Amazingly, many companies do not think about communications — both internally and externally — until it is a necessity. A crisis occurs, a reaction follows, and, in many cases, they do not necessarily put the best foot forward.
Even small companies can have an effective communications strategy that enables them to articulate company news efficiently. You may have a website that acts as the key repository of “everything,” and all news information emanates to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube. This helps organize information and helps to create a cohesive communications strategy — even for a small company.
Timing and sequencing of topics are critical to having your audience “stay with you”. There will still be ample opportunities to infuse “new” content as it is warranted — these items are just icing on the cake. Let’s take a look at the core elements of an overall strategic communications plan:
Don’t be Afraid of the Media
The first step is getting over the intimidation with the media. There should not be any fear in dealing with the media — they have a job to do and often are looking for news. Help them! Next, develop a list of all key media contacts and get their email address. Be proactive with your contacts in order to create a relationship in advance.
Create News Releases
Once you have established your media contact list, begin to develop news content. Keep in mind that news information may have to be tailored for each of your audiences, but the core message should stay the same.
Employees and Stakeholders
Another set of audiences to include within your strategic communications, would be both employees and/or stakeholders. Keeping your internal teams informed is vital in order to permeate your communications throughout your entire organization. There is nothing worse than having misinformed employees and stakeholders attempting to communicate your vision.
Communicate to Key Vendors
Oft overlooked is proactively communicating to your vendors. Many company owners feel compelled to keep vendors in the dark in order to keep them at arm’s length. I have always had the philosophy that a vendor works better on your behalf if they understand how their role fits in your overall communication strategy.
Media Policy Handbook
Lastly, consider developing a media policy handbook. This guide can come in handy in order to develop consistency in dealing with the media, particularly if there is a crisis. Crisis management tests the mettle of any organization, and “winging” how the company manages a crisis only exacerbates the situation.
John Matthews, president & CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises is responsible for the management of all consulting activities for the firm, which include retail consulting for multiunit operations, interim executive management and project management. Prior to founding his own company in 2004, Matthews held senior management positions as president of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and as VP of marketing, merchandising, facilities, corporate communications and real estate at Clark Retail Enterprises Inc. Additionally, Matthews worked for nine years in marketing management as the national marketing director of the Little Caesars Pizza Corp.