Business organisations talk about building and managing their reputation, but many don’t have a communications strategy to help achieve this, and even if they do often it’s in a file somewhere and not used.
Too many organisations’ approach to communications, especially media relations, is to react to opportunities, treating each in isolation.
The trouble with this approach is that they are almost certainly not taking advantage of every opportunity to improve understanding about the organisation and how it is seen. How can it, when the key messages that would help do this haven’t been identified or aren’t front of mind?
Each communication activity should build on previous activities to tell an overall story about an organisation in a way that reinforces messages and builds reputation.
This is why key messages, consistently communicated, are so important.
It is consistency of message and overall approach that builds understanding, image, and reputation.
They don’t necessarily have to be spelt out every time, but should be implicit in every communication.
Every organisation, no matter how large or small, should work out the positioning it wants before any communication program starts. A number of aspects should be covered, including:
• What we do, our product and service advantages and positioning (why should people choose us);
• Our markets and who influences them, that is, the target audiences (let’s talk to the right people);
• The reputation we would like to have (how we want to be seen).
This planning approach should include activities such as developing key messages, identifying any issues to be managed, agreeing activities and approach and, if possible, identifying the communications gap between how you are seen and how you want to be seen.
Without doing this, organisations are likely to waste money talking about the wrong things to the wrong people and perhaps completely ignoring those audiences it should be reaching.
Having established a communications strategy, it then needs to be a regular reference point so that all communications are consistent with it, telling a story that builds understanding and reputation. It also needs to be reviewed regularly to ensure it is still supporting the organisation’s business plan.