This Christmas, what does the strategic communicator need? What’s on his or her wish list?
A Christmas wish list usually implies “stuff” like the latest laptop, music player, digital camera, etc. But most strategic communicators have those now. No, what’s really needed is the knowledge and ability to truly be a strategic communicator.
Such knowledge and ability is like Eddie said of Clark’s Jelly of the Month Club gift in Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation movie, “it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Following is a strategic communicator’s Christmas wish list:
Research. The first gift is the ability to conduct research, both formative and summative/evaluative. To be strategic, communication programs must be built on fact, not fiction. That means conducting formative research to know as much as you can about issues facing an organization. Formative research can be primary, that is, original, designed and conducted by the communicator to address specifics of his/her organization’s situation. Or it can be secondary, adapting already-conducted research that relates most closely to his/her organization’s situation. Primary research is the most demanding and expensive, but yields the best results. It is made up of qualitative components, like interviews and focus groups, and quantitative components, like surveys and questionnaires. The completed research then becomes the basis of writing a credible situation analysis.
Goals and objectives. Once a situation analysis is written, then the strategic communicator has a basis on which to make his/her recommendations. That involves setting goals and objectives. Goals are broad brush, over-the-top, higher level concepts of what needs to be accomplished, like to improve an organization’s relationship with key publics or enhance its reputation/image among key publics. A number of objectives then come in under a goal to help manifest it into reality. Objectives are the work horses here, for each should be specific, measurable, time-sensitive, attainable, and relevant to accomplishing the goal it serves.
Strategy and implementation. Now that goals are set with appropriate objectives, the strategic communicator must decide on a mix of tactics that will reach target audiences. This involves dipping into the strategic communicator’s tool kit and selecting a mix of tactics that will reach the audience in a timely and cost-effective manner. A mix of tactics that have the highest credibility with target audiences is always better than a few tactics only. Devising effective strategy also must take into account the time schedule for tactical implementation. Gantt charts work exceptionally well for this.
Budgeting. Now that recommendations have been formulated and backed up by strategy and tactical implementation schedules, the strategic communicator must budget the activity as competently as would be expected of any business manager. The greatest tool since the hand-held calculator for this purpose is the Excel Spreadsheet to play “what if” games until the budget is within guidelines and meets needs.
Summative (or evaluative) research. Now the strategic communicator comes full circle. You begin with research to know what needs doing. Now you end with research to see if your strategic communication efforts have accomplished goals and objectives. The key here is to concentrate on measuring and evaluating the success or failure of your objectives, the work horses of strategic communication. Strategic communicators don’t wait until the end of the planned work to evaluate it. It’s too late then to do anything about it, except learn from mistakes. Strategic communicators monitor and evaluate all along in order to make any needed course corrections to stay on target. Final evaluation then can help set up success in the next cycle of activity.
Merry Christmas to the More With Les learning community. Thank you for making this such a special year for me.