February 25, 2021
An essential part of working with communications is your communications strategy. This is a tool that lays the foundation of all your communications and branding efforts.
You could write - and there has been written - several books about how to make a communications strategy. This is not the time nor the place for that, so instead, we’ll dedicate this blog post to the questions a lot of people face when they’re about to make a communications strategy: “Where in the world should I start?”
In other words, our purpose in this blog post is to give you a guide to kickstart your very own communications strategy.
To lay a good foundation for such a strategy, you can start off by breaking it down into these five questions: Who, what, how, when, and why. This will give you a great overview and ease your way into the process of brand execution.
Who are you actually talking to and with? Who do you define as your intended target audience or the ones your hope will benefit from your product?
When we talk about a target audience, it’s important to be specific. It’s not enough to say “Men aged 20 to 40”. Instead, try to make up an actual person. Give them a name and ask them these questions: What’s your job or education? Where do you live? What are your interests? Which type of media do you use? Who are your idols? Etc.
Imagine if your brand was talking to this exact person. This exercise will give a clear picture of how you could do that.
Next up we need to figure out what to say.
What is it your brand does? What are you selling? Or what service do you offer? It’s crucial to narrow this down and simplify the explanation of your product. Try to write it down in only one sentence. We know this might be hard, but try using some of these questions:
Which situations are you helping with?
What area of business do you work within?
What does your product look like?
Hopefully, you can sum everything up like this: “We’ve created X, because we would like to help/guide/service you with Y”.
While we highly recommend that the focus of your branding is not on the product but rather on the bigger story behind it, it’s vital to be able to explain your product or service in a way that is condensed, yet compelling.
How do you succeed in making or delivering your product? Try to explain this process to someone who doesn’t work within your field. That’s how simple and straightforward it should be.
When are you planning to tell the world about your startup? At what stage of your journey would you like to begin?
Some startups like to tell their story right from the start. Others wait until they reach certain goals or archive a set target such as a successful funding round or a specific number of customers. There is no right or wrong answer here but there are pros and cons of each approach. So think carefully about where you want to begin your external communications activities and why.
This is the most important question of them all - why did you create your startup? What is your purpose?
You have probably heard about a guy called Simon Sinek. He made an insanely popular Tedtalk about the Why, and how this affects the way great leaders communicate. Even though Sinek has become a tad ‘cliché’ in recent years, his points still stand. Sinek argues that most marketers have a tendency to focus on what you can buy and how it works. However, if you reverse this and start by telling people why your company exists and what the outcome is, they are way more likely to buy into that product. In the end, people are more interested in buying themselves into an idea or concept - and not just yet another product.
This might seem a bit fluffy, so let’s break it down.
First, you need to ask yourself: What status quo are you challenging with your company? How are you doing things differently and why does this matter? What do you wish to accomplish? And why?
Seek inspiration in other successful companies’ purposes. Airbnb’s is “We imagine a world where you can belong anywhere”. Spotify’s is to “Unlock the potential for creativity”. And Twitter’s is “To serve the public conversation”.
In contrast, your why can never be “We want to help our customers with administrative tasks” or “We want to make money”. Even though they might describe a goal of yours, it’s not your why.
These purposes all manifest a strong agenda. Remember to bear that in mind when you try to make your own why.
Many practical questions, like which channels to use for communication, can be easily answered by simply referring to your five answers. Let's use a fictional example, a beauty company from Denmark creating high-end anti-age creams.
Who: The target audience is wealthy 40 to 60-year-old women from Denmark. According to the company’s customer research, they tend to live in rich suburbs, get their news from liberal newspapers, certain TV channels, and Facebook.
What: We sell scientifically based anti-aging skincare products.
How: We sell our product in our webshop and drive traffic through Facebook ads, email marketing, and product PR in lifestyle magazines.
When: From the very beginning we’ll communicate externally so that we are able to include our customers in the journey. With their valuable insights, we’re able to strengthen our research and development.
Why: To empower women to feel better in their own skin.
With these five questions answered, the foundation of your communications plan has already been laid. From here, you should dive into your tone of voice, find a number of specific key messages, analyze your brand compared to your competitors’, develop effective and on-brand marketing concepts, map out your communications activities on a roadmap, and so on. And don’t be afraid to go back and readjust. We all learn along the way.