Views: Real value comes from multifaceted communications strategies

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COMMUNICATIONS is the most cost effective way to directly relate to any audience whether internal, stakeholder, B2B or to consumer, writes Derek Finnegan. The quality of tools available to internal teams and agencies these days is exceptional. Even under tight budgets, adequate assets can be developed. However, it is concise, targeted and clear communications that will make the outcome effective or not. Too often, initiatives with adequate budgets fall down because of mixed or complicated messaging. 

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Tactical activities and promotions will drive interest and response rate, among other outcomes for product, service or organization. But the real value for brands and business comes from multifaceted communications strategies including a myriad of events with short, medium and long term objectives. It is vital now that communications teams and professionals develop and evolve strategies with a mixture of timelines. 

Building and maintaining brand value is a longtail game and while it can become damaged in the short term, consistent brand building will make a marked difference in how quickly brand and business can regain confidence. Communications is an investment in brand which will lead to longer lasting and greater value to the business. 

One key trend we have seen is a marked growth in the perceived value of positioning the employer brand in communications. With recruitment and retention a challenge across many sectors, communications is seen as the strongest channel to convey the values of an organization for internal and external audiences. 

AVE an incorrect measure of PR value

Advertising value equivalent (AVE) has rightly been identified as an incorrect measure to consider the value of communications. This metric was a crude measure that applied an equivalent standard advertising spot rate from the source in which an article or broadcast was featured. While the original premise was surely put forward in good faith as a vague indication of commercial value for media presence, it has been abused over many years. In particular by some who multiplied the value of what they considered a ‘good’ media mention by factors of three to ten or more. It was highly subjective and the metric was a struggle to work with. For example, how to deal with negative references. A strong communications response in the face of a crisis cannot be assessed in line with a blunt ad rate valuation.   

We rarely have requests from clients to include this metric in media evaluation. AVE is unfortunately an easy metric to turn to but we endorse the Barcelona Principles in steering clients away from this measure. 

The only applicable measures of success are those that answer the objectives set out for the project, brand or business. 

The Barcelona Principles

Communications managers often reference the Barcelona Principles. While they have evolved to serve as a useful framework for communications strategy, they are principles that have always guided the most effective teams and individuals. 

C-suite professionals appreciate the value of and input required for robust strategic development in any part of their business. The challenge for communications professionals is in learning how to convey and demonstrate the application of robust strategic thinking and process to communications, tracking and measuring that process, finally translating that measurement framework into goals achieved, whether expected or unexpected. 

As the principles set out: it is best practice to plan strategies around the desired or expected impact of campaigns and initiatives, setting clear and measurable goals, using any relevant channels available, using appropriate and meaningful measurement, approached with integrity and transparency.

Communications can bring up unexpected surprises, but having a robust plan in place will better equip you to adapt along the way. Retrofitting a plan based on what came up after the event, is usually clearly evident and will not cut it in the competitive media landscape and certainly not to senior executives.   

Clear strategies are the vital support for clear and effective communications. 

The PR seat at the table

Coming back to the value of brand, communications is the most efficient way to convey information or stories to any audience and it is vital that the decision making process for any organization or business considers communications in line with any action. 

In the first place, a product, service, or organization must do what it has said it will do. However, communications is the vehicle by which brand and business success is best celebrated.

Teams and professionals that can structure a plan to achieve specific goals will be comfortable rallying support for that plan, delivering to that plan, adapting to unexpected challenges or opportunities, and presenting the achievements and outcomes of that plan back to decision makers, no doubt with the objectives of the next plan also in place. Following that process should guarantee a seat at that table for public relations professionals.

Priorities for business

While we have observed trends in media never seen before over the past two years, both internationally and our own unique trends in Ireland, there is also huge optimism, innovation and opportunity in media and communications. 

We see trends that have been echoed back to us by industry partners and the PR and communications sector. Clients are increasingly interested in and prioritizing strategic planning, issues and brand reputation tracking, and internal communications. Benchmarking is another key request or other ways to address the context for media performance. 

Setting up media monitoring appropriately is a vital step in understanding where your brand and business fits into the media marketplace. Whether for your own brief or to track competitors or wider sectoral themes, media can be one of the most if not the most important touchpoints for success.

Media is not the most important priority for all organizations or for some at certain times, but it is non-negotiable for the ones that have a meaningful and authentic story to tell. 

Derek Finnegan is the CEO and co-founder of Truehawk Media which was set up in 2017 as an innovative quality offering with extensive local knowledge and understanding of the market. With 20 years of experience in media intelligence, he was a founding member of Ireland’s first provider of digital media intelligence MediaMarket in 2002, which revolutionized the media intelligence sector and Truehawk Media continue to champion bringing the best technologies to the Irish market.