Don’t Let Urgency Drive Messaging. Be Strategic.

By Becky Powell-Schwartz
Communication experts are all abuzz about content, integration and engagement. Yet these three aspects of brand communications have always been key to effective brand communication. These buzzwords are not new; however, they are as important as ever. Which begs the question, “Why is everyone talking about content, integration and engagement as if these are new concepts?”

Social media arrived on the corporate scene just as the recession was sweeping across America. This new communications platform offered corporations a channel for communicating direct to the consumer. Knowing the importance of meaningful engagement and looking for cost-effective methods of communicating with their consumers and constituents, many corporations leapt onto the social media bandwagon without the benefit of a communications expert to lead the way. Although few organizations could actually define what “social media marketing” entailed, they were convinced they needed it. Social media quickly became the holy grail of communications, and yet many corporations failed to effectively strategize how engaging socially fit into their overall brand communication strategies.

Without a proper communication strategy, brand messaging began to get diluted as organizations made desperate attempts to create as much content as possible to push out to the social channels. As the market became saturated with people pushing volumes of content socially, the most important aspect of brand management got lost. Tactics began pushing the strategy. As people began filling the pipeline, they forgot the importance of the message and aligning it across all channels from traditional media relations to email marketing. With the economy recovering, industry experts are looking back to the basics and positioning it as a new and upcoming trend — content, integration and engagement.

Hence the popular adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” The core of brand communication has not changed, but how content is delivered has changed. Though social media marketing does indeed require a lot of communication in order to engage with the public, it remains as important as ever to deliver well-packaged and well-integrated messaging.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Social channels are critical for engaging with customers and generating great feedback about how you are doing as a brand. Rarely do we work with an organization and not include social media as an important communication channel. However, it is important to utilize all channels of communication strategically and not overstate the importance of one, because, as we all know, there really is no holy grail.

Current Trends
Consistency is crucial. Consistent brand communication is more critical now. Brand experts know the complexity of consistent messaging, and while all channels for delivering a message should be employed, they should be employed at a highly strategic level.

Deliver messaging across channels. Message consistency is still critical, and how we deliver brand messaging is more complex. Historically, advertising has led messaging, but the lines between disciplines are blurring, and the channels are converging as messaging becomes increasingly transparent. If you think of communication channels as a pie, imagine that pie getting sliced into more and more pieces, with each piece remaining vital to the whole.

Mobile is key. All brands must maintain a mobile presence in order to remain relevant. Of course, one size does not fit all in any communication strategy, but in general a mobile-friendly website, and perhaps even a mobile app, is essential to providing content in a format that addresses the mobile consumption of news. Creating mobile-friendly content is important as more and more consumers reach for their phones as their main news source.

Hyper local is essential for all brands. Lastly, brands must have a hyper-local focus. Understanding how your brand translates and can engage with your local markets will be even more important. A good example is to see how digital brands such as Gilt Group built their brand by engaging with local consumers in key markets as they built an international brand. Whether it’s about hosting an event in a local market or engaging via Smartphone or tablet, people are consuming more news via mobile devices and are looking for news in their own backyard. National brands will have to amp-up their local efforts in order to engage effectively with consumers in the future.

While the basics of communication — content, integration and engagement — remain the same, the future promises to offer new opportunities to complement existing channels of communication. If you are setting goals, start with consistent communication. Here’s a quick brand messaging exercise — try it, and let me know how it turns out

Pull out the excel chart and put together a message and channel map. List all of your messaging and channels, and then give yourself a grade for consistency. My goal is that you get an A.

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Becky Powell-Schwartz, Founder & CEO