It is doubtful – unless copious amounts of Tequila are involved – that any of us would board a plane without first understanding of where it was going. So then why would a company hire a communications agency if it didn’t know what business goals the resulting program would support? Perhaps too much Tequila was involved in the hiring process.
More likely, the company just wasn’t thinking strategically about the very important connection between communications and the overall direction of the organization. There was a time where “PR” meant “clips,” the catch phrase for media coverage. Appearing in the media can be a great outcome of the communications process but it shouldn’t be the end game. Rather, the agency needs to work closely with the leaders of the organization to construct a communications program that helps drive the business forward by moving key audiences to a desired action. Sometimes media coverage can affect those actions and sometimes other approaches are required. Regardless of the tactics, the strategy must be driven by the goals of the company.
The linkage of business goals with communications strategy isn’t a new idea. However, it is a necessity that numerous brands surprisingly fail to undertake. More often than I care to mention we sit down with a new client to begin the program that we proposed and there is an almost immediate chasm. Our proposal aligned communications recommendations around the business goals we discussed during our dating period. Now that we are married, those recommendations are often pushed aside during initial planning in favor of a Pez dispenser of disparate tactics that don’t tie to anything more than “activity.” Without a result, of course, activity is worthless and can actually be more expensive to implement than a program with a strategic and tactical link to the organization’s goals.
Aligning communications with business goals can have a measureable and high impact effect on key initiatives such as revenue generation support, a financial event such as acquisition, hiring in a tough market and the like. To get there all members of the communications team and representatives of the company’s management team must be in alignment from the outset so key foundational activities can be baked in correctly. Just like the right words must be said for key times in our personal lives – will you marry me comes to mind – the same approach must be taken from the contextual and outcomes desired perspectives in the communications process. One size won’t fit all relative to this process.
We’ve seen the impact from the alignment of our communications strategy to client business goals several times over the years ranging from a strong IPO to several acquisitions to complete brand repositionings. From each, it was clear from the outset that those who know where they are going can more easily make it to the final destination.