inform your communications strategy.

Consider what’s happening in your industry right now and what might be on the horizon.

Identify what’s top of the news agenda and the conversations happening in the digital space. And take an in-depth look at the topics and issues your competitors are owning and the opportunities to differentiate.

2. Audience and channels
Know your audience and what makes them tick. Identify your core customers, their specific needs and how your business is uniquely placed to meet those needs. Map the customer journey and use PESO modelling to define the most relevant channels across paid, earned, shared and owned media.

3. Organisational objectives
Define your goals. What are the targets and milestones your business needs to meet over the next one, two, three years? Make sure this is documented along with critical factors for success. It’s crucially important that everyone knows the final destination and understands the operational roadmap for getting there.

4. Organisational purpose
What’s your raison d’être? A clearly defined vision, mission and values will help shape the messaging you want to communicate internally and externally. Your vision is your long-term roadmap, what you want to become or achieve as a business. Your mission is why the company exists, your reason for being. And your values are the beliefs and guiding principles for the business and the behaviour of its team. The ‘how’ you operate as a business.

5. Communications objectives
Now you can begin mapping your communications objectives. As with any goal, these should be measurable. And importantly, they need to support your over-arching business objectives so you can demonstrate a meaningful and commercial ROI on your communications activity.

6. Communications themes and messaging
What do you want to be famous for? Define the themes and topics you want to ‘own’ as a business. These topic areas will inform your communications programme – but make sure they are aligned with your brand so you can credibly have a voice. Once you have these themes defined, you can develop a messaging framework that will provide the cornerstone for all your communications activity.

7. Defining success
What does success look like? For each of your communications objectives, define what success looks like. Decide what can and can’t be measured and set KPIs. It’s important that this is discussed and agreed upfront, and revisited at regular intervals, to manage expectations and ensure everyone is on the same page from day one.

Claire Gething is a Director at Whistle PR which offers a range of integrated communications services including strategic consultancy, PR, social media and internal communications. For further information email info@whistlepr.co.uk or contact us here.