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Strategic Clarity for Communication Management

By Robert F. Abbott

Over the past few weeks I've been developing plans for a communication project, a media relations campaign.

That's prompted me to reflect again on the communication management process by which we transform communication ideas into operational activities.

For me, the communication management process has four phases: conception (strategy); development (tactics); operations (execution); and review (evaluation).

Coming out of the conception or strategy phase, I think it's essential to have strategic clarity, which means a clear, focused objective (or objectives) that serves our ends, the ends of our audience, and allows for effective development and operations.

For example when I first started publishing newsletters, I didn't look or ask for strategic clarity from my clients. The result? Newsletters that faltered, sputtered, and eventually lapsed. Clients had wanted newsletters because they thought a newsletter would be a good idea. Communication is good, right? But, communication without a well-considered purpose is largely ineffective.

Other clients, though, did know what they wanted, both for themselves and for their readers. They turned out to be good clients with lots of staying power. And they had staying power because they clearly knew why they were communicating, and had some sense of the results, even if those results couldn't be measured.

To get strategic clarity, we first need to step back and ask some important questions. What do we want for the time, money, and perhaps other resources we're committing? What is the objective? Now, go one step further and articulate that objective in terms of reader response. Write down what they will do if you successfully communicate with them.

Next, write down why they would do what you're asking of them. It's one thing to have objectives, and it's quite another to serve readers' objectives as well as your own. And, what's the connection between your needs and the needs of the audience?

Does this sound like a lot of work? Well, can be. But, ask yourself how much value you get if you rush off and do something without thinking it through.

I've published two newsletters for my own company. The first went ahead quickly, with little strategic planning. Instead, I concerned myself with matters like color, typefaces, and so on. That was a mistake; the newsletter died after perhaps six or eight issues, and accomplished little.

Before I started my second newsletter, I carefully worked through all the strategic issues. In fact, I started on the newsletter project in May and didn't publish the first issue until September. Of course, I didn't work at it full time, but still a lot of hours went into clarifying the strategy.

And, it worked. More than five years later, I'm still publishing it, every week, and the newsletter still does the job it was developed to do.

In summary, your communication project has a greater chance of success if you take time up front to identify and articulate your objectives, as well as the desired reader responses.

Copyright - 2005 Robert F. Abbott


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