Authentic Communications: Get it Done without Going Crazy

So, you have a sustainable or local business–or, ideally, both. Great! And, because of your job title or the size of your business, some or all of the communications responsibilities fall to you. That means you need to communicate in as consistent and authentic a manner as possible with your various stakeholders. Now what?

You no longer have to keep up with just print ad placements, a phone listing and a few coupons, circa 1995. Now, you have to manage your website (including an intranet) and all of the new social marketing. Add in the public relations and caused-based marketing that you really want to do but keep putting on the back burner, and how do you get it all done?

Here are a three very basic tips for getting started on a path to authentic communications.

Authentic Communications Tip #1: Get Everything in One Place
One of the first mistakes that purveyors of local businesses make is to not be able to get a snapshot of their communications at any given time. That means, one person being able to overview everything that is happening with your brand and messages—and, therefore, your reputation.

To accomplish this goal, set up a files (such as a spreadsheet, Word table, or mind map), where you can collect all of your ideas for in one place. You should include topics such as the following:

  1. Goals for your communications
  2. Definitions of audiences you want to communicate with
  3. Key elements of your brand
  4. Key elements of your messaging
  5. Ways that you have found to be successful for communicating your message (e.g., specific print ad placements, Facebook)
  6. Communications channels with which you would like to experiment
  7. and so on.

Authentic Communications Tip #2: Find a Way to Track Everything
You can’t really know if the effort you put into a particular communication method is worth it unless you find some way—even in the broadest terms—of tracking it. This tip goes for everything, from approaches to employee training and updates to marketing and advertising. Of course, you will need different methods for different channels. And, some channels—such as email marketing—afford the ability to track in a very accurate, detailed manner. Others, such as print ads, require more effort and only give you an idea of trends. But, either way, you’ll be getting a sense of the effectiveness of each thing you work on, and where you should trim your efforts and where you should expand them.

Authentic Communications Tip #3: Review
Make sure that you set aside time at regular intervals to review what you are doing. You want to do this for a couple of reasons. First, make sure that you have continued to keep everything in one place (see Tip #1). As with everything else in your business, your communications will tend toward entropy. Regular reviews will help you see if you’ve continued to…

  1. keep it all in one place;
  2. keep your brand and message consistent across all of the materials that you’ve developed in the interim (mixed branding or messages is a reputation problem for your business!);
  3. created unnecessary overlap in your efforts or stumbled across some great new ways of communicating.

Finally, regular reviews also help you make use of that tracking you’ve been doing (see Tip #2). You can look at the results of your tracking—however crude—and decide if some channels or projects are more rewarding than others. Then, you can trim the areas that have lack luster performance and focus more on the projects that have been giving you better returns on your dollars and effort. Make note of that in your “file for everything” (otherwise now known as your communications plan) and you are all set to keep the positive work going in your authentic communications.

Which gets us back to that “crazy” part: if you know where everything is (Tip #1) and how your projects are performing (Tip #2) and you’ve reviewed with an eye toward staying on track and focusing on the results-oriented efforts, you life will be—slightly—less crazy.

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