Communicators are easily swamped by pressing demands and approaching deadlines that can turn them into tacticians rather than strategic communicators. Staying strategic requires focusing on long-term objectives and making research an essential priority.
Demands by digital media and calls from the CEO can complicate daily work life for communicators. They can’t be ignored, but they can be corralled. Time always needs to be reserved to think and act strategically.
The surest way to keep the compass pointing north on communications is to connect business objectives to research. Constantly seeking fresh insights relevant to business goals is the lifeblood of strategic communications. Fresh insights serve the dual purpose of piquing the interest of senior business executives and, when necessary, discouraging vanilla media statements and banal press releases.
For brands, research should center on listening to consumers and their influencers. Digital engagement tools offer an array of options, which can yield different layers of insight that inform strategic communications that respond to consumer questions, unmet needs, frustrations and hopes.
In the public affairs realm, conversational research can produce clues on how affected parties view controversial projects or issues, as well as surface concrete suggestions for improvements. Such research also can reveal who they trust and where they listen – invaluable insight for strategic communications aimed at a skeptical audience.
Strategic communication isn’t strategic unless it’s based on meaningful research. Research feeds on curiosity, serious questions and intentional outreach. If you don’t ask, you won’t know. If you don’t know, you are shooting communications arrows at targets in the shadows.
Pressing demands are constant. You can fill days and weeks with press releases that land unread in online waste baskets. You can spend every working hour responding to trolling social media posts. You can hyperventilate over calls from reporters. All those are part of the job for communicators. They just aren’t their entire job.
Communicators must be counselors. They need to show the way to more effective communications. Research findings and insights are the evidence they need to convince traditional, my-way-or-no-way executives.
Strategic communicators must learn the strategy of saying ‘no’ to nonessential endeavors. That’s where a robust research agenda plays a role in establishing a basis for communications with more built-in attraction to consumers, stakeholders and detractors. It’s also a chance to convert a limp statement from the CEO into something more dynamic, informative and relevant to target audiences.
This conversion process is not immaculate. Communicators must be counselors. They need to show the way to more effective communications. Research findings and insights are the evidence they need to convince traditional, my-way-or-no-way executives.
The blizzard of communications in the digital age can be overwhelming, even mesmerizing for business executives and communicators. It can and does distract from more purposeful communications. For strategic communications to have a shot at success, it must be strategic in purpose and authentic in engagement. The surest path to strategic purpose and authentic engagement is relevance to consumer, stakeholder or client interests, concerns and questions. That means communications based on a solid foundation of research rather than whims or whimsy.
Strategic communicators must be research savants. They must be current on existing and emergent research techniques. They must be fluent on how various types of research deliver relevant information for differing research needs. They must be willing to try something new and unafraid to use something tried-and-true. Most of all, they must be fearless in outreach to the audience they want to engage.
Communications can be a stressful occupation, with pushes and pulls in lots of directions and an unending stream of deadlines. Successful communicators find anchors to prevent being swept in every which direction. The most reliable anchor is an underlying strategic approach to what you are trying to communicate. The only way to achieve and sustain a strategic approach is to chart the mindset of your target audience through reliable, consistent research. It helps tremendously to have curious and collaborative workmates.
Research is a guide, not a god. Findings point in directions that capable communicators follow as they navigate all the demands on their time and skills. Strategic communicators stand out because they proceed with purpose while others seem to flounder dealing with daily demands. Strategic communicators tend to be the survivors in the buffeting winds of today’s media ocean. Consumers and stakeholders benefit from their successful voyage.