No long ago, Advertising and Public Relations professionals had to spend weeks, if not months, to manage, create, coordinate, and "publish" content. Deadlines for media buys, production, print, or runs had to be scheduled well in advance. Courting media reps was essential if you wanted to acquire any media space (Advertising or PR) for your company. In this environment, building a brand was difficult for SMBs; they had to compete with big companies for limited space, and those other brands had substantial marketing budgets. Even with this old paradigm, the best SMBs found a way to build their brand, compete, and grow. Now more than ever, creating a communication schedule is an essential part of developing a business and building a brand.
The new media marketing paradigm has democratized Advertising and PR like never before. Companies of every size still need marketing budgets and communication acumen to be competitive, but SMBs now have access to inexpensive publishing platforms and audiences targeting tools that they've never had before. Modern websites, media platforms, and publishing tools give pros and novices the ability to launch highly targeted advertising or PR campaigns as quickly as they can create the message. Social media platforms allow us to communicate with key audiences in real-time. These platforms can be double-edged swords. In this environment, there can be a temptation to communicate too often or too quickly, without enough reflexion.
The luxury with traditional media was time; Advertising and PR professionals paid more attention to detail because all efforts had to be scheduled well in advance of being published. The elements of every message could be labored over. Modern media tools don’t lend themselves to long production schedules. Communication professionals have had to evolve with the digital media landscape, but the attention to detail with the communication process and the communication schedule are still crucial.
The two types of mistakes made with modern media tools are crafting messages too quickly and over-communicating with critical audiences. Building a brand and fostering a positive public perception of your company can take years; it's a long game. Burning a brand can happen in a matter of seconds with a modern media platform. Every business communication effort on today’s media platforms should be considered part of a permanent record.
With today's interactive media platforms, companies do not have the option of not playing the communication game. Every company, large or small, must advertise or conduct PR efforts. The difficulty today is remaining proactive with regards to strategic communication efforts. To be sure, anyone can stay busy on a social media site, responding to comments or posting clever haikus. Automated tools can create display and search (creatives) ads for various networks. Novice writers can publish new landing pages for your website in a matter of minutes. The goal for your company with new media is not to remain busy. Your company communication goal is to be proactive and strategic in building your brand. There are times for posting viral videos and times for communicating brand values; all communication efforts should be scheduled well in advance and support a higher strategic goal.
A Communication Schedule allows your marketing team to plan and be proactive. True, communication "fires" will always require a timely response, but, whenever possible, your team needs timelines and a schedule to build your brand proactively. Here's a quick list of some types of events that your organization might use to create quality proactive Advertising or PR messages:
1. Holidays (Valentine's Day, New Year's Day, Religious Holidays)
2. Industry Events/Summits
3. Strategic Partner Events
4. Annual Promotions/Sales (Inventory Clearance, Cyber Monday)
5. Seasonality (Back-to-School, Winter, Tax Season)
6. General Branding Campaigns
7. Quarterly Earnings Report
8. Company Holidays or Internal Events
9. Crises Management Planning (Plan for Fires!)
Create an environment of predictability for your key audiences and your workforce. If you create an annual communication schedule based on a list of industry events and holidays (at a minimum), then you will find that your marketing team won't have time for "busy work." Also, you will make it easier for your key audiences to engage with you and become consumers or brand evangelists. With new media, one of the goals is to remain proactive in a strategic way. There will always be situations that require timely responses; in these instances, avoid the temptation with new media to slide into a reactive mode. Remaining in reactive mode will take away from your team's ability to focus on a true communication schedule that focuses on strategic goals.
Regarding predictability and communication frequency, communicate with your audience after you have crafted a message that meets the following criteria:
1. It is welcome by your key audiences
2. It is deliberate
3. It is consistent with your brand
4. It engages your key audiences
As an SMB, you probably can't publish a profound or compelling message every day. The easiest way to burn your brand is to post messages that have little to do with your brand values or the benefits of your offerings. With modern media tools, the lure is to always interact with a target audience rather than plan and execute towards long-term communication goals. Developing a communication plan, creating strategies, and laboring over creative elements is the preparation before the tactical execution. Digital media platforms intice us to remain busy, tactical, and disregard communication planning. The solution is to embrace these tools strategically rather than engage our audience just because we can do so.
Modern companies can’t opt out of playing the digital media game. The game will be played with or without your participation. Consumers will write reviews of your products and services on various sites; they will comment on your business practices on public or industry forums. Local members of the community will discuss your company’s role or political positions in a specific geographic area. Old employees may rant about their previous employer (you) on a social media site. Now, more than ever, your organization should have a communication Style Guide or a creative brief on hand at all times so that your team can reference crucial message elements and frame responses quickly, if not in advance.
In specific scenarios, your organization will need to react quickly and engage in a public conversation, whether you want to or not. Yes, there may be times when you opt out of a discussion, but this might be seen negatively as well. Regardless of the scenario, you’ll want to present your organization in a positive light. You’ll want your message to be welcome, consistent, deliberate, and engaging. Note that disingenuous or false statements will only reflect negatively on your brand. Your audience is savvy. Don’t insult their intelligence.
The consistency of your brand message and the predictability with which you communicate with your key audiences will go a long way in growing your company. Modern media has empowered SMBs like never before, but this empowerment requires discipline. Creating an annual Communication Schedule will make your company more predictable, keep your workforce happier, and give you the ability to communicate proactively with your key audiences.
Developing your annual Communication Schedule is one of the final stages of becoming a more strategic organization. To be sure, building a brand is not the same as selling your goods and services. To grow your SMB, you'll need to level up with your communication game. Vagary will help you write a formal Communication Plan that clearly defines your Key Audiences, a realistic Media Plan (for your marketing budget), a Communication Schedule and much more. Or, we can help you manage your existing channels. Communicating with confidence in our real-time interactive media environment takes discipline and strategy. Contact Vagary today to level up.