And here we are – rapidly approaching the end of the year, taking virtual cover as Year End analyses, Q1 strategic plans and drafts of annual reports fly in all directions.
’Tis the season of discovering where we’ve been and deciding where we’d like to go.
Companies across verticals are taking this opportunity to examine their unexpected successes, their continued challenges and how they will communicate the value they bring to the world around them.
In a recent article for TechCrunch, Lily Lyman – general partner at Underscore – recently predicted, “We are likely to see companies struggle next year to hit targets across efficiency and growth. Sales cycles are slower. Budgets are tighter. Risk tolerance is lower. We will remain in an environment of ‘do more with less,’ and those who can, will get to survive and perhaps be rewarded for it.”
Do more with less. That’s something we’ve discovered in our own research, too. It’s also easier said than done when you’re attempting to expand into a new geography, address a new market, define a new vertical, build a new team, launch a new product, kick off a new funding round or otherwise publicize a degree of exciting growth that marks you as a star among competitors.
But it is possible. At least from a communications perspective.
First, make sure your entire team is on board with your goals for the next year. Not your vision (although that’s extremely important) but your specific, measurable goals – the realistic numbers you want to hit, why you want to hit them, how you’re going to hit them and the resources every individual needs to help the team succeed.
Next, create an internal and external communications plan tied directly to those goals that puts aside the bells and whistles in favor of six things that are delivering the most ROI right now:
This is the practice of rapidly reaching out to journalists covering breaking news with relevant, insightful commentary. It’s about meeting journalists where they are and augmenting what they’re already working on rather than proposing new, sometimes less timely, ideas.
RESULT: You’ll gain a chance at being included or even featured in their coverage of the news.
PRO TIP: Newsjacking only works when it’s fast and unique. Build a subject matter expert (SME) matrix that allows you to quickly identify the right spokespeople and pull starter commentary that will capture journalists’ attention.
Generating data gives you an opportunity to offer insights that are not only unique, but also detailed and provable (precisely what every journalist is looking for). Chances are you already have a great deal of research that has informed how you’ve crafted your product or developed your business, but short of that, you can conduct surveys or focus groups, contribute to studies, partner with other organizations on their analyses, and more.
RESULT: You’ll have a number of facts and figures that make your perspective more credible and/or demonstrate your real impact in relatable ways.
PRO TIP: Examine (anonymized) customer data to uncover trends that speak to your broader industry. Conduct a customer survey to more fully explore those trends, then revisit annually for a State of the Market report that grows your authority as a brand.
Contributed content addresses two things: shrinking newsrooms – which don’t have the time or manpower to explore every great brand on their own – and thought leadership, which showcases the vision and credibility of your SMEs. According to the LinkedIn-Edelman B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, “64% of buyers say that an organization’s thought leadership content is a more trustworthy basis for assessing its capabilities and competency than its marketing materials and product sheets.” So, what does that mean? It’s time to start writing!
RESULT: Media placements, abstracts and drafted articles can be repurposed across marketing channels and revisited year-after-year for continued relevance.
PRO TIP: Remember to tie your content to the needs and interests of the readers of the publications you want to target (one size does not fit all), and check out our Content Group Manager’s recent post on the importance of vendor neutrality.
Video truly has it all for brands of every size and shape. Well-produced videos nurture every stage of the buyer’s journey; capture attention like no other form of media; and can contain thought leadership, product walkthroughs, animations, explanations, b-roll and more, all in a single package.
RESULT: The ingredients of that package, which can be broken up into photos, audiograms, GIFs and clips, can fuel every marketing channel you employ.
PRO TIP: If you’re interested in broadcast coverage of your brand, having b-roll at the ready will make it much more likely that you’ll score a segment.
Starting with simple plans and protocols, it’s relatively easy to prepare, at least logistically, for unexpected crises or shifts in stakeholder perception — and yet few businesses put any time into deciding the steps to move from crisis to recovery. Failing to think things through, or jumping into trends that aren’t fully explored or understood, can have costly consequences, no matter the size of the business. That’s why planning now is essential.
RESULT: You’ll create a step-by-step guide for the unexpected, and confidence from your employees, partners, investors and other stakeholders when crises emerge.
PRO TIP: Conduct an annual reputation management survey, coupled with revisiting your crisis protocols. Use these exercises as an opportunity to refine your messages as needed and educate your employees about how you’re responding to world events.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO)
SEO improves website visibility, drives traffic and generates leads from your target audiences. SEO and PR should be working in tandem as often as possible, as they feed each other’s success while you work to build your authority as a new brand, in a new space or with a new offering.
RESULT: Increased website visits, keyword rankings and goal completions (form fills, downloads, purchases) will give you a clear view of what’s working and what isn’t.
PRO TIP: Google’s free dashboard and reporting tools (Analytics, Ads, Search Console) make it easy to experiment as you learn which metrics are most important to your goals.
By integrating the elements above into your business strategy for next year, you will give yourself – and your team – the chance to maximize results without being pulled in a dozen directions. You will create a bank of endlessly repurposeable content. You will be able to track your progress and adjust your strategy over time. You will give your stakeholders reason to feel confident in your trajectory.
You will be able to do more with less.
And your business will be among those that succeed.
Vanessa Taylor is the general manager of Precision, a nimble and effective division that applies Matter’s full suite of PR and content services to brands with highly focused PR needs. She’s also the manager of Matter’s Open Door program, which works with accelerators, co-working spaces and other member organizations to provide free education/training to entrepreneurs who need to manage brand promotion on their own.