Communication Strategies for 2014: What can be done differently?


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As the financial crisis lingers on many organizations have decreased their 2014 communication budgets.  Practitioners are more cautious about where they spend their money, and rightly so. The priority is to survive the year with minimum damage.

One easy solution for many, investing the organization’s entire communication budget on traditional advertising, is a mistake.  Most communication / marketing managers already know this.  Nonetheless, many are still reluctant to diversify their budgets in an ever-fragmenting society.

The bad news is that audiences, as we knew them in an analogue, linear world do not exist anymore (apart from sporadic opportunities such as the world cup, or studio-produced creativity such as The Voice).

The Voice on ‘Oprah the next chapter’

The good news is there are now numerous opportunities for organizations to openly engage in dialogues with their publics, stakeholders and target groups.  It takes commitment, creativity, research, risks and vision, and this is why many organizations that are rooted in the linear world are reluctant to reshuffle their budgets – it is so much easier to simply use an advertising agency, and / or do things like they always have.  Below are three alternative approaches to building brands and reputations and reaching communication goals.  Let me note here that I am not entirely against linear advertising.  It serves a huge role for advertisers and in many cases, in the digital world, has even changed its identity and purpose (but that’s for another blog).

1. Sponsorships

All current research supports that sponsorships can have a huge impact on helping organizations align themselves with how they wish to be identified.  There is one main reason for this – sponsorships do not trigger persuasion knowledge.  When people consume advertisements, especially those between breaks (the traditional kind), they put up strong filters because they know they are being persuaded into something.  Think of the feeling when you walk into a retail store and a salesperson approaches you – it’s that!

When an organisation correctly sponsors an event, a cause, a team etc., persuasion knowledge is not activated and therefore there is less cognitive resistance toward communication messages.  Experienced communication folk know to choose sponsorships wisely because they receive hundreds of sponsorship opportunities most of which do not align with the brand or organisation.  If done correctly, sponsorships can be a truly valuable part of the mix.

 2. Social TV

Social television is still at an early stage of social media management (which itself is still in its infancy).  Yet on account of the exponential growth of smart TV’s, social media television experiences are becoming embedded into our televisions.

There are numerous ways how organizations can use these technologies to engage with people (again, for another blog post), and is therefore worth looking into and spending some time and money on.  TV folk are currently open to anything at the moment.  When an organization embeds social TV opportunities to social media communication strategies in can vastly build reputation, enforce dialogues and increase followers and fans.

3. Media Relations

Many large corporations have no idea what the true value of media relations is.  I have my own hypothesis about this.  Historically, PR and marketing come from very different backgrounds.  PR has its roots in journalism while marketing came from a more sales-oriented, corporate ecosphere.  PR functions revolved more around copy-heavy content while advertising was seen as more emotionally-linked and thus more creative.  Furthermore, advertising was based on turnover while PR was about reputation because no editor in their right mind would allow press releases to be published that would involve sending out ‘selling’ messages.  Additionally, reputation building was a rare communication goal whereas reputation protecting (e.g. crisis management), was more common.  So, only corporations from sensitive reputation sectors had PR staff (e.g. aviation, petroleum).  As a result, in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s advertising was king – especially TV advertising.  Many organizations were consequently structured (and most still are), with marketing at the forefront of corporate communication.

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Click on image to read about blending PR and advertising

Today, all these communication activities are converging.  Communication practitioners, marketing professionals, PR people, ad people, and even journalists are more trained in working around strategies that integrate the overall communication effort.  Media relations can help organizations send important messages to the right (influential) publics.  But good media relations that involve online-related tasks too, do not come cheap.  Invest in skilled PR people to build the most appropriate strategies otherwise the whole effort could terribly backfire, further inducing bad publicity to an otherwise extremely effective communications tool.

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