9 mistakes to avoid

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reach the right people with your story - and avoid the top 9 communications mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes. When deciding where to spend your scarce communications resources, here are some things to avoid — and get better results for your cause.

1. Putting resources into a communications project without a clear sense of your bigger strategic goals

One-off ads, websites, leaflets or speeches can generate excitement and buzz for a short while. But when the ad is off the air and the costs comes in, what long-term goal was accomplished? Did you move your audience closer to your point of view? Did you build the positive attributes you want people to associate with your organization? Having a plan for the long term makes sure your resources are put to best use.

2.Testing your ideas with the people already in the tent

Don’t get us wrong, we love people that are already on-side too. But when your goals including moving public opinion, they are not your target audiences. To move persuadable audiences, we need to get into their heads – by knowing what their lives are like and what is on their mind. Everyday people are not living and breathing policy issues and the latest political news. But they do have problems they need solved. Do you know what they are? Can you help define them for more people? And are you helping to solve them?

3. Not assigning enough resources to communications to make an impact

If you  want your members or the public to see your organization a certain way, you need to assign enough of your budget to really make an impact. It takes a consistent message over time. And dedicated staff who’s priority is communicating to both internal and external audiences.

4. Firing in too many directions

In advertising, when funds are limited (and really, when are they not limited?) it’s critical to choose one media and dominate it. A medium-sized budget divided between online display, search, a microsite, radio, billboards, out of home and direct mail starts to have the impact of a small budget. The same budget devoted to one single media with a clearly defined audience gets noticed.

5. Developing a brand and then leaving it behind

Many beautiful logos and well-crafted tag lines and key messages get dropped when decision-makers feel like they need to have something new to say. But they should keep saying the same thing — because in our incredibly crowded marketplace, it takes a lot of repetition to get heard. Just as bad is the strategy or branding process that sits only with the communications department. Every interaction with your organization is your audiences’ experience with your brand story. Are people experiencing the things you claim are your brands values every time they come in contact with your organization from frontline staff to the leadership — in the news, at the front desk, at events, with tweets or other social media?

6. Not having the difficult conversations internally

Are established practices getting in the way of assigning resources to where they could really make a difference? When will it be time to take on those inefficient practices? If not now, when? Ask yourself if your cherished publications are reaching who they need to? Could they use a refresh? Does your website have the tools to engage members and the public on issues they care about — or is it an archive of documents?

7. Believing the public will never understand your cause

Actually, public opinion in Canada supports many progressive causes. But sometimes we make things so darn complicated, so technical, or so boring, you’d think we didn’t really want people on side! Finding the connection between what people are looking for and what your organization can deliver will help you reach your goals faster.

8. Thinking you don’t have to be on social media yet

Does social media sound like an immense waste of time and navel-gazing? Think again. It’s really where opinion leaders are making an impact and where audiences are engaging with causes and organizations. Mums are talking to their friends using social media and connecting to their communities online. If you’re not visible in social media, you’re missing out. It’s also important to remember that social media is a two-way channel. Don’t just get on to talk — make sure you’re listening, too.

9. Dropping broadcast advertising

Yes, there is a lot going on online, but it’s a mistake to drop broadcast advertising. People are still watching TV. And it is still the most emotive vehicle to move public opinion. Networks find new ways to get your ad in front of audiences every day, including pre-roll ads in online TV. Radio is still on in many cars, making it particularly effective in reaching suburban families. And social media still can’t match broadcast for reaching a lot of people at once with a single message.

What do you think? What mistakes have we missed? Leave a comment or drop us a tweet @nowgroup.