For Small to Medium Enterprises that have hit the “next stage” of sophistication, or those that are aspiring to do so, we recommend implementing an integrated communications strategy. A communications strategy differs from an advertising or marketing strategy, although there are overlaps. We may write a separate piece about this another day because many businesses (understandably) find it difficult to understand the nuances differentiating these disciplines.
How it ‘looks’
Typically, this strategy, when adapted to an SME, would involve a website overhaul. This would mean new copy, a new design, a new build, and some Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). At the same time, we’d be looking at developing a design template for an e-newsletter and setting up a database/Customer Relationship Management (CRM) function. The regularity of your e-newsletter will depend you your budget, but also your industry and “purpose”. We’d be looking to integrate this e-newsletter into your broader communications activities. Stories “with legs” could be distributed to print, radio, TV and digital media. We’d also be recommending e-newsletter stories be used across all your social media channels. You may even wish to combine this with a Pay Per Click (PPC), Facebook/LinkedIn/Instagram Advertising campaign. We’d also factor in a Brand Shrine to get the ball rolling.
What’s a ‘Brand Shrine’?
We actually made this term up. It’s one of the tools we’ve developed at Forward Communications to establish clear thinking. When working with multiple clients, delivering across multiple functions, this is the “creative” equivalent to a business plan. It enters our writers, designers and other creatives into the headspace to begin each project. We call it a “shrine” because a) it requires some deep reflection and b) it invites worship and faith and with an almost religious commitment (not to be blasphemous in any way – it’s meant as a metaphor).
The main purpose of the Brand Shrine is to define your company’s brand. Through this exercise, we establish the essence of what the client is about and based on this, we develop the web copy/brochure/logo/project/video. It provides a tangible representation of some of the “intangible” aspects that come when establishing/reinventing a brand (like when we wake at 4am thinking about you!). It also represents a “coming of age” for the client, which has probably grown organically (and successfully). The Brand Shrine creates space for reflection. These key messages/personality attributes should be reflected in all communication, internally and externally.
We’d recommend you include the Brand Shrine in your new employee’s starter kits, but also recommend you use this whenever you engage a new supplier. It’s a ready “definition” of the company and its values – something that should frequently be referred to when developing communications material/setting goals. We would treat this as an internal strategic document and not something that you would allow competitor’s to access (like the “branding” equivalent of a business plan). Although, should anyone within the client’s organisation be required to do a media interview, this would be one of the documents we would keep handy to ensure key messages are adhered to. It represents a consensus at this point in time, but as the client’s business grows, we may tweak the messages where necessary. From the broader “branding” aspects, the Brand Shrine taps into the value of the client’s brand name.
Ask the big questions
When developing a Brand Shrine, these are some of the questions I encourage my clients to “deeply” reflect upon: – What is the name of your business? Why is it called this? – What is your slogan, if you have one? (This should be short, sharp and evoke an emotional response) – If you were to sum up in one sentence what your company does, what would you say? – If you would describe the “personality” of your business, what would you say? – What are some of the important aspects of your business? Flagship products? Particular achievements? Key selling points? Values? – Do you have any hero statements – one/two liners that you like to use to promote your business?
There’s always more
When diving in to some of the “deeper” work about your company, there are always more questions. Developing the Brand Shrine is the equivalent of traveling through a therapeutic process for your business. Business owners are often surprised at the raw emotions their businesses evoke. Businesses create life purposes and are deeply meaningful for many. The end result of the Brand Shrine process is meant to serve as a pillar – you could compare it to the stable object onto which a toddler grips when taking their first steps. While the toddler moves on to independence, there are reference points that continue to influence and stabilise future growth. Of course, this approach can also be used for larger companies/government organisations, but it’s much more effective when an organisation is a) still developing b) undergoing major changes or c) open to change.
Change can happen
And when the time comes, we must be open to a major therapeutic overhaul where we ask the big questions all over again and be open to the fact that things might have changed. The important point is to ensure this is a precise decision and not an ad hoc, knee-jerk reaction.