A new year: time for review, planning and perhaps change

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The quiet days of January are a great time to assess communication programs, especially the success and failures of the past year’s activities.

Indeed, without such an evaluation, any planning for the coming year is likely to simply repeat what was done in the previous year, without improving activities, taking advantage of new opportunities, focusing on successful approaches, and improving cost effectiveness.

Any review should start with the past year’s strategic plan, and an honest assessment of where activities fell short of the aims, an evaluation of performance, assessment of the strategy’s effectiveness, and possibly refining it to ensure it is still consistent with the organisation’s business plan.

It may well be that the existing strategic plan needs little change, but without knowing whether aims, key messages and reputation management activities are still appropriate, any further activity development is likely to waste resources.

If last year’s program failed to achieve what it set out to do, a soft option is to make it easier this year by shifting the targets.

The tougher approach – which will be much more effective – is to look at the activities and the way they were executed, and ask the hard questions.

Did we do the things we set out to do?  If not, why not?  Did we take full advantage of activities we did implement?  Did we create new opportunities? Were we consistent in delivering the messages we wanted?  Did we improve understanding of our organisation and the benefits it offers?  Did we reach the right people? Are the aims, messages, audiences, activities and methods still relevant?   Did we better our benchmarks as a measurement of success?

If it is considered things could have been done better, changes can be made to the way the program is implemented and the activities chosen.

This may include basics such as training spokespeople to deliver agreed messages more effectively, reviewing activities to focus on those that gave results, using the media (whether traditional or social) that best reaches particular target audiences, or shifting emphasis of approaches.

If a communication consultancy is used, its contribution during the last year should be reviewed to ensure best value for money has been achieved, especially if results were not as expected.

All communication programs – whether it is a new one being developed, or a long standing approach being continued – will suffer without aims, messages, target audience and agreed activities.

A review is particularly relevant while the value of social media over traditional approaches is still being debated.

If a media program is part of a strategic plan that identifies the people you want to influence and what you want to say to them, then the choice of media makes such discussion irrelevant. It’s simply a case of what media will best reach and influence them.

Social media becomes an effective part of the overall strategy, delivering messages in an effective way to identified audiences as part of a program of broader activities outlined in the overall plan.

Indeed, without such a co-ordinated approach to create clarity, different images can be projected through different media and other activities with mixed messages, causing confusion and a muddled brand and reputation.