The good news about developing a business communication strategy

Part of the Effective Communication series from Pinch Yourself Communication

If you think you’re too busy to develop a communication strategy, here’s some good news.

A well-crafted strategy ultimately will save you time doing communication activities that aren’t adding the most value for your business, giving you back some hours to focus on what’s most important.

It’s simple to say that strategy comes before tactics and few are likely to disagree with the principle.

Yet time and again, people skip the strategic thinking and planning to dive straight into internal and external communication activities. This can lead to reactive communication without a strong connection to strategic goals.

This is perhaps partly be explained by the natural inclination of human beings to roll up their sleeves and deliver, but communication departments are also struggling with the growing demands of social media, business disruption and transformation.

A survey of internal communication professionals in the United Kingdom by VMA Group found 36 per cent of organisations did not have a formal communication strategy. Of those who had a strategy, almost a quarter reviewed it on an ad hoc basis only.

In Australia, communications professionals who participated in the Asia-Pacific Communication Monitor 2015-16 see their top four issues through to 2018 as coping with the digital evolution and social web (44.9 per cent); matching the need to address more audiences and channels with limited resources (39.7 per cent); linking business strategy and communication (39.7 per cent) and dealing with the speed and volume of information flow (35.9 per cent).

It’s easy to get on a treadmill of delivering a lot of stuff, and we all know that it can feel satisfying to maintain high outputs and well-fed communication channels.

But does all that activity translate to business outcomes?


Maybe some of that activity is effective, maybe not. The best way to ensure business value is by developing a communication strategy with clear objectives and a plan on how you will deliver them.

With increasing expectations of communication departments to justify resourcing and demonstrate return on investment, and the need for the communication function to evolve and transform, effective communication strategy is more critical than ever.

For example, without a strategy:
How do you know your communication activities are supporting business objectives?
How will you get necessary executive buy-in and support for activities?
How will you know what you’re trying to achieve with your communication and whether you’ve been successful?
How can you coordinate the various communication streams – internal communication; media relations; social media, influencer engagement and content marketing; stakeholder relations; government relations; marketing etc – to maintain alignment and leverage content?
How will you prioritise and allocate resources and activities?
How will you identify and manage risks?
How will you measure and demonstrate the value that’s been added for the business?

Few business leaders would advocate running a business without a strategy, and the same goes for communication. At the least communication should serve as a key business enabler and ideally, the function should contribute to business strategy.

In fact, at the same time communication professionals feel challenged to ‘do more with less’, CEO’s need the function to step up as a strategic function. CEOs surveyed in Europe for Beyond Communications said business strategy must be informed by its communication director for a company, its brand and reputation to survive the ‘digital, on-demand, consumer-led’ business landscape.

Like business strategy, your communication strategy should consider key strategic questions such as:

  • what’s the business opportunity we are trying to seize or problem we’re trying to solve?
  • what does success look like?
  • what could get in the way or threaten success?
  • who do we need to engage with and what’s the best way to reach them?
  • how will we measure progress to help us adjust tactics as we go and so we know whether we’ve been successful at the end?

Communication planning is an upfront investment toward working smarter and not falling into the trap of ‘spray and pray’ – spraying out pieces of communication and praying that they will be effective.

The other good news is that if you put in place an overarching communication strategy for your business, it is so much easier to keep day-to-day activities aligned on the fly and to develop needs-based plans for specific initiatives and projects that come up.

Need support to develop your communication strategy? Please get in touch and we would be delighted to discuss your needs and how we can assist.

What do you see as the main reason communication
activity takes place without a strategy?
Please join the conversation: share your thoughts
and ideas in the comments below

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Mairi Barton is a strategic communication and public affairs leader who has influenced and delivered outcomes at the highest levels of the Australian corporate, government and non-profit sectors. Mairi is the founder and Chief Executive of strategic communication agency Pinch Yourself Communication. She is an award-winning former journalist who served in the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in Canberra. Mairi enjoys photography and posts to her Instagram gallery: @pinchmyself