There is a long-standing debate between marketing and PR professionals about which is the most important and which gains the best results. In recent years, the role of digital has also been added to this discussion.
While PR and Marketing are different functions which do different things, I believe that you need to be careful not to choose one or the other and look at the whole more carefully.
To me, communication is the over-arching discipline; encompassing everything which is said by a company through every channel. While a business plan gives direction to an organisation, the communications plan lays out the story, or narrative, and the methods for reaching the target audience and achieving set goals.
Communications is everything; not just the promotional tools used for campaigning, but much more. It is the emails and letters from employees, the price of the products and services, the invoices, HR documents, and processes, and the way employees act as well as what others say about the company.
Taking the time to work with the business plan and develop a narrative or story when first setting up, reviewing this each time the plan is updated, and treating each element as an important part of the whole, gives direction. It also ensures the right tools are chosen and refreshed when needed.
Like characters in a book, communications methods and channels have different roles in the story. They are introduced, developed and sometimes given their own story arcs – coming and going throughout until their role is complete.
Here are some key actions that I would take when starting to develop or redevelop a company story:
- Identify the over-arching aim of the business and write it out:
- Question exactly what it is your business produces and /or offers and how you want people to use it.
- Write this as a description that you would use to tell your grandparents about your business.
- Re-write this again as a short elevator pitch.
- Clarify who your audiences is and what they want from you/ your product/service:
- Match your business objectives with messages that your audience will respond to.
- Map out the channels which your audience use.
- Ensure your messages can achieve your objectives.
- Develop an activity plan:
- Use your newly developed messages and choose the communications tools which will best reach your audience.
- Add evaluation measures so that you can assess how well each tool is working.