Here’s some perspective from our colleague Kristin Sokul, based on some recent experience:
With so many avenues to communicate in different ways to different audiences, it’s no surprise that when it comes to business communications, sometimes what you think you want isn’t what you need.
I recently met with a business to discuss the media relations and social media strategy their former PR firm had recommended before they parted ways. They didn’t want to skip a beat with local television and radio stations that covered them for annual consumer pieces, and they were ready to take the social media plunge because, simply, “isn’t every company investing their resources in Facebook and Twitter?” Yet, when we talked about who their target audiences are and how they generate business, neither of these answers pointed toward the business-to-consumer targets they were reaching under their current strategy.
After spending some time listening to their actual goals and whom they really needed to reach, it became obvious that the campaign they were sold on should have actually been a business-to-business strategy. Unfortunately, they had been led astray from the media outlets that should have been hearing their story and the social media platforms that would make the connections they need.
By the time we concluded our meeting, the business’ management determined it needed to rethink its entire approach to communications.
As public relations strategists, it’s our responsibility to counsel our potential and existing clients with strategies tailored to their business objectives and exhibit the kind of leadership to help businesses consider what communications tactics they need.
Sometimes what the company needs is obvious, and sometimes it takes a dedicated planning process to identify those needs and prioritize them, but any firm that has all the answers without first asking the right questions should be viewed with a critical eye.
The strategies and tactics selected should support the end goals of the overall business plan if it’s really going to be effective. Some firms may rely on the “easy wins” or build a strategy based on what the client thinks it wants, not what it needs. In the short term, both are happy with one another, but weeks, months or years later when all the communications goals have been met, but the “needle doesn’t move,” someone has some explaining to do. Instead, it should be the firm that does the explaining, right from the beginning.