Communication and marketing, whilst separate disciplines, overlap in many ways. Indeed, in many companies and organisations the same team is responsible for both activities. The Chartered Institute for Marketing defines marketing as: “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably” (CIM). There is, therefore, the sense of selling, of promotion when it comes to marketing. The National Communication Association defines communications as how people use messages to generate meanings within and across various contexts, cultures, channels, and media.
When communicating it is tempting to dive straight in and shout your news from the rooftops! That indeed may get you some attention, but will it help you to reach your goals? And will it have the impact that you are hoping for? A well devised marketing and communications strategy, which is aligned with your overarching goals as an organisation, can help you achieve those goals.
Strategic planning for marketing and communications
By developing and implementing a strategic marketing plan, you can identify your key stakeholders and lay out how you would like to reach them. This can help you to raise your profile, boost your reputation, gain support, funding, volunteers and recognition. It is, put simply, a way of reinforcing the good work that you – as an organisation or a team – are doing.
A communications and marketing strategy or plan can combine both marketing and communications or these can be two separate documents. It should lay out where you want your organisation to be in a set timeframe – for example, one year – and how through your marketing and communications tactics you will endeavour to get there. Key parts of this strategy should include:
- Audiences / stakeholders
- How to reach objectives (ie using which tactics, activities and channels)
- A timeline – at a high level (a communications /marketing plan would also include a more detailed timeline)
- Expected outcomes (which should be measurable)
Best practice is to involve as many people within your organisation in the planning process and the development of your strategy as relevant and practical. This will help engage the whole organisation in the importance of the process.
Embed milestones into your plan, that way it will be easier to assess, if the plan is on track, as you go along. You can then adjust it as necessary. If the outcomes are measurable, then evaluation at the end of the period will be made more effective too, allowing constant improvement of your planning processes.
How you can embed these processes into your work
Strategic planning for marketing and communications is just as important for not-for-profits and volunteer-based organisations/movements, as often they have fewer resources both budgetary and human. And, therefore, making sure you are as effective as possible and have the greatest impact possible is vital. Strategic planning of your marketing and communications will help you achieve this.
Imagine this example: a youth work organisation does not have a marketing communications strategy. It is, however, alongside its day-to-day activities, carrying out various communications activities, such as posting on social media, an e-newsletter, and developing a website; sometimes it produces promotional materials. Financially, it is starting to struggle, it is not receiving enough funding and does not have the ideal number of volunteers. By developing a strategic communications plan, this organisation is able to streamline its communications, align them with its organisational goals: i.e. get recognition, increase funding and boost volunteer numbers. With all its communications activities now focussed on these aims and directly at the target audiences, it is able to raise its profile and not waste extraneous communications activities.