Despite prophesies of demise for many years, the sales of traditional newspapers continue to make a tentative recovery, helped almost certainly by a news agenda that shows no sign of slowing down, with crisis after crisis plaguing the worlds of both politics and business. Set against this turbulent backdrop, what does it mean to communicate well in 2021 and how can strategic communications support your wider objectives?
‘If it’s not Covid, it won’t make the cut’ was the oft-quoted refrain of 2020 when it came to the media landscape. For businesses who weren’t prepared to shoehorn their agenda to fit this brief, corporate communications teams were dealing with a real challenge – how to engage with the media amidst the toughest news cycle for a generation? This wasn’t just a question of news volume; news outlets the world over were forced to furlough staff, merge teams and make widespread redundancies as advertising revenues collapsed.
However, amongst widespread print media decline, national broadsheets weathered the storm remarkably well as businesses and consumers alike turned to traditional media for expert opinion and advice. 2020 saw the launch of Times Radio and a host of new broadsheet-led podcasts, as editors sought to make the most of the public’s desire for expert commentary. With the launch of GBNews on the horizon and broadsheet subscriptions continuing to soar, this need for hard-hitting opinion and insight that informs the national conversation isn’t set to disappear any time soon.
This means that for businesses looking to communicate effectively during this period of national recovery, there are a few points to consider:
Many leaders are clear in their own mind about what they want to say, but often struggle when forced to articulate key messages to external audiences. Even those that feel confident in their messages to clients and internal stakeholders are often left flummoxed when faced with communicating the same thing to a journalist. Too often, spokespeople become embroiled in sector language and forget the need for simplicity when communicating key asks or messages externally. The reading age of most national papers is around 12 – this means distilling complex issues into a few easy-to-read sentences should be a crucial part of any communications plan.
To be respected as an industry expert in the media, your industry knowledge should be front and center of any communications plan. It is not enough to repeat the same lines as your competitor or industry journalist; thought leadership should be about leading the conversation, not following it. If you are not saying anything new, it’s probably not worth saying at all.
Once you know that what you’re saying is new, you should be thinking about the strength of your position. This means backing up strong opinions with evidence and data, and using language that resonates – in today’s media landscape, opinion sells, but it still needs to be evidenced to be authoritative.
If the past few months have taught communication professionals anything, it’s how plans can go spectacularly wrong if not backed up with action. You can have the best strategy in the world, but if this is proven to be nothing more than words, the reputational damage can be immense.
A clear, robust and insightful message is a great starting point when it comes to simple brand awareness, but if you want to be moving the dial on influencer opinion, you need to be clear in the objective for communicating in the first place. Is it brand awareness, is it sales, or do you have a policy or regulatory objective you are trying to achieve? Being able to articulate at the start will inform the rest of your communications strategy.
As strategic communications professionals, our approach to campaigns is always rooted in this key ask, and then we build bespoke programmes from there, using a blend of political, media and influencer engagement to achieve your goals.
If you want to find out more, feel free to get in touch.