Building an Online Communications Strategy
Many companies have difficulty when it comes to social media and digital communications. For some, they don’t know where to begin. For others, they might not be seeing the results they expected. One of the most common problems I see with companies when they engage online is that they haven’t built a sound infrastructure. Someone high up one day decided the company needed to be doing this “tweeting thing” without really understanding what that actually means or entails. Before jumping into social media, there are several steps to take to ensure your company is setup for success.
Define the Business Objective – Before even attempting to jump online, first ask, “Why are we doing this? What’s our goal? What do we hope to get out of this initiative?” This can be anything from boosting revenue to lowering corporate reputation risk to recruitment. This is not “we need more Likes or retweets.”
Identify Stakeholders to Bring to the Table – Social media isn’t just the job of a lone PR person. If a company has Business unit leaders who have a stake in communication with outside audience, they should be involved in the initial conversations. If this is a public company or one that works in a regulated industry, legal should be involved. The IT department should also be brought in case there is a need to install compliance software for record keeping or something like WordPress on a server if you ware launching a blog.
Identify Current Assets – Many companies already have a lot of assets that they might not realize are in place. Are there social media channels already set up? Do you have people on staff that have experience with professional (not a personal Facebook or Twitter account) experience with digital communications? Have there been previous initiatives that were launch where processes were already in place and metrics/benchmarks have been established? By knowing what you already have, you won’t be duplicating efforts or reinventing the wheel.
Research – Conduct a social media audit. An audit will tell you what’s already being said about you online, what your competitors are doing and where your target audiences are engaging. It’s great to want to create a Twitter account, but if your target audience participates primarily on LinkedIn, you’re probably wasting your time.
Strategize – You’ve already looked at your current assets. Now it’s time to identity the people, processes and technologies you’ll need to close the gap between the business goal you are trying to achieve and your current status.
Prioritize – Running a social media program takes time and money. Based on the resources available, rank what you are trying to accomplish.
Develop a Policy and Plan – Every company needs a social media policy. Make sure your policy is in line with both your corporate values as well as regulatory bodies like the SEC, FINRA, FTC, etc. The policy should cover both internal and external use of social media. When a draft is completed, make sure to get legal approval.
Pilot Program – Now it’s time to actually get online. Launch a pilot program when you build your channel(s), train your staff, develop an editorial and content calendar, create an online influencer list, craft a messaging bible, practice crisis simulations and develop an analytics program.
Review Performance – After a three to six-month period, take a look back at how the program has performed. Obviously you’ll be reviewing performance on an ongoing basis, but this will provide a high level view as to where you are in achieving your goals and will be able to develop some qualitative learnings that can be shared.
Bring the Program to Scale – If your performance review showed success, congratulations. Now it’s time to grow the program. Integrate social media into your crisis plan. If you are a global company, create toolkits that enable business units, geographies and functions to build their own channels.
Utilizing these steps will help your company succeed in social communications.