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Ready or not, the fourth quarter is coming and it’s time to plan your 2018 communications strategy. In 2017, we continued to see the evolution and influence of technology―more brands are partnering with digital influencers and marketing and communications functions continue to merge and overlap in key areas. In addition, the increasing fragmentation of media makes it important to target and expand outreach strategies so that brands can connect with their target audiences.

Change is a constant and a company’s communications plan needs to be responsive and flexible. The following are five strategies to consider as you start to think about the 2018 communications plan.

  1. Keep it fresh
    Everyone is connected, yet the means and modes of connection are constantly evolving. Inventory and take stock of the communications plan results that your company or clients experienced in 2017 and spot the trends. What tactics engaged audiences? Did results change during the year, and if so, is it possible to extrapolate the reason for the shift? Noticing this movement and fluctuation offers you critical information as you explore new channels and a media mix that keeps messages fresh, inviting, and relevant.
  2. Target audiences
    Companies spend a considerable amount of valuable time, effort, and money in researching the composition of the target audience and its purchasing needs. Has your audience changed? If so, how? Does this audience receive information in the same way as before? If not, what are the new information delivery preferences? Given the evolving and emerging communications channels, it is not unexpected that target audiences’ time allotments for social media, online publications/blogs, or viewing preferences will change.
  3. Messaging
    Consistent and unified message development can yield a consistent marketing effort across various audiences, technologies, and media sources. It’s a great idea to re-visit messaging to keep it on point with current business strategies from corporate positioning statements to marketing themes. A critical piece of message development for today’s world of decentralized communications is to ensure that your messages resonate with the audiences for the channel upon which the message is being shared. Alter the language to meet the expectations of the people reading and viewing through a specific channel―this approach is critical to breaking through the noise and clutter and to resonating with your intended audience.
  4. Team mix
    Communications is a vital and central function and offers the critical link for any company that wants its message heard―internally and externally. As a communicator, be sure that you have a seat at the C-suite and management level “tables” when it comes to planning and executing any type of campaign. Your focus on communications is of vital importance as you’ll be able to identify synergies, help with timing, and ensure that messages align with corporate and campaign positioning.
  5. C-suite buy-in
    C-suite buy-in is critical for any communications plan. Top company executives must approve of the strategy, be engaged, and be on message in order for the plan to be executed correctly. If an executive decides to “go rogue” and off message, the company’s credibility can be quickly damaged or diminished. This is especially critical when it comes to crisis situations, and sometimes the mistakes made are irrevocable.

Hopefully these five quick tips set the stage for some thoughtful consideration and planning, along with some brilliant brainstorming for the 2018 communications plan. Here is to a momentous and growth-filled 2018!